Naruto: Path of the Ninja (DS)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, November 24, 2007

Graphics: 6.00
Sound: 6.00
Gameplay: 7.00
Replays: 7.00

Despite usually having deep storylines and extremely long life spans, most handheld games based on anime end up being simplistic platformers or fighting games. We’ve seen it time and time again, and such has been the case with Naruto and the Ninja Council series for GBA and DS. But thankfully D3 Publisher is giving the series another chance with Path of the Ninja, an RPG based on the first 80 episodes. Though Path of the Ninja may not be fundamentally different from every Japanese anime based RPG the GBA or DS have seen, the US has seen so few of them that fans might find it refreshing.

If you’ve ever played a handheld RPG before, it should be fairly easy to jump right into this game. The developers have made it possible to move using either the D-Pad or the stylus, and while this is a nice feature most players are likely to feel more comfortable using the traditional method. Battles are turn based and work similar to a game such as Final Fantasy (with the exception of spells being called Jutsus to fit in with the anime). There are a few differences though, as you can move your characters each turn to either inflict more damage or take a defensive stance (enemies can move as well). If two members of your party are near each other and have a positive relationship (more on this later), they may both attack at the same time and do double damage. Also, some higher level spells require the player to either madly rub the stylus across the screen or enter a button combination within a certain time limit to make them more powerful. Though this is an interesting idea, it just seems too gimmicky. The battle system gets the job done, and while it may not be truly innovative players won’t mind fighting the many random encounters they will encounter.

Naruto: Path of the Ninja was clearly designed with younger players in mind, as seasoned RPG players will find themselves blowing through it without dying even once. For one, the game puts a health restore point before every major boss battle, and there is always one per map. This means that players can always be fully stocked before a major battle or can just keep leveling/battling and healing themselves. This does take away much of the strategy that harder games offer, but younger gamers who also happen to be fans of Naruto should still find it enjoyable.

As this game’s Japanese counterparts are GBA titles, Path of the Ninja does unfortunately look a little dated compared to other recent DS games. Though it has been slightly improved over some of the Japanese titles, this is certainly not a game that is going to push the DS hardware to its limits. The animated cutscenes do look nice, but the overall sprites and environments look very simplistic when compared to the other RPGs to have graced the system. But though it may not be the most visually impressive, the developers did nail the atmosphere of the anime, right down to dialogue that has been lifted straight from the series. Overall, the graphics are average but tie into the anime well.

As previously mentioned, it is important to build relationships with your party members in order to have the opportunity to perform team attacks in battle and have other advantages. Fittingly enough, the way to do this in Naruto: Path of the Ninja is to go to the ramen shop in town and eat ramen with each of your party members. It may be simplistic, but it was a nice little touch that helps to add some authenticity to the game.

The sound work is fairly is simplistic as well, with there only being a few distinctive tracks played throughout. They do get the job done though, and match the overall style of the series well. In addition to this, there are sparse bits of voice acting during long dialogue scenes. This could either be a positive or a negative aspect depending on how partial you are to the American voice actors, but overall it manages to accomplish its goal without being anything overly impressive.

Overall, this new Naruto experience is better than anything that any of the Ninja Council games have been able to offer, but experienced RPG gamers will find it a little too simplistic and perhaps boring. But younger gamers who haven’t played that many titles in the genre or hardcore Naruto fans will find enough positive elements to Path of the Ninja to make it worth a purchase. Everyone else, rent or skip it, but know that we’re finally beginning to see anime based handheld games that are more than just average shovelware and that can pack a bit more depth than previously seen.

Overall Rating: 6.75

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