Destiny turns OFF the radio…
Naruto: Ninja Destiny, the latest offering in the endless Naruto game series, is nothing more than an attempt to exploit people’s love for the animé. All you otaku out there who must have every product related to your most beloved cartoons are nothing but prey to big companies who peddle their wares to you at whatever price they see fit, and this is no exception.
I grew up in an era where the only animé you could procure was of a certain quality. Before Pokémon opened up the eyes of corporations to the fact that there is a shit-ton of cash waiting to be made off of licensed products, the only Japanese animation most Americans were aware of was Akira
. And it was great. Now over a decade later, shows like Pokémon, Dragon Ball and Naruto have flooded the market with every product you can imagine in an attempt gain control over an army of otakus.
If you’re curious about Ninja Destiny, then you probably follow the TV series, but just in case you don’t… Naruto is a young ninja-in-training who wants to become king of all ninjas (Hokage). Never mind that he’s wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and yells everything he says - he’s totally stealthy. I am not a fan of the show, but I have caught a few episodes here and there, and I must admit that, much like this game, I found it to be pretty crappy.
This game stinks for so many reasons that it’s difficult to pick where to start, so I'll just go with the graphics.
Much like every other Naruto fighting game before it, everything is cel-shaded to make it look like a cartoon. The style has lent itself well to specific games, such as XIII, but for the most part, it tends to make games look unpolished. Then, when you have a game like Ninja Destiny that actually is unpolished, it gets even worse. While the frame-rate has improved over the Japanese version, all the character models are still blocky and draw lines fade in and out as you play.
Backgrounds are flat and uninspired - essentially nothing more than a grass field with a building or wall way far away in the background. Some could argue that since this is a DS game that they didn’t do too bad, but I’ve seen better games come out of this little handheld.
The controls are as simplistic as can be. You have a strong and a weak attack with no discernable special moves - only what appear to be combos of the buttons pressed in a certain order. You do get two moves that are kind of special: the ability to teleport and an ultimate special move. Both use up a special meter, which is extremely easy to fill, only taking about 5 hits to your opponent to get a full bar.
While the fighting is reminiscent of the Tekken series, it lacks any of the depth that Tekken has. I realize the target demographic for Ninja Destiny is a bit younger, but I was tackling Street Fighter when I was around that age. I think the little consumers of the world are up for more of a challenge than Naruto provides.
On the stylus screen, you’re given a variety of power-ups you can use in the match, such as double damage and health boosts. You don’t really need them too often as opponents aren't difficult to defeat. It would have been better to put something like the special movelists from Bleach: Blade of Fate there. At least that would have given more variety to the fighting.
The story mode contains one easy-to-play-through story that follows the plot of the TV series and comes to an abrupt end. The only other ways to play are an arcade-like battle mode where you run through a gamut of opponents or the standard pick-your-opponent-and-fight-for-two-rounds versus mode.
While the battle modes do offer you a chance to play as some of the other characters in the series, butt-ugly rendering and all, most of them are locked in the beginning. Now, I know there’s a way to unlock them, because over the course of reviewing the game I unlocked a couple, but I’ll be damned if I know how I did it. No screen came up to tell me how I did it - no congratulations, no medal, no parade. This is the first game I’ve played where you do not ever feel a sense of accomplishment.
While the blame for the lackluster quality of Naruto: Ninja Destiny lies squarely on the shoulders of Dream Factory and Tomy, you must also realize that this game would not exist if not for the obsessive fandom. Companies only supply what’s demanded. Because just slapping Naruto on anything guarantees you a certain number of sales, this travesty will continue. Without it, this game would have no audience, and perhaps the funding would have gone to another title. And maybe that title would have changed the face of video games forever. Sadly, we’ll never know, because we live in a consumer-driven society that begs for crap like this to eat up.