...Must learn ninja in-visibility.
In my time watching animé and playing all sorts of games, I've never understood Naruto. The thought of ninjas running around – showing themselves to the world – wearing brightly-colored outfits just isn't logical. But alas, such is the world of the whisker-branded warrior, and I'm just a passenger along for the ride.
[image1]And damn, is it bumpy.
Ultimate Ninja 4 is labeled as a fighting game, but unlike most, it has two modes akin to the those in the lesser-known Tobal No. 1: a strict one-on-one combat called “Free Battle” and an adventure challenge called “Master Mode”. The former is... well, you choose the character, your buddy (or you, if you're fighting the computer) chooses a character, and you beat the snot out of each other. The latter has you running around between towns and through forests and such, fighting enemies in various missions that improve your trained skills. And unfortunately, both of these modes are unimaginative.
What's odd to me, though, is that this is touted as a fighting game when the “main” game seems to be the adventure... because the control scheme is too basic for a standard fighting title. When you have two buttons for attacking and everything else is some variation of those two, it becomes less of a “fight” and more of a button mash.
[image2]Each character is well-animated, a definite plus, but the environments remind me too much of the those in .hack titles from early in the PS2's lifespan. This has me scratching my head: Why would Namco, with the resources they must have, rip environment tech from seven years ago? With all the advancements in graphics, why go back to a game designed to look like an MMO (meaning decreased hardware requirements to run on more machines) from the earliest attempts on the system?
And the battles... you'd think it doesn't take too many buttons to make a decent tactical fighting match. Hell, anyone who's seen a hardcore Super Smash Brothers war knows just how much can go into a limited button layout. But this particular scheme, as tactical as it gets, is just pressing buttons during an “Ultimate Jutsu” to break up the damage capability. And using basic “slides” (literally, single-cell animé shots) to interrupt the action and throw the players into the “Ultimate Jutsu” attacks is just that: interrupting.
And, in said adventure, whenever a battle did come up, all that had to be done was press the attack button. So instead of suffering all day pressing a button, I used the opportunity to find out the true range of my wireless controller. All I had to do was have my nephew watch the screen as I walked from the living room into my room to find a book to read (not Naruto, but Rurouni Kenshin) while in battle, then have him tell me when the signal cut out. In other words, this game isn't worth paying attention to.
[image3]Unlockable characters, figures a-la Super Smash Brothers, and even character voices are available in the Shop area of the main menu, but the whole system is broken. In the adventure, all you have to do is break boxes to get money. You don't even have to fight anything to earn it; all ya gotta do is remember to walk up to a box or a pot and punch it (you can even just press the circle button repeatedly, as it automatically moves you forward and locks on to anything in your path), and you will earn a substantial number of coins. Walk out of that area, then back in, and voila! Free cash! It's like walking down the sidewalk, picking up a penny, then walking in and out of a shop to find a twenty-dollar bill at your feet.
Couple all of these flaws together with some of the worst voice-acting I've ever heard in my life (and that's including my love for the horrible-ness that is Sewer Shark on the Sega CD), and you've got yourself what everyone in the gaming realm fears: a “true” animé/movie/commercial/fast-food tie-in game. But to be perfectly honest, I even enjoyed some of those. Especially the one with the Burger King creeping people out by surprising them with cheeseburgers and breakfast sandwiches. At least they felt like the developers were trying to do something... memorable... and possibly worth playing.