Naruto has become somewhat of a smash hit sensation over in Japan and now we find that its influence has made it to the West. The anime is airing in the US and UK (although the Japanese is far superior to the American version), but as of yet we haven't seen too many games outside of Japan.
[screenshot=44ed88bce07ed]Frantic Ninja Action[/screenshot]
Saikyou Ninja Daikesshuu 4 is certainly no easy pronunciation for us gaijin; a strong indication to the fact that this isn't one of the easiest titles to get to grips with. If you don’t know any Japanese then this game is utterly incomprehensible without a guide. Even when you do use a guide it still takes time to get used to the intricacies of setting up a battle how you want it, so be warned.
Having mentioned the language barrier, I can get onto exactly what this game is about: based in the Naruto universe, this is a 2D beat ‘em up similar to Jump Superstars. Due to the fact that you play as a ninja there are a whole host of mystical and deadly moves at your disposal, along with gravity defying jumps and wall clinging capabilities. Some characters also have the ability to summon giant creatures with awesome power, though you never get to see the damage being done, just the aftermath. Most fans will be happy to know that pretty much every main character makes an appearance and uses some of their trademark moves.
[screenshot=44ed88bcca85d]I Smell Something Fishy[/screenshot]
Combat in the game isn't too advanced, you run around on the 2D battlefield using the D-pad, with the R button acting as block, L as evade, B as run, X&Y as attack and A to jump. The levels contain obstacles - both non-breakable and breakable - various pitfalls and moving interactive objects. It's obvious that these arenas were designed for the player to be vigilant of their surroundings. You also have a standard health meter and what I assume to be a Chakra (energy) meter reserved for those special attacks mentioned earlier. Of course, like most fighting games, your objective in battle is to deplete your foe or foes health before the time runs up or your guy snuffs it.
For the most, this game revolves around missions, which are ranked from D upwards through to S for special; naturally they get harder as the rank goes increases. Missions vary in objectives - it’s not just “KO this guy”, so you will find yourself breaking rocks, killing snakes, gathering scrolls and winning under strict criteria. Once a mission is complete your skills are ranked with either a yellow, orange or red stamp (yellow being worst, red is best). These testify to any your real-life ninja-DS buddies that you are truly Hokage material – or you would be were Naruto real.
[screenshot=44ed88bcb6fdc]Go Beat On Naruto![/screenshot]
The touch screen is reserved for special abilities, which you are allowed four of in most battles. To execute these, one simply touches the appropriate icon on the screen and it initiates. This leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds whilst preparing your powerful jutsu, so any attacks that hit you will interrupt your move. Once underway, some of these moves require interaction with the touchscreen, for example, in summons you have to select three seals, in the specified order, from a ring, which moves on occasion. Then there are the easy ones like blowing into the microphone or drawing in a circular motion; it’s all pretty fun. When your move has been used or interrupted, your Chakra resets back to zero and you have to wait for this to charge, gradually making the abilities available one at a time, in order.
The game’s blessing, and curse (at least for those of us who don't speak Japanese) is that you can totally customise the attacks of a character. By this I mean that all moves in the game are polymorphic, so you can equip your favorite ninja with the best attacks available from their comrades. As each of the thirty-five strong characters can have between one and three moves, this means there is a hell of a lot of possible combinations. So I could play as Sakura and have Naruto's summon ability in my attacks: when I use this ability Naruto appears and you perform the move as normal before he vanishes. It's great fun, but because the moves are in Japanese you will have a hell of a time trying to figure out the best combinations - not forgetting the fact that you have to remember them!
[screenshot=44ed88bca375c]Death Is Not An Option[/screenshot]
As for the games length, you wont get too much out of it before completion. There’s a total of sixty-four missions, which does seem a good number, but most of these are finished within a couple of minutes. There is also a strong feeling of repetition in each level, the combat is pretty basic, and even the jutsu doesn't keep it that fresh. The summons can also make it too easy at times with their devastating moves, cheapening victory and taking away any skill to your fighting. A redeeming point is that Naruto supports wireless local area battles for up to 4 players; these follow the exact same frame for fighting as the main game. This feature is great if you have mates who are willing to play the game with you, and herein lies replay value, providing you all agree not to use summons!
In terms of graphics Daikesshuu 4 shows nothing extraordinary, especially if compared to current titles like New Super Mario Bros. – however, it doesn't look really bad either, so low average would be a fair summary of the game. Backdrops are motionless, objects look decent, and the sprites are nothing to marvel at but they do the job. It’s like a nice looking GBA game with DS features really.
[screenshot=44ed88bc8d7cc]Sand Village Battle[/screenshot]
The sound in the game is decent as well; all of the characters voices are like the ones in the Japanese show, although you only hear a couple of short phrases from each. The background music is actually fairly hard to pick up on, what with all the yelling that goes on in the fights, so it doesn't score too well in that sense. What’s cool is that the navigation menu's are accompanied by some mystical sounds.
So, is this game worth your money? The easy way to tell is by asking yourself these three questions: Can I be bothered to use a translation guide? Do I like Naruto? Do I enjoy this style of fighting game? If you said yes to all three, import now because this is the game for you.
There are a couple of other Japanese beat em ups out there on the DS (which I hope to review soon) that may be more suitable for some people- it really depends on what franchises you are into. When gameplay is the focus this game sits slightly behind Jump Superstars, though nevertheless this is a decent attempt of a game that may or may not grace our shores.