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ups: cel-shaded style looks great, simple controls make it easy to pick up
downs: serious lack of content, voice acting can be annoying

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Naruto: Clash of Ninja Review
game: Naruto: Clash of Ninja
three star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: D3 Publisher / Tomy Corporation
developer: Eighting
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 07:30 AM Mon May 8th, 2006
last revision: 04:14 PM Sun May 7th, 2006

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Click to read.With the current gen winding down it is getting harder and harder to find fun games to fill the void until your new console of choice arrives. Xbox 360 owners, you are excused. But at least there are enough titles coming out in order to keep next-gen deprived gamers from going insane with boredom, and for GameCube owners one of these is Naruto: Clash of Ninja. A two player fighting game straight from the anime franchise, Eighting has dished out a title that is fun, fast-paced, and great looking, but the experience as a whole comes off a little thin.

Clash of Ninja sports seven modes of gameplay, though several of them are nearly identical to others. One-player mode is essentially an arcade mode in which you take on all the other characters one by one. And, in true arcade fashion, a second player can plug in and challenge you on the spot. Of course the requisite two-player versus mode is included. Also available is the option to play against a single computer controlled character of your choosing in a single round match. Other modes include survival, time-attack, training, and story mode. You would think that story mode is where you would find the meat of the game, but unfortunately this isn\'t so. Story mode is essentially the one-player mode with a few lines of dialogue thrown in before and after each fight. Another disappointment is that only Naruto is available in story mode, hurting, if not eliminating, its replay value.

So, as far as content and modes go, Clash of Ninja comes up short. In fact, after just a couple hours of playtime it is easy to have seen the vast majority of the game. This hurts its longevity badly. Sure there are a few secret characters to unlock, as well as artwork and character bios, but it is tough to walk away from this game without feeling a little cheated.

Of course, when choosing a good fighting game to play, hidden content isn\'t nearly as important to me as fun content, and it is in this aspect that Clash of Ninja delivers. When designing this game, Eighting opted for a simplified control scheme and for the most part made it work well. The B-button is your standard martial arts attack, A-button unleashes your weapon, Y is for grabs, and X activates your character\'s special move. You also combine the A or B-button and a joystick direction for more specialized moves. Each character also has a relatively simple combo list.

While not exactly deep, this setup makes Clash of Ninja not only well suited for younger players, but also a great party game. It only takes a few matches for players to catch on to the controls and start pulling off some impressive combos. There are a couple of hiccups in the controls, however. Sometimes it would become frustrating to simply get your player to turn around to face your opponent again. Another annoyance is that each character only has one special move, and watching the dramatic animation play over and over gets old rather quickly.

For better or worse, fighting mechanics don\'t vary a whole lot from character to character and once you have mastered one you have essentially mastered them all. This isn\'t to say they don\'t behave differently. Zabuza, for example, takes longer to execute attacks but packs a hefty punch, while Sakura lies near the other end of the spectrum. While this may disappoint some hardcore players, this also lends itself to the pick-up-and-play nature of the game.

Visually, the cel-shaded style of the game ties in perfectly to the anime. The characters look great and the animations are fluid. Details such as dust being kicked up and \"speed streaks\" from quick movement are abundant and add a lot to the art style. Basic attacks and combos can provide quite the fireworks show by themselves, but special moves show off some serious flare. Dramatic slowdown and special effects out the ying-yang will leave a smile on your face as well as show just how badly you put the hurt on your opponent. If there is one graphical blemish in Clash of Ninja it would be that the environments and arenas are somewhat lacking in the detail and personality shown in the characters.

Unfortunately, the audio in the game leaves a bit to be desired. Though there is a decent amount of authentic voice work, most of it ranges from tolerable to annoying. While it is a nice touch to have the characters say something relevant to the specific opponent they are about to face off against, the lines get repetitive and old pretty fast. The music isn\'t bad, however. Being taken directly from the anime really adds to the feel of the game and is definitely a plus.

Naruto: Clash of Ninja is a fun, but flawed, fighting game. The visuals are excellent and show a lot of flare, and the fighting is fast paced and enjoyable. The simple gameplay and almost total lack of depth, however, will likely turn hardcore fighter fans away and leave those who buy it feeling like they deserve a little more bang for their buck. But if you and a friend or two are fans of the anime with an itch to lay some serious beat down on one another, Clash of Ninja is definitely worth a look. The single-player may not be much but the multiplayer mode is easily worth a trip to your local rental store.

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