The first time I played Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising was during E3
, when the world was drenched in the unwavering madness of a videogame tradeshow and I only had five to ten minutes to play. In other words, conditions were far from ideal and I could barely grasp the basic mechanics of the game, let alone comment on its various intricacies.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Akatsuki Rising and get some much quieter, focused hands-on time, which was certainly a welcome change from my previous session. Although there wasn't much more to actually see
in the game besides what I saw a few months ago, I was able to get a better feel for the experience as a whole and take Naruto out for a serious spin.
The result? Many bandits were defeated.
Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising is obviously based on the Shippuden story arc of the Naruto franchise. If you're unfamiliar with the anime and manga, that means that Naruto and all his ninja pals are a little more grown up and skilled in their ability to kick ass and take names. The plot in Akatsuki Rising takes place shortly after Gaara is rescued from the deadly Akatsuki -- a group of extremely dangerous, wanted criminals.
Developer Racujin created Akatsuki Rising as an action game and not a fighting game. This was originally a big jump for me, as my most notable Naruto memory as of late was playing Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm on the PS3, which was a surprisingly slick fighting game from the skilled folks over at CyberConnect2. Akatsuki Rising, on the other hand, plops players into wide -- but still linear -- paths and throws a bunch of enemies at them in a classic ninja-filled brawl.
From the looks of things, you'll only control one character at a time, though you can have two other ninja assigned to you as support units. In battle, players will use the Square button to execute attacks, the Triangle button to throw projectile weapons and the X and Circle buttons to jump and dash, respectively.
Players can hit the L trigger to lock on to a nearby opponent and hold the R trigger to open a radial menu used to select special Jutsu attacks. When I played Akatsuki Rising at E3, I was approaching this game from the mindset of a fighting game fan, not realizing that this bore little resemblance to its Ultimate Ninja predecessors. This is, honestly, a button masher set in the Naruto universe. Like the classic side-scrolling beat-'em-ups we all know and love, Akatsuki Rising's fifteen characters will be pummeling chumps left and right with a few easy taps of the Square button.
The majority of my demo once again found Naruto in a forest, fighting a host of bandits that launched a surprise attack on the spunky young ninja and his familiar crew. As you beat down enemies, you'll earn experience points which can be used to build your character's stats and unlock new Jutsu techniques. Fortunately, not all these characters will develop in the same way, as each ninja has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. While some are excellent at dealing with groups, for example, others are more suited for one-on-one combat.
Your Jutsu attacks come in very handy during battle. As mentioned above, players can easily pull off these techniques simply by holding down the right trigger and selecting one of the attacks from within the radial menu. These Jutsu techniques deplete your Chakra gauge, which sits next to your health at the bottom of the screen. Players will need to keep an eye on that gauge to make sure they don't overdo their ninja shenanigans.
Most of these battles took place during a jaunt through Scenario Mode, which follows the Naruto storyline. Mission Mode, on the other hand, tasks you with specific objectives that yield fetching rewards when completed.
Most modes in Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising are available for co-op play, over Ad Hoc. This will likely be most suited for one-on-one fighting, when friends want to test their skills against one another. Unfortunately though, my continued play time with Naruto still leaves me concerned with the battle mechanics.
As the only defensive technique you have available to you is Substitution Jutsu and it's executed by pressing Square as your opponent lands an attack, the move is basically automatic. After all, during combat, which button are you pressing the most? Square -- it's your attack button, after all. So as you're mashing away at Square and your opponent tries to sneak in a devious punch, you're already hitting your "block" button during the attack. Seems like this system would be too easy that way.
The only other concern I have at the moment is regarding the game's visuals. They're a bit on the bland side, but this could just be the result of only seeing one or two particular environments in the game. Perhaps more detail will come with later levels.
I wasn't able to try out the game's multiplayer features, so I can't speak on their stability. Regardless, I hope that the RPG elements and numerous missions help keep this game fresh for the long haul.
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