I've played a whole lot of 3-D Naruto video games going back to the PS2, and Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles is easily the worst of the bunch. It doesn't hold a candle to the quality of more recent Naruto titles like Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, and it doesn't even come close to the average 2-D titles that populate the Nintendo DS. This particular Wii release should be avoided, even if you're a die-hard fan of the character or series.
Dragon Blade Chronicles puts you in the role of either Naruto or Sasuke, depending on the section of the game. The tale is very loosely based on events in the anime and manga, but for the most part, this is an original tale set within the Naruto universe. The villain is looking to unleash the power of a set of ancient dragons known as Genryu, which are elemental-based beasts. When he starts his play for power, the Naruto's hometown of Leaf Village comes under attack. This spurs Naruto and company to action, and you'll spend the majority of the game taking down nameless minions and hopping through short platforming sections.
The gameplay of Dragon Blade Chronicles can be described as tedious, and that's being generous. It's designed to be an action adventure title, and you'll only have direct control over Naruto or Sasuke over the course of the game. You don't get to choose between the two; instead, control switches back and forth between the two characters at different sections. The controls are relatively simple: Both characters can jump and double jump, roll to dodge, and perform basic attack combos. Ninjutsu, more commonly known as special moves, can be mapped to the d-pad and worked into short combo strings. These special abilities are key in overcoming quick environment-based puzzles that you'll encounter from time to time.
The combat isn't necessarily broken, but it's really bland and boring. You'll encounter about three major enemy types (with very minor variations) throughout the course of the game. These enemies, referred to as Mugonhei, are golem-like creatures that don't have many identifying features. They're humanoid shapes that look like they're formed out of clay; they sometimes sport a spear and sometimes a cleaver, but they all take the same amount of damage to kill.
There are also giant variations of these Mugonhei with bigger attacks that cause more damage, and they take more hits, but they seem to operate on the same (mostly nonexistent) AI. It's very easy to dodge and attack without getting hit. The game is actually quite easy on all fronts; there's little challenge in Dragon Blade Chronicles, and that's just another aspect that dampens any enthusiasm you might have for the game.
There's also a flying form of the Mugonhei that resembles a kidney bean and randomly spits out fireballs. Once again, they're incredibly simple enemies to fight, and while they come in a variety of colors, they all take one hit to destroy.
The only other enemies you'll encounter are boss fights, which are typically one of the Genryu, with the occasional Naruto villain tossed in. Boss fights are no better than the basic enemies, though, as they all have predictable patterns, take few hits to kill, and provide little to no challenge for anyone who's ever played a similar action game.
Along with the uninspired combat, the game is a technical mess. The frame rate chugs along more often than not, dropping into what seems to be single digits when there's an enemy on-screen. Since the game tosses you into one small area after another with constant enemy respawns, the gameplay usually moves at a snail's pace. I've seen plenty of Wii games that can handle far more on-screen action than is in Dragon Blade Chronicles, so I don't understand why the frame rate is so bad in this particular title. Additionally, there are minor graphical hiccups and some screen tearing, so this product was either rushed out the door or designed to be a very quick cash-in to prey on unsuspecting fans of the franchise.
The only real positive thing I can relate about Dragon Blade Chronicles is that the game gives you a variety of controller options. Aside from using the standard Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup, you can opt to go Wiimote-only by turning the controller on its side. You can also use the Classic Controller or a GameCube controller, if that suits you. The game doesn't utilize any motion control gameplay mechanics, so any of these control setups will work just fine.
Finally, the game is a serious eyesore. It doesn't just have to do with the Wii console's lower resolution lack of graphical prowess; the level of attention that was spent on Naruto and Sasuke's character models is missing from every other area of the game. They really stand out against the environment, and the costume design for both characters is designed to reflect new armor that effectively uses their Chakra. Everything around them, though, is ugly as sin. I've already commented on the lack of variety in the monster and enemy design, and the environments are equally as bad. They're mostly drab and brown, and they lack the texture work to help you differentiate between a dirt floor and a rock floor. The game is structured to put you in levels that are themed after their boss Genryu, so you have a water level, fire level, etc. However, they fail to capitalize on this concept, so when you get to the fire level after the earth level, the biggest change is that you must sidestep small fire pits. Beyond that, the area is nearly identical to the previous area. If you're not paying close attention, it's possible to get turned around and lost because so many areas in the game look identical.
This title is seriously lacking in options. Not only is there no Japanese voice track, which seems like a pretty standard inclusion in most Naruto games these days, but you also can't turn on or off subtitle options. Subtitles always stay on, even though the voices are in English. The other big annoyance is that the spoken dialogue is ridiculously slow and stilted, as if someone read the first line in a paragraph one day and then came in to read the second line on the next. It's poorly acted, and while they're using the actors who provide voices for the anime in the U.S., it does little to mask the feeling that nobody cared about how bad the dialogue sounds. Also, you can't fast-forward through the spoken dialogue or conversations; you can only skip it entirely, so you either put up with the really slow speech or you skip out on the story entirely. Guess which route I took after the first hour?
Overall, Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles is a really poor excuse for a Naruto game and a video game in general. It's one of the worst Wii titles I've played in recent months, and it's certainly the worst Naruto game I've had the misfortune of reviewing. I urge everyone to pass up this particular entry; it's not worth your time, no matter how much of a Naruto fan you might be. There are far better games on the market with these characters, and I suggest you check out those titles instead.
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