"Just looking at the screen, it's hard to discern the supposed Revolution the Clash of Ninja series has undergone. Naruto's still rocking his bright orange jumpsuit, and all the characters sport the same cel-shaded look that favorably compares to the game's anime inspiration. About three-fourths of the roster returns unchanged from the final GameCube installment. The battle arenas remain constant, along with the manner of movement. Fighters still essentially move along a two-di..."
Just looking at the screen, it's hard to discern the supposed Revolution the Clash of Ninja series has undergone. Naruto's still rocking his bright orange jumpsuit, and all the characters sport the same cel-shaded look that favorably compares to the game's anime inspiration. About three-fourths of the roster returns unchanged from the final GameCube installment. The battle arenas remain constant, along with the manner of movement. Fighters still essentially move along a two-dimensional plane, but can side-step around their opponent to approximate a three-dimensional environment. But since Revolution is on the Wii, you know where this is going. With the remote and its motion sensing capabilities, the control scheme in this battle-proven fighting game series is just going to feel a little different.
Different in a good way. Using the recommended remote/nunchuk configuration, the standard light attack is performed by shaking the remote. It adds a lot of activity and a little mayhem, as you must cobble together combos with a mixture of arm movement and button mashing. Yes, you'll still be using your fingers. Strong attacks, throws, and secret ninjutsu are all initiated with a single press, resulting in a manageable hybrid of old and new styles. The remote does introduce completely new elements. One is hand signs. Players can drop their usually automatic defense and wave out patterns for beneficial effects, like a temporary boost in attack power or a quick charge of chakra.
A full supply of chakra is required to unleash specialized critical attacks, and that introduces another big change. These character-specific moves segue into cutscenes, but rather than simply watching, you now act in concert with the attack. For his signature Uzumaki Barrage, Naruto makes a group of shadow clones. You sweep the remote up as each one kicks the target into the air, then slam it down as Naruto redirects his opponent back towards the ground. For Gaara's Sand Coffin, you spin the remote as the sand encircles its prey, then hammer down the nunchuk as he closes his hand and crushes the victim.
The simplicity of the motion controls help Clash of Ninja Revolution maintain the accessibility expected from an anime fighting game. It's possible to get by just swinging the remote around. Also, combinations are generally portable between characters, so there's no need to learn really specialized movesets. However, there are subtle differences for those seeking more depth. Sakura's combo of weak attacks launches her adversary upward with a knee to the midsection, opening up potential chains of aerial attacks. Shikamaru, on the other hand, throws a couple of punches and plants his foot in his opponent's stomach, and that's it. (It would be too much effort for the lazy ninja to do anything more.) The game's training mode provides instruction on about 20 common attack chains, so it would take a good bit of effort to understand the minutiae between them all.
In addition to making strides with the control scheme, Clash of Ninja Revolution also moves forward in the story mode. The action opens just before the final round of the chunin exams, a test to determine which apprentice ninjas are ready for promotion. It then extends through the subsequent invasion by Orochimaru, which throws not only the tests, but the entire Leaf Village, into turmoil. It finally wraps up with the recruitment of profligate hero Tsunade to become the village's new Hokage.
As it covers so much ground, it gives you the opportunity to relive defining moments with a range of characters. Learn the Chidori as Sasuke trains with Kakashi in preparation for the exam's decisive tournament. Help Shikamaru 'lose' against Temari in his last match. Track Gaara's escape and help Naruto defeat him. Conquer the ultimate series of showdowns between Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Orochimaru. It's not enough to simply win in some of these scenarios, but also to recreate a particular method of victory, which adds a certain challenge to the proceedings. Unfortunately, all these pivotal events are reenacted through scrolling text and dialogue between two-dimensional avatars, rather than with any sort of animation. The heroic fight between the aged Third Hokage and Orochimaru looks particularly ridiculous without any sort of action.
With the move forward, new characters have come into the spotlight. Tsunade's appearance is preceded by the introduction of her fellow legend, Jiraiya, as he becomes Naruto's new teacher. (He's otherwise known as the Pervy Sage, which Naruto loudly and repeatedly exclaims here.) The events also intertwine with the introduction of the Akatsuki, a mysterious organization. This introduces Sasuke's mass-murdering brother Itachi, as well as the sibling's scaly partner in crime, Kisame. Also, some of Naruto's peers finally see some action, as weapons master Tenten and the bug-controller Shino make an appearance.
Alas, Clash of Ninja Revolution continues to leave the Rookie Nine incomplete, as Choji is still nowhere to be found. More puzzling is the case of Kiba and his canine companion, Akamaru. Both appeared as playable characters in the last installment on the GameCube, but they've completely vanished from the roster here. It's a truly bizarre omission. Actually, Revolution is virtually even with Clash of Ninja 2 in terms of the overall number of fighters. That means some other people who no longer appear as much (or at all) in the anime and manga have been chopped: Naruto's first sensei Iruka, along with his first major enemies, Zabuza and Haku.
Of course, the game also features other familiar modes: time attack, arcade, and survival. More important, it returns its four player versus mode. This allows a melee where friends can fight it out in teams or go it alone. It's fast-paced and fickle, which makes it a whole lot of fun. Naturally for Nintendo, it's offline only.
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution is a successful, if predictable, step forward onto the Wii. The motion controls work in providing something new to fans of the series, while keeping it more than accessible to all followers of the anime. It just has too many familiar elements to feel like a whole new game.
Featured community review by woodhouse (May 24, 2009)
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