By Levi . November 1, 2007 . 5:22pm
Before we get started here, I've got to come clean…I'm not the biggest fan of Naruto. Now, I don't hate it or anything, but I also don't regularly watch it. Basically everything I know about the series comes from either Wikipedia or the Naruto video games. Surprisingly, Naruto video games have managed to avoid the "anime game curse" of being nothing more than shallow fanservice. In fact, just about every Naruto game I've played has impressed me quite a bit. That's why I jumped at the chance to take a look at Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution for the Wii. I'm a big fan of fighting games, and Naruto games, so this one seemed like the perfect game for me. However, what ensued as I began playing the game was more than I bargained for. It was a journey. A journey of disappointment, discovery, understanding, and finally, acceptance and surprise.
When I first began playing Clash of Ninja Revolution, I was in foreign territory. After all, I'd never played any of the previous Clash of Ninja games, nor any of the Gekitou Ninja Taisen games. So I had no idea what to expect in the gameplay department. The first thing I noticed about the game was how smooth it ran. The framerate is extremely impressive. I was optimistic going into my first match. However, that optimism quickly soured as I made my first journey through single player mode. Something just wasn't right. The combat system felt like a Smash Bros. knockoff, and it just didn't seem as fluid as I'd imagined a game like this to be. Granted, I did like the Jutsu system, which incorporates motion controls to make your Jutsus more powerful. Take Gaara's Sand Coffin/Sand Burial Jutsu. As the sand coffin is enveloping your foe and lifting them into the air, you move the Wii Remote in a circular motion. Then, at the very second that Gaara closes his hand to perform the Sand Burial, you quickly move the Nunchuk down. It feels REALLY cool to do this (more so for some Jutsus than others), and it does kinda bring you "into the game". However, as much as I enjoyed that aspect of the game, overall something still wasn't right, and I still wasn't enjoying it. Then, like a Dynamic Entry, it hit me.
It was the controls.
Many Wii games have had the unfortunate problem of poorly implemented motion controls. Namely using motion where a button press would suffice. And the default control scheme of Clash of Ninja Revolution is no exception. Weak attacks are done by shaking the Wii Remote, and Strong attacks are done by pressing the A button. This makes it UNBELIEVABLY hard to chain together effective combos, and really hurts the fluidity of the game. The game does feature other control methods, like the Classic Controller and GameCube controller, but using these eliminates the motion controls for the Jutsus, which are really cool. But the default control scheme just isn't good, and doesn't lend itself well to the fighting engine…What to do, what to do? And then, looking through the instruction manual, I found my answer. The answer that would change my opinion of Clash of Ninja Revolution forever. Nunchuk Style Button Controls. With one quick change in the options menu of the game, everything turned around. The "Button style" control scheme moves Weak attacks from shaking the Wii Remote to the A button, and moves Strong attacks from the A button to Down on the D-Pad (Jutsus, which were configured to Down in the Motion Style controls, are moved to Right on the D-Pad). This makes the game SO MUCH BETTER, and retains the motion controls for the Jutsus. After making this change, I jumped back into the game, and actually began to ENJOY it. I could finally concentrate on the gameplay!
Speaking of the gameplay, after I gave it another chance, I saw that it was in fact far deeper than I'd given it credit for. After some trial and error, I was pulling off combos that I just didn't think were possible with a gameplay engine like this. I went from being disappointed with Clash of Ninja Revolution, to being very impressed. However, there are still flaws that manage to stick out. First being the roster. There's only 20 characters. Which isn't a problem for me, personally (come on, I remember when a fighting game having 12 characters was a big deal), but some Naruto fans may be disheartened by the absence of characters like Kiba, Chouji, The Third Hokage, and Zabusa. Another problem the game has is the shadows. Characters' shadows in the game are very, VERY pixelated. I'm talking, Super NES pixelated. Though as I hear, the shadows in Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX, which this game's engine is based on, caused framerate issues, which could explain the downgrading of the shadows in Clash of Ninja Revolution. So it's a necessary sacrifice, and not too annoying as long as you don't focus directly on the shadows while playing. Half the time you won't even notice them.
The game offers plenty to do, as well. There's the standard single player mode, plus survival, time attack, practice, and mission modes. Mission mode is kind of short (only 23 missions), but there's three difficulties to play through it on, so there's some reason to come back to it. On the multiplayer side of things, the game supports up to four players, and even has a co-op arcade mode and co-op survival mode, which is REALLY cool. The multiplayer action loses a bit in the framerate department, but not much, and the slight drop in framerate is worth it for the sheer insanity that ensues when you've got four characters onscreen duking it out. Also worth mentioning is the unlocking system, which differs greatly from the GNT series. Instead of buying unlockables with money, you simply unlock things through normal gameplay. There's also plenty to unlock. Characters, game modes, fighting arenas, and more.
< Spencer's note: Unlocking characters and stuff is much more streamlined and less frustrating than the money system in Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen 3. You can earn characters by playing through the story mode instead of having to purchase each one. It's similar to the system used in Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX. I give this a thumbs up.>
And so my journey through Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution ends. From sheer disappointment to surprising enjoyment, I can't say I've ever disliked a game so much in the beginning, and then come to like it as much as I do Clash of Ninja Revolution. While there might be some things that longtime Gekitou Ninja Taisen fans won't like about the game, most Naruto fans will absolutely love it. Those looking for a great Wii fighter should also give this game a try. It's deceptively deep, and while I wouldn't call it the Wii's best fighter like some other sites are, it's definitely up there alongside the best. Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution is a game that manages to overcome it's anime game nature to deliver solid, fun gameplay that almost any fan of fighters can enjoy.