It’s been slightly over a year since Eighting has released their yearly installment of the Geiktou Ninja Taisen (Clash of Ninja) series. Now that Naruto anime series is back on track with the manga Eighting chose to use the “new” Shippuden version of Naruto and they are the first ones to do it. Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX is the first Naruto Wii game and it takes advantage of the Wii’s motion controls. Now before I splurge more details on Naruto’s Wii debut be warned that there are major spoilers past the break if you have been following the North American broadcast.
With that note out of the way, Eighting hasn’t deviated from their Naruto formula much. Naruto EX could easily have been a Gamecube title. Like the other Clash of Ninja / Gekitou Ninja Taisen games it is a fighting game where up to four players can duke it out with their favorite Naruto characters. There are only fourteen characters in the game, which makes the cast seem a little light compared to how many characters are in Gekitou Ninja Taisen 4 or even the US’ Clash of Ninja 2. But you have to give Eighting a little bit of a break. They are following the series, namely the “Rescue Gaara” arc so Hinata, Iruka, and Shikamaru are not in the game. Instead you have: Naruto, Sakura, Kakashi, Lee, Neji, Tenten, Guy, Gaara, Temari, Kankurou, Itachi, Kisame, Deidara, and Sasori. While there are fewer characters there is a plus, Eighting has given most characters new moves instead of them minor tweaks with each new installment. That’s got to count for something right?
Sakura gets the award for most improved character. Instead of her teleporting around throwing shuriken she has Tsunade’s monstrous strength and punching combos where she slams the ground. You can press A to charge her gloves, which lets Sakura deal extra damage, but drains her chakra. Sakura also has the most super moves, she can do a power punch or she can use her chakra to completely heal herself. She can also direct her healing powers to another player and heal them, which really isn’t useful, but still an interesting addition. Temari is now a ranged character and she can chain wind blast combos. Temari also has a summoning jutsu where she calls Kamatari for a team up attack. Gaara isn’t a tank anymore. Besides being faster and can attack with huge sandwaves, which makes him a formidable character during four player matches. Deidara is an interesting character to play because he can fill the screen with explosive clay spiders and birds that players have to sidestep. One of his jutsu attacks has him call a squad of clay birds for a six hit anti air attack. In one of his longer combos Deidara calls up a giant clay bird to juggle an enemy in midair. While Neji is mostly the same he now has the Hakke Kusho, a long range attack where he shoots a blast of energy instead of throwing kunai. Tenten’s changes has her summon different weapons from her scroll by pressing A. She can call a staff, a huge spear, two swords and a giant sword. Each weapon has a different combo for instance the spear combo puts Tenten high in the sky and she does flips with the spear. Alternatively, Tenten can throw her weapon by pressing “B”. While some characters changed, others stayed the same. Lee, Naruto and Kakashi are “tweaked” to have a few new attacks, but most of their moves are already in Gekitou Ninja Taisen 4. Eighting also has a few new features in the fighting system. Objects like crates and wood stumps are on arenas to hide behind. If you use these carefully you can protect yourself from attacks or jump out at the right time to get behind an opponent. The crates add in a little chasing confusion, but Naruto EX is so fast you’ll probably ignore them. The other change is that each arena is really two screens. You can knock an opponent into another screen or down into a pit. When you do a ring out move the screen pauses and if you shake the remote at the right time you can hit the other player for extra damage.
Since this is a Wii game Eighting had to add in motion controls to the game, but they really seem like an afterthought. Instead of pressing “B” to do a taijutsu (or as the game calls it weak attack) you shake the remote. To do different moves you hold a direction on the analog stick and shake the controller. Alternatively you can do jutsus and throw kunai by pressing the A button. The most complicated combo you’re going to do is a few shakes of the remote and finishing it up by pressing the “A” button. That’s exactly how you do Naruto’s air rasengan combo. Sidestepping is more intuitive where you press the Z button on the nunchuck to move left or the B button on the remote to move right or activate the replacement jutsu if you have ¾ of your chakra meter full. Super movies (ougis) are done by pressing down on the remote’s D-pad and once you land a super move a window pops up telling you how to perform the move. To do Naruto’s double rasengan you spin the nunchuck and remote in circles then punch forward with the nunchuck then the remote. Kakashi’s double Chidori has players move the remote and nunchuck rapidly like you were charging chakra then punch with each device on cue. Neji’s Hakke Rokujuuyonshou has players punch at the right time every 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64th hit. Deidara’s clay spider attack is done by swirling the nunchuck then shaking the remote left and right when the spiders explode. The special attacks are the best example of how Naruto Shippuden: Geiktou Ninja Taisen EX uses the Wii remote, but here’s the catch you don’t actually have to do them. Even if you fail to move the remote at the right time, which is confirmed by sounds coming out of the Wii remote’s speaker, the attack still goes through, but it deals less damage. It’s a little bit of a downer on how Naruto EX does or should I say doesn’t take advantage of the Wii remote, but there is an upside. Naruto EX can be completely enjoyed with the classic controller or a Gamecube controller. So instead of shaking your way through combos you can play Naruto EX just like the other games in the series
Eighting did add in a couple of motion controlled mini games. One game has you use the remote like a pointer and you press “A” to throw shuriken at Naruto and Kakashi for points, but avoid Sakura she knocks off points if you hit her. Another motion controlled game has players spot the real Naruto out of a bunch of shadow clones and “throw” the remote like a kunai to attack him. The final mini game has Naruto spin the remote and nunchuck in circles to charge his rasengan and then punch forward to hit a bunch of targets. The mini games won’t keep players busy very long, most of the action is in the story mode where you follow the rescue Gaara arc. You start with Naruto’s return to Konoha with Kakashi explaining the controls of the game. Later you battle him with Sakura at your side, like the two bells test, fight Deidara with Gaara and later have a match between Kakashi and Itachi. You can unlock a handful of characters from beating the story mode, but the other characters are more cryptic on how to unlock them. Naruto EX throws out the earn cash to buy characters set up, instead you have to beat score attack mode with the correct character to unlock them. Want Tenten to be playable? You’ve got to beat score attack with Neji. To get Itachi you beat score attack with Kakashi. I don’t want to spoil all of the unlocks, but if you’re familiar with the series you should be able to figure all of them out.
So what’s the bottom line on Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX? If you’re a fan of Naruto you’re going to like it and if you’re not well you aren’t. There isn’t anything revolutionary about Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX, but it’s easy to play and the four player mode makes it a good game when company is over.