Naruto: Ninja Destiny

Jan 16, 2008

There's no shortage of Naruto games on any platform, that's fordamn sure. So we have to admit a bit of "oh... ok" every time a new title is announced, even if, overall, the franchise tends to score fairly well. The most recent entry (which in a matter of days will no longer be the most recent, we're sure) is Ninja Destiny, a 3D brawler that, in keeping with tradition, doesn’t look half bad.

Naruto has seen this genre many times before, though until now only on consoles. The best description we can offer is "Clash of Ninja Lite," as the graphics, fighting style and teleport-heavy countermoves are almost taken frame for frame from the GameCube series. It's not quite as clean as the bigger versions, but for a handheld title the action's quite smooth and easy to keep up with. Word is the developers improved upon the Japanese original by smoothing out the framerate and adding extra characters new to the US version (16 in all). If you're a serious Naruto junkie, we can say the game covers everything up through episode 140; if you're not, well, then you're probably not interested anyway, eh?

Though Destiny borrows heavily from the Clash series, it also adds useable items to each ninja's repertoire of moves. At the beginning of each match you're randomly given six trinkets that affect your ninja in various ways. You can tap the touch screen and use them at any time, but they won't replenish until the next opponent, so you've got to really consider the best time to whip 'em out. You could use a potion to heal yourself in round one, but you could also just lose the round, wear out your opponent's stable of items and enter round two with all six at your fingertips.

Items range from the aforementioned healing spells to chakra locks (enemies can't use their energy-sapping megamoves) to double damage scrolls. At first glance they seem extraneous, but our hands-on brawl with Nintendo Power proved just as hectic as the Clash games, partly thanks to constant item use. Every time it looked like one of us was going down, a smartly utilized item brought us back from the brink.

Ninja Destiny is out next month (though EB Games' website says March 18) and comes with all the standard modes you'd demand of a fighting game, namely story, computer battle and local wireless battle against a friend. Look for a full review when it arrives.