There are some great licensed games out there, and then there are titles like Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Council 4. Obviously trying to appeal to younger audiences, it makes the grave mistake of interpreting that to mean easy and bland. No matter their age, most gamers will have trouble finding anything of substance here. At best, the game offers further opportunities for fans of the television show to play as their favorite characters.
Naruto Shippuden Ninja Council 4 is geared unapologetically toward established fans, story-wise at least. There is nothing here to update newcomers on the events leading up to this game and on one level it's understandable. The television show and related games have been available for years and it's a safe bet that most of the people picking up this game will already be acquainted with the franchise. That said, if you're unfortunate enough to buy this game on a whim, without a working knowledge of the dealings that came prior, you'll be lost.
This could be forgivable if the game offered the sort of diversity and challenge to make up for a poor plot, but it doesn't. The story mode is one long string of uninspired platforming levels after another. Save for different settings, they're all basically the same. Run, jump, attack, repeat. Many titles do well with this formula, but the game is so easy that any of the joy one might derive from a good platformer is absent. The obstacles are rarely trying; if you can conquer the first few, the rest are a cinch. The combat is pure button mashing, with enemies posing little threat. Even bosses, though more substantial than their conventional allies, are easy to figure out and can generally be dispatched with little more than some simple dodging and rapid attacking.
If anything in the game is going to get you, it’s the poor controls. The game suffers from a delayed response between button pushes and the action on screen. Doing two things at once - jumping and attacking - is inexplicably difficult. Other times, when trying to doing things like running up walls the game won't seem to respond at all. Most unfortunately, the controls pander to the “need” for DS games to be touch screen functional. If you want to execute a special attack you need to hit a symbol on the touch screen and complete a minigame that usually requires little more than dragging the stylus back and forth quickly across the screen. It's an annoying requirement, especially when the rest of the game is controlled via the face buttons.
So you're faced with several options: keep a stylus awkwardly in hand should the need arise, pause the game every time you need it, thus interrupting the gameplay, or try to get the stylus out quickly with the game running and probably take a few hits during the process. Whatever you choose, it's frustrating and unnecessary. There are several buttons the game doesn't even use, making touch screen inclusion pointless.
The game also suffers from a lack of content. Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Council 4 features a single player story mode, a multi-cart versus mode and nothing else. It's a game that overall offers little for even fans of the series to grasp onto. There will certainly be some who enjoy it, if only because their devotion to the franchise won't allow them the luxury of knowing crap for crap, but otherwise, this is a game best avoided.
Jun 15, 2009