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NARUTO: Uzumaki Chronicles - PS2 - Preview

As long as there are enemies in need of a butt-kicking, Naruto will not stop serving the world. He’s not quite a superhero, but he does have special powers. He’s not a ladies’ man, though I’m guessing his young voice has something to do with that? He’s not the leader of a great army, but can forge himself into more than one warrior. When one Naruto is having a hard time getting the job done, he’ll make like Anakin Skywalker rumors and clone himself for a brief multi-fist assault.

Reportedly, this is why the Army changed their slogan from “An Army of One” to “Army Strong.” Now that Naruto is no longer solo, they had to come up with something else. (Of course I’m joking, but you gotta admit, this story does make a lot of sense.)

 

NARUTO: Uzumaki Chronicles is the newest in Naruto’s many current-gen offerings. Two-dimensional battle-lovers, say goodbye to your favorite fighter. Though Naruto may someday return to 2D, this time he’s going for something a little more open-ended: the third dimension.

Gameplay is pure brawler madness. As Parappa the Rapper’s master would say, “Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind!” His words couldn’t be any truer, save for the fact that if your attacks were entirely in your mind, you’d be surrounded by enemies and beaten to death. That’s no way for an Ultimate Ninja to succeed.

Because of the 3D environment, players need a jump button. That function has been assigned to X. The square and triangle buttons trigger your standard and strong attacks, respectively. Circle unleashes a handy projectile – a tiny ninja star that inflicts a surprisingly large amount of damage. It can stun enemies, and in some cases, knock them down. It may also be the only way to hit enemies while they’re on the ground. Downed enemies cannot typically be struck, at least not in this preview build. But I was successful in hitting them with ninja stars before they could get back on their feet.

Combos are fast, intense, and come from many great sources: Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. The moves and animations are not a direct rip-off. But the idea of juggling an opponent is not new. It is, however, a cool feature that lets you kick or uppercut an opponent into the air and hit him multiple times (seconds before he falls flat on his face). It’s a very open-ended and satisfying way to dish out damage that lets the players decide how far they should go.

 

There are no apparent limitations – no cheesy blockers that step in to prevent you from being “cheap.” Such a feature is not necessary and would be prohibitive to player creativity. Since this is a 3D, single-player experience, your goal is to defeat the computer-controlled enemies, not some arcade junkie who will cry after you perform the same combo 10 times in a row.

The camera does not appear to be finished, but it seems that the pieces are falling into place. It can be moved around Naruto as much as you like, giving you the optimal view for any situation. This is great, so I really hope the developers can overcome its one flaw: control confusion. The controls aren’t able to adjust as fast as the player. If you swing the camera around too quickly, player movement will be backwards. The current solution is to press into the right analog stick (R3) to re-center the view behind Naruto.

Naruto’s last outing demonstrated some of the coolest and most breathtaking cel-shading effects around. The detail and artistic style were unreal. It was like a graphic novel come to life.

Uzumaki Chronicles does not yet outperform its predecessor (I doubt any game will), but it does have a lot of cool visual elements. Characters are smooth, fully rendered, and look very solid. The backgrounds look great as well. What impressed me the most, however, were the little things – primarily the tall grass in one of the stages. It swayed so realistically, it was hard not to think, “Isn’t this something only possible on a next-gen platform?” It doesn’t have the high resolution of a PS3 game, but you’ll know what I’m talking about once you see the game in action. 

 

Hoping to prove he’s the Ultimate Ninja once more, NARUTO: Uzumaki Chronicles will start thrashing retailers on November 14th.

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