Naruto: Ninja Destiny
With popular anime comes the inevitable parade of spin-off games. Naruto is no exception; the Little Ninja Who Could has appeared on several game platforms over the past few years. Aspiring ninjas therefore won't be starved for content if they take a pass on the bland Naruto: Ninja Destiny for the Nintendo DS.
Naruto: Ninja Destiny is a 3-D fighting game that plays similar to the Naruto: Clash of the Ninja series. An extensive roster of fighters step out of the anime to wail on each other in an arena, occasionally employing signature special moves such as Naruto's multi-attack Shadow Clone Jutsu. Ninja Destiny more or less shrinks down Clash of the Ninja's signature features into a handheld format, including graphics, sound, the number of available fighters and the gameplay itself.
There are instances where Ninja Destiny exhibits impressive traits for a handheld 3-D fighter, but there are other moments when the presentation is so bare-bones that you can't mistake the fact that you're playing a scaled-down title. The cell-shaded graphics should please fans of the show; the characters assume the same stances and move with the same fluidly as their anime counterparts. The background graphics are a little plain, but they do vary with models of towns, forests and seascapes.
Quick, Dirty Fighting
Ninja Destiny's single-player Story Mode narrates scenes from the anime. Naruto begins at the final round of the Chunin exams and eventually confronts Orochimaru. "Narrate" is used in a literal sense here since very little is told through cut scenes. Instead, gear up for a lot of reading and a lot of long talking sessions between characters that are illustrated with static backgrounds and character portraits. The game's intro brings the player up to speed with a block of scrolling text, which is not a compelling way to set the mood for flying ninja fun. There's little voice acting during story scenes, which definitely would have added some much-needed tension.
Ninja Destiny's gameplay is fun, but mindless. Strategy and special moves mean little, with winning being dependent on how fast you can hit buttons. Devastating attacks can be unleashed once a character fills up his or her blue chakra bar with a few normal kicks and punches, so matches are mostly about waiting for that magic meter to fill. There are also heated instances where it suddenly becomes hard to tell what's going on. Granted, this is a game about ninjas, and ninjas like to move fast, but there should be some small indication that a character is about to teleport and smack you on the back of the head. Each character also enters the fight with power-up items, which are activated through the touch screen. The problem here is that taking your hands off the controls of a fighting game is a bad idea.
Hardcore Naruto fans who are subject to long road trips will manage to squeeze a few hours of fun out of Ninja Destiny. All others should apply their stealthy skills elsewhere in gaming's vast stable of ninja titles.
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