Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Cavia Inc.
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Naruto tells the story of the Hidden Leaf, a village of ninja who work as mercenaries for people across the land. Recent events have left the village of Hidden Leaf deeply understaffed, and as a result, even low-level Genin ninjas are being assigned to missions that would normally be far above their level. Naruto Uzumaki is one of the Genin, and this is his chance to show that he has what it takes to become a true ninja. Born on the same day as the defeat of the terrible Nine Tailed Fox, Naruto harbors a dark secret: The beast actually sleeps inside him. Can Naruto overcome the village's hatred for the monstrous fox and prove he is worthy of the title of Hokage?
A change from the previous Naruto offerings, which have all been one-on-one fighters, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles is an action-adventure game. The player takes control of Naruto as he takes on various jobs from the Hokage (or leader) of the Hidden Leaf. These jobs can range from simple quests like defeating bandits and guarding cargo to more complex situations, like becoming a sensei for a young ninja-in-training. Each mission is different, and true to the series, things are not always as they appear. A simple request to find some missing candy can result in battling an army of bandits who have taken over a nearby mountain, and a simple delivery job becomes far more complex when enemy ninja are out to get the package Naruto has to escort.
Once Naruto takes a mission, he is free to go about it however he likes. He can take on the mission alone, or bring along one of his fellow Hidden Leaf ninja, such as the sullen Sasuke or chubby Choji, to aid him. Naruto can switch over to his companions for a brief period of time to take full advantage of their abilities. Choji, for example, can use his massive Human Boulder attack to smash through obstacles that would stop Naruto cold. As the storyline progresses, Naruto gains more and more allies, and the use of his fellow Genin can completely change how you can go about a task.
As Naruto travels the world to complete his missions, he is occasionally assaulted by bandits or rogue ninja. Once attacked, the game enters a fully 3D map of the area where Naruto was ambushed, and combat begins. In Uzumaki Chronicles, fights are fast and furious as Naruto takes on multiple opponents at once. Taking advantage of the terrain is important, and fighting in a grassy field is completely different from battling on a mountain top. As a ninja, Naruto's primary tool is his amazing agility. The orange-clad ninja is able to zip around, dodge attacks by replacing their target with a log and leap incredible distances, all while beating the enemy with a flurry of punches and kicks. Battles are hectic, and learning to master all of Naruto's skills is the key to victory.
Fans of the anime series will be glad to know that all of Naruto's signature abilities come through intact. Naruto's powerful Taijitsu (or hand-to-hand) abilities can be augmented with the aid of various Ninjitsu abilities, such as the Sexy no Jutsu, which allows Naruto to turn into a beautiful (and scantly clad) woman to distract his foes, or the Shadow Clone, which causes Naruto to create copies of himself to attack the opponents from multiple directions at once. These abilities can all be charged as well, to unleash more powerful clones or cause attacks to hit more often. Combining these abilities and Naruto's Taijitsu is the key to building up the combo meter.
The combo meter is a bit more important in Naruto than in most other titles. As Naruto builds up combos, he comes closer and closer to unleashing the power hidden inside him. In a desperate situation, if Naruto has performed enough combos, he can bring out the Nine Tailed Fox's power, giving him a massive boost in attack ability and speed, and nearly infinite Ninjitsu for a brief period of time. Of course, Naruto can only unlock his inner demon in the most desperate of circumstances, so it's best not to learn to rely on it.
Naruto's normal abilities can be upgraded in a variety of ways as well. Naruto's health and stamina bars can be upgraded by spending "virtue," the currency of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja. Virtue can also be spent to purchase Skill Chips, which are special equipment that can be slotted into a Skill Plate. Each chip has a different ability, ranging from improving Taijitsu to increasing the number of Shadow Clones that Naruto can create. The chips also each have a specific shape, and by inserting these chips into slots on the Skill Plate, Naruto gains their effects. Of course, more powerful chips have more esoteric shapes, and certain chips will only be able to fit if you get new and larger Skill Plates. Clever players who fill up the entire Skill Plate will receive an additional bonus to their stats, turning upgrading from a simple process into a mini-game of its very own.
Naruto can also find a wide variety of ninja tools on his quests. With weapons ranging from throwing weapons like kunai and shuriken to more unusual tools like healing medication and flash bombs, Naruto is loaded for the long haul. Although some tools can be found on defeated foes, most must be purchased at the general store in Hidden Leaf Village. After aiding the proprietor in one of the early tasks, Naruto is able to visit the store to get new and more powerful ninja gear. Unfortunately for Naruto, the store doesn't accept regular money; he must trade some of his weaker tools for more powerful ones. Careful players must decide if using up a kunai is worth it, or if they should rough it out to save up for an all-important healing medication.
Uzumaki Chronicles finally takes Naruto out of the fighting arena and gives fans a chance to explore his world. With a detailed upgrade system, a wide cast of playable characters and a massive mission system, even the most picky of Naruto fans should have something to look forward to in the energetic ninja's newest adventure.
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