"If you are not a Naruto fan, allow me to explain some of the premise behind it: a young hyperactive ninja named Naruto Uzumaki wants to claim the title of Hokage, which would make him the greatest ninja in his village of Konohogakure. In doing so, he becomes part of a three-man rookie squad lead by a jonin, an elite ninja, who go on various missions to earn money for the village’s economy and increase their own skills. One of young Naruto’s first missions brings him face-to-face with a philosoph..."
If you are not a Naruto fan, allow me to explain some of the premise behind it: a young hyperactive ninja named Naruto Uzumaki wants to claim the title of Hokage, which would make him the greatest ninja in his village of Konohogakure. In doing so, he becomes part of a three-man rookie squad lead by a jonin, an elite ninja, who go on various missions to earn money for the village’s economy and increase their own skills. One of young Naruto’s first missions brings him face-to-face with a philosophical opponent that forces Naruto to think about his meaning in life and adopt his own ninja way of fighting for his beliefs and teammates. Along the path to his dream of becoming Hokage, various events conspire as Naruto and friends find themselves thrust into the center of malevolent schemes orchestrated by two separate evil masterminds.
If you ARE a Naruto fan, aside a few minor character switch-ups in certain battles, there is not one single deviation from the plot set out by the manga. Nor is there, with the exception of two twenty-minute missions at the very beginning of the game, any extra content added to Naruto: Path of the Ninja that might give you a purpose to relive the story again. Touch screen use is minimal, not offering anything engaging aside from a five-minute mini-game midway through the title (do not even begin to think that the microphone and second screen might have found themselves a second use in here). About the only thing that might be compelling you to play it is that it is a Naruto game, and it is an RPG (as opposed to the fighting or adventure games your library might be full of by now).
Making matters worse, the game only goes through about two-thirds of Part I of the Naruto storyline, giving the game (for the slower players) a possible maximum of 12-15 hours. Of course, the exclusion of any further plot is not surprising, since the rest of the plot had not existed at the time it was created; the game is merely a port and translation of a previously Japan-only GBA game released in 2004 (on a surprising note, the port may actually be the substandard version; evidence shows that an optional boss and sidequest were removed). It shows, too; the graphics are fairly archaic in comparison to 2007 DS standards. While Path of the Ninja DOES use an anime style, making the aging less notable as opposed to a game that relies photo-realism, the texture and detail that is used to decorate the Narutoverse is still minimal enough to mark the art style as lacking. One cannot help but wonder that, if this game were built from the ground up for the DS, how cel-shading could look in portraying what could have been a colourful world of vibrant hues such as in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. In comparison, Path of the Ninja uses a make-work of a more limited palette from its GBA days.
Thankfully, the sound quality is very good and preserved in the porting, with most of the tracks being taken directly from the show. The actual songs themselves are fairly upbeat when they need to be, especially with the awesome boss music, and the songs meant to illustrate the more moody moments are brilliant (such as the tense and jumpy music when going through a certain late-game dungeon, or the slow harmony played during sorrowful moments). A few quotes in the game are also voice-acted, and they are done with enough elegance and maintenance of tone to be enjoyable when they do occur.
Of course, the meat of any video game is the gameplay; where its fate as a classic or a chump is decided. For the sake of this dissection, allow me to compare Naruto: Path of the Ninja to Final Fantasy, a game twenty / seventeen years its senior. Path of the Ninja has attack, items, and fleeing the battle; pretty much battle options that every RPG on the face of the planet has, including FF. PotN also has the ability to use Ninjutsu, special techniques that use up a numerical value called Chakra (the inner energy of a ninja) that can cause a variety of effects or just plain old extra damage. Wait a minute...this sounds exactly like magic, which basically every RPG on the face of the planet has. To PotN’s defence, it also allows you to defend yourself for a turn and to change the formation of characters for when engaging in battle...something that only every other RPG on the face of the planet has (but not Final Fantasy!). Other elements that PotN has to offer are random battles, levelling up, and opening chests to get items.
About the only neat thing is that as the game continues on, you gain three permanent ninja abilities that allow you to scale cliffs, walk across water, and break giant boulders with your bare hands. However, they quickly lose their amusing qualities, and you begin to wonder why you could not have just gotten these techniques at the start of the game so you do not have to painfully dredge up the patience to walk across bland areas chock full of enemies that give off absurdly low amounts of experience for the amount of time it takes to defeat them (the only reason this game might even take 12-15 hours; in fact, so crappy are the pickings that by the time you get to the final area, you will still be using the same training nest from four hours ago) just to find usually useless items that could not be gotten before. At least the after-game gave me a couple of cheats that basically allowed me to godmode in every battle from that point – however, by the time I already made it to the end of the game, my only thoughts of continuing to roam the uninspiring countrysides of the Land of Fire was “Why bother?”. The same holds true for the three 'sidequests' the game offers. I quote 'sidequests' because first, all three of them are item collectathons. Second, eleven out of twelve items involved in the first sidequest are obtained automatically throughout the duration of the regular game, and another does not actually work. Only the one sidequest really has any worth to it, and when two out of the five items are found simply by walking around the Hidden Leaf Village (the settlement where Naruto and co. live in), it is not really much.
It is not to say that Naruto: Path of the Ninja has even a single game-breaking flaws. It really does not. However, it is absolutely as cookie-cutter generic as you can get out of a Dragon Warrior-esque battle system, and it fails to try to settle its eyes on any ambition higher than to simply exist. If you are a Naruto fan or somebody who simply enjoys any generic RPG they can get their hands on: by all means, try this game. Otherwise, simply pass over it if you ever see it in a game store bargain bin or on a download site, as there are simply too many RPGs out there that offer better.
Community review by darkstarripclaw (December 19, 2007)
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