Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Naruto Powerful Shippuden (3DS)

The attacks are as over-the-top as always, but carry a lot more charm in this version
Naruto is a series that generally tries and succeeds to find a balance between serious and silly, depending on the characters and topics. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 was one of my favorite games last year when I had a chance to play it. This new 3DS game goes a very different route. There are a handful of serious story elements, but they feel like the exception than the rule. In fact, Naruto Powerful Shippuden for the Nintendo 3DS is really quite a departure from others games in the series - and that is not a bad thing.

The chibi style artwork is not my preference in most games usually, because it can be very hard to take a game or show seriously when your characters look this way. I admit that I enjoy the style of the Ultimate Ninja games because they are truer to the show, but the art here in Powerful Shippuden does fit the game's tone perfectly once you start to play.

If you would like to see more screenshots of Naruto Powerful Shippuden, Chris posted a bunch in an article a couple of weeks ago here.

While the art design is what first jumps out at you, there are other things that make Powerful Shippuden very different than most of the other Naruto games to come along so far. Most of the titles work as fighting games in a 3D environment - usually against one foe at a time, though there are sometimes exceptions.

Wait... what? Disconcerting? Yes, but it makes sense... ish
Here you are playing on a 2D plane, and generally dealing with lots of enemies at once. The storyline is presented by using a combination of text boxes and cut scenes. You essentially have the same Naruto storyline we have seen in a few other games - but with a twist as Rock Lee also has his own adventure. You switch between Naruto and Rock as you tackle missions one at a time, progressing the storyline with both characters.  Having old "Bushy Brows" being equally important to your progress as Naruto actually adds to the game's humor quite a bit.

And the game does ooze humor.

The music is good, and the graphics look great. They are vibrantly colorful and animate very well, with the 3D effect pleasant without being overdone or underused. Character models all are quickly identifiable - which is impressive considering how different they can look from what we are used to. The gameplay however, was not what I expected at first.

The missions generally consist of a single screen of combat. Early on there is combat training where you learn the basics - and there is a surprising amount of variety in what you can do. You can jump, attack, use ranged attacks, block, dash, use special attacks and call for reinforcements. The challenges vary quite a bit as well - especially at first. In one mission you will be asked to knock down a certain number of enemies. In another you need to exhaust your opponent a set number of times. In a third scenario there is a countdown, and your objective is to stay alive until it reaches zero. You manage your life, but also your energy.



The above scenarios are the most common, and most of them are done against random thugs, birds, wolves and the like. However, you also get opportunities to take on major characters from the series, and some of these missions can be pretty tough. Probably the most difficult in my mind are the dashing ones. While most of the missions take place on a single screen, the dashing ones actually scroll somewhat vertically, but primarily horizontally as you try to make your way over objects and through enemies to reach the end of the mission before time runs out.

Lacking the depth of the Ninja Storm games, at times Powerful Shippuden feels every bit as small as its stylish but diminutive characters. This can be a curse or a blessing depending on your expectations. Most missions are over in a matter of minutes, and going through the game's content really does not take a terribly long time. These bite-sized missions feel right at home on a portable unit however - you do not need to run around looking for a save point. The game saves after every mission. You are not getting a terribly complex fighter here - you jump and attack to take down birds, and if someone blocks your ground based strikes, you break out a power move to blast them.

These are not 1-on-1 fights
That is not to say Powerful Shippuden is as shallow as it might look at first glance. You earn experience for completing missions - and can earn bonus experience for completing missions and meeting specific guidelines.These bonus conditions can be configured to suit your tastes before you start a mission. The experience gets used to raise your level, unlock new power abilities and more. You can call in support from various characters you unlock during your travels as well. I also really liked that Powerful Shippuden encourages you to experience by allowing you to remove points you have put into areas, so you can freely redistribute them to your liking later. Have a round where you need to kill a certin number of creatures? Boost that attack power and life. Have to survive a round for sixty seconds? Improve your defense abilities.

Naruto Powerful Shippuden may not be what you are initially expecting. If you are looking for a deep Ultimate Ninja experience you will sink sixty or so hours into to complete, you probably will not find that here. If you are looking for amusing, quick bites of action on the go? Then this title will probably be to your liking. I can see where it might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it more often than not.


- Nick H
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