Once upon a time there was a ninja who wore orange; created by a man named Kishimoto. Like a lot of popular ninjas that come from Japan, this ninja made his way to the U.S. and became even more popular; the new millennium’s equivalent to the man with the Kamehameha beam--except without the live action movie… for now. With anime popularity comes T-shirts and wristbands available outside of the annual anime convention in your town, but if you’re a big enough anime series you’ll start to bring along video games.
Naruto has a vast amount of video games in the U.S., possibly even beating out the Budokai series and other DBZ games. The PS2 holds the most Naruto games in the U.S. with three “Ultimate Ninja” games (more fighter based), two “Uzumaki Chronicles” (more rpg based), and a recently released trilogy pack that has the first two “Ultimate Ninja” games and the first “Uzumaki Chronicles.” Continuing the “Ultimate Ninja” series are two games on the PSP. The GameCube has two Naruto games but they are probably the most well known since they are from the “Clash of Ninja” series (another fighter based series but is well-known for its four player battle royale combat--you‘re likely to find the Japanese versions being played in a gaming room at a con on someone‘s GameCube). Both the GBA and DS have the “Ninja Council” series and new to the DS is the “Path of the Ninja” series.
It was only natural for the loud-mouth ninja to appear on the next-gen councils, but it was a bit surprising to see him on the XB360 before the PS3 since Sony holds the most games for Naruto. Last October introduced the first American made Naruto game, “Naruto: Rise of a Ninja,” exclusively on the XB360. Not so surprising was the continuation of the “Clash of Ninja” series onto the wii, a second volume having been released this year. The Ultimate Ninja series continued on the PS2 earlier this year with “Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3,” using CGI cut scenes and going further into the story than the XB360 did by letting players play through one of the most intense story arcs in the entire series: the Sasuke retrieval arc. The game looks gorgeous, especially considering that it’s the PS2, but after getting a taste of next-gen Naruto on the XB360 I definitely wanted more.
Enter the recently released Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm on the PS3.
Last year the game was unveiled under the name “Naruto PS3 project,” promising fans that the borderline between anime and video game would be dissolved. From playing the game it indeed appears that the developers have kept their word; the graphics are the most amazing I’ve seen for a Naruto game, from the crystal clear water the ninjas run across to the characters themselves. The game is more fighter based, like the previous “Ultimate Ninja” games, but fans will be quite happy to see that the PS3 doesn’t waste any time and goes through all of part one, covering all 135 episodes in one game. Players can go in and do missions while playing through the story, earning different items that Naruto can use to increase his chakra, customize characters’ attacks, and you can also collect figures, music, and videos to create dioramas of different moments in the series (think Super Smash Brothers trophies only these figures talk and pose). For the gamer who has to have absolutely everything in the game complete, you will be playing this game for a while. It takes quite a bit of money to buy these figures and some of the missions won’t be finished until you play a certain number of hours of the game (so far I‘m at 15 and still going strong with only 51% done). The missions in the PS3 version are made to fit with the story, unlike other games that would have random missions with random characters and villages. All of the missions have something to do with the main characters… or are silly missions that have been seen in the series (get prepared to chase down some cats and play hide-n-seek with Konohamaru). Occasionally you’ll have to collect bugs or fruit for villagers, but you obtain those items from playing through the normal missions. One thing I love about the game, which definitely shows that the developers were paying attention to the anime, is that Naruto’s chakra increases from eating ramen. Besides the main story, players can also fight against the computer or a friend (not online) in a one-on-one match. Fans will be excited to see the first ever collector’s edition to a Naruto game, a definite must have for any fan of the ninja who wears orange. It comes with the game soundtrack, a steel case, two exclusive cards for the trading card game, and a laser cel of Sasuke and Naruto in that all-important battle that took place in the final episodes of the first part of the series.
Not to be outdone by the PS3, XB360 is coming out with a sequel to “Rise of a Ninja” called “The Broken Bond” that’s set to come out mid-November. Sasuke fans rejoice! For the first time you have a choice to play as either him or Naruto, getting his side of the story during one of the most crucial arcs in the Naruto series. This game will pick up where the XB360 game left off so expect to see some Itachi coolness, some Tsunade action, and some ultra-cursed Sasuke battling it out with uber-Kyubi Naruto. Players will be able to control three characters at a time when doing missions and each character has their own special ability to add to the mix (Neji, for example, can sense danger and move safely through it and Naruto can clone himself to get through different obstacles). This makes me think that quite a bit of strategy will be involved in this game as players will have to figure out how to use each character in each situation. The world is even more open than it was in the previous game, letting players go through multiple paths with a different combination of characters. One advantage that this game has, to me at least, is that it takes place during such a huge moment in the series. The PS3 version starts from the very beginning, which does create a sense of nostalgia (man Team 7 has changed A LOT), but it will be nice to just jump right into the arc that pretty much changed everything in the series. A demo was recently released on the XB360 marketplace so fans can get an early look at the game.
The holiday season always brings about a sense of a war between the systems, the big three, of course, being the wii, XB360, and PS3. Gamers (and their parents) spend huge amounts of money to become guitar heroes while lining up outside of stores for Gears of War, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and playing demos of Mirror‘s Edge and even the N64 classic Banjo Kazooie redone for next-gen gaming. But, for the first time, an anime game is part of that war as Naruto appears on all three gaming powerhouses right before Christmas. And with all of them finishing off the first half of the series, fans can only hope for games that take on part two of the series.