Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising is a different direction for Naruto PSP games. Rather than being a straightforward fighting adventure, it’s more of a hack-and-slash action RPG. Like the previous PSP games, it does a good job of introducing the characters and situation and couples that with good gameplay, making Akatsuki Rising an interesting adventure for anyone who decides to attempt it. Its only failings are some gameplay and continuity issues.
If you follow the Naruto Shippuden anime or manga, you’ll know everything that happens in Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising. It covers the Rescue Gaara/Kazekage Retrieval Arc, and takes place a little over two years after the end of Naruto. At the end of the first part of the series, Naruto left with the Toad Sage Jiraya to train. Akatsuki Rising starts with the two returning to Konohagakure, the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Naruto reunites with his previous teammate Sakura, and then joins her in a battle against their former teacher, Kakashi, to prove to him that they’re worthy of being on his team. After they win and Team 7 is reunited, urgent news comes in. Akatsuki has come to Sunagakure, the Village Hidden in the Sand, and has kidnapped Gaara, now the kazekage of the village. Team 7 and Temari, who was visiting the Leaf Village, go to offer assistance and save him.
While Akatsuki Rising is first and foremost an action RPG, its varying game modes offer a lot of diverse opportunities. The standard mode is Scenario Mode. Here you’ll play through chapters that cover the Kazekage Retrieval Naruto Shippuden story where Naruto, Kakashi and Sakura went to the Village Hidden in the Sand to save Gaara, the Kazekage, after he’d been kidnapped by Akatsuki. This mode offers more lengthy gameplay and is good for when you have at least 15-60 minutes to play. Mission Mode offers a selection of short missions that can usually be accomplished in under 15 minutes. These allow you to level up characters and earn valuable rewards you can use in the Scenario or Mission Modes. After you’ve completely beaten the Scenario Mode, Akatsuki Mode unlocks, which allows you to play through the Kazekage Retrieval, only you see things through eyes of Akatsuki members.
On top of that, there’s a bit of a surprise. While Akatsuki Rising isn’t really presented as a fighting game, there are two gameplay modes which include fighting game features. Battle Mode turns it into a standard fighting game. You choose your character, either from one you’ve been leveling up or a preset one, and face off against other available characters. Or, you can choose from a preset character. You can even face off against a friend. There’s also Survival Mode, which is exactly like it sounds. You face off against a bunch of opponents in an attempt to survive. If you do, you get a nice bit of experience to level up your character.
There’s one more feature that helps make Akatsuki Rising even more robust. Multiplayer. While it’s still ad-hoc multiplayer, it’s still impressive because you can not only battle friends in Battle Mode, you can enlist their help in Mission and Scenario Modes. I didn’t get to enlist co-op help from a friend, but I did try a few quick battles and they worked pretty well.
As you can tell, it means the game pretty much never gets old. There’s just too many different gameplay options and things to do. Even better – there’s a nice selection of characters. You can choose from 18, though one is the same character, just with a different appearance. The downside is that no Team 8 members (Hinata, Shino, Kiba) appear and only one Team 10 member, Shikamaru, appears.
That doesn’t mean the game is perfect though. First, the continuity issues. This is probably more of a personal qualm than an actual criticism of Akatsuki Rising‘s gameplay. See, in the Scenario Mode you pick one character at the start of the chapter, and that’s the character you fight as throughout that portion. The problem is, during chapter, you might run into a boss battle where it would be a certain character against a certain boss. For example, at one part Naruto is going to fight against Shikamaru. But, if you chose Sakura as your character for that chapter, Sakura will fight against Shikamaru. I can see the benefit of this, as players will be able to use a character they personally picked and perhaps are more comfortable using, but it just annoyed me for some reason. Perhaps because it doesn’t always happen. Like, for example, at one point you’re able to control Gaara in a fight against Deidara, even though you chose another character for that chapter.
Akatsuki Rising also, occasionally, looks a bit shabby. Personally, when I first saw screenshots for the game, I thought it looked really bad. Surprisingly, it looks quite a bit better in action. Still, I can’t help thinking it could have looked better. The cell-shaded, 3D look does fit though, considering it’s an anime/manga game, and I’m sure some people would appreciate or like the way it looks. I do think that the decision to go with
Akatsuki Rising‘s other, and possibly only, failing is that many enemies can be easily dispatched with the standard square button attacks. Sometimes, it’s even quicker to take out enemies this way. This means the game can easily turn into a button mashing fest, removing any need for strategy.
And, even when you do run into enemies or bosses where you need to fight strategically, it really isn’t too difficult. Using special attacks right away usually isn’t the best course, since even when you’ve locked onto an opponent they can dodge or counter. The best thing is to unleash three normal square attacks. This will make your opponent fly back and stun him. Then you can unleash a special attack and know it’ll land.
There’s also a Data Install option. I didn’t go with it myself, simply because I’m still using the 1gb card my PSP bundle came with and space is at a bit of a premium. It’s a nice option, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I didn’t come across any loading issues at all. Perhaps it’d be helpful if you’re going to be taking advantage of multiplayer.
Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising was a pleasant surprise for me. True, it can be a bit easy and definitely turns into a button-mashing fest, but it’s unexpectedly robust. Naruto fans are definitely going to be the ones playing and enjoying it the most, bit I could honestly see other gamers also enjoying it, if they gave it a chance.
Food for Thought:
- Special moves could have been a bit better executed. As is, for many characters you have first lock on to your enemy, stun them with regular moves then execute the special move.
- You really need to take breaks while playing. I typically found myself button mashing square to get through the small fry enemies in levels.
- Explore everywhere. You could find a treasure chest with scrolls you could use to level up abilities and such.