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Naruto: Clash of Ninja Package Art
TOMY, D3Publisher of America

Naruto: Clash of Ninja

Licensed games walk a fine line between pleasing fans of the source without alienating those just searching for a good video game. Naruto: Clash of Ninja pulls that off without a hitch. Presentation is important for fighting games, and Clash of Ninja combines high style with simple yet frantic gameplay for a solid North American debut.


Fighting games tend to look nice, and Clash of Ninja is no different. The fighters look great and animate extremely smoothly from one maneuver to the next. Screenshots do not do the game justice, as Clash of Ninja looks awesome in motion. It stays very true to its anime source, and the characters are nearly indistinguishable from their television counterparts. Some of the arenas stand out, such as the long and misty Great Naruto Bridge and the creepy slithering anaconda of the Forest of Death. The other 3D arenas, while adding little to gameplay, provide an attractive and appropriate backdrop to the action.

Most attacks in Clash of Ninja are of the hand-to-hand variety, but the effects are often eye popping. All the flashes, sparks and smoke from different types of attacks are exhilarating. But it's the little things that stand out. When two players hit each other with the same attack, they cancel each other out, and the ensuing slow motion sonic boom, as if two unstoppable forces suddenly collided, is a subtle but beautiful touch. The game moves fast, the special moves overflow with cool-- graphically, there is very little (if anything) wrong with Clash of Ninja


The effects for CLash of Ninja blend perfectly with the games visual style, and the bass heavy sounds do well to immerse players in the action. Clash of Ninja uses the same actors as the anime television show, making the voices as authentic as the appearance. Many of the lines are taken from the show and manga, such as Naruto's shouting "Believe it!" or calling Rock Lee "Bushy brow." Each character has a few pre- and post-fight lines, most of which are generic and boring. A few, however, are amusing, such as Rock Lee asking Sakura for a date and Sakura asking Sasuke if he is alright after a fight.


Clash of Ninja falls somewhere between the complexity of Killer Instinct and the simplicity of Smash Bros. Each character (except for Rock Lee) has two basic attacks--Ninjutsu (activated with the A button) and Taijutsu (B button). Ninjutsu attacks use whatever weapon the character has, usually a projectile. Taijutsu attacks are physical attacks--punches and kicks. Similar to Smash Bros., combining a direction on the D-pad with each type of attack initiates specific moves. This is a simpler way of attacking than the old Street Fighter style of memorizing quarter turns and back-back-forward maneuvers for special moves.

But players will have to memorize the combo sequences in order to deal any major damage. The combos are anywhere from two to eight buttons long, but they only use the two main attack buttons and are all listed in both the instruction manual and through an in-game menu. Although each character's combos are different, learning these sequences is surprisingly easy and shouldn't scare away beginners. Actually, the opposite is true. Clash of Ninja is very simple to learn, and a quick check before a match is usually enough to remember four or five combos. Like most fighting games, practicing with your favorite character will make you a combo expert.

All of these A and B button combos will make the game feel little on the button-mashing side, but it's the proper choice. Fighting strategy comes first from recognizing your opponents attack, then using the proper evading technique and counter attack. The focus is on timing and reflexes, not memorizing Hadokens and Flip Kicks. It makes for a more realistic battle than most fighting games. Winning usually means you outsmarted your opponent, which is a great feeling. Some veterans of the genre may not like the limited movement through the arena--sidestepping with the shoulder buttons is the only way to move towards the front or back of the television screen--but that system helps the game feel more like a close-quarters ninja fight. It's less Jackie Chan and more Steven Segal.

Players have little to strive for in terms of special content. Playing through the single player mode will unlock a file for the character used, along with some artwork. The file gives no valuable information, and while the art may be fun for Naruto fans, it is otherwise uninteresting. Clash of Ninja has only eight playable characters, seven of which are available out of the box. While there are some minor differences in speed, fighting style and reach, most of the characters have similar abilities, making character choice more aesthetic than strategic. The best unlockable is Rock Lee, the only fighter not available at the start of the game (although it takes little more than 15 minutes to get him). For a little guy with no weapon, he's quite a handful and is the only character that clearly needs to be played with a different technique than the others. It would have been better if all of the characters differed in similar ways.


Clash of Ninja has a basic one-on-one two player mode and plays just like the single player game.


It may not be groundbreaking, but Clash of Ninja is a great pick-up-and-play title in a genre that is becoming overly complex. It's also a great purchase for those new to fighting games. It's easy to learn and uses a fast and energetic style that should please fans of the series without making non-fans feel lost. While the game offers little to strive for in terms of hidden content or special endings, Clash of Ninja is worthy of continued play in and of itself. After all, isn't that how video games are supposed to be?

final score 8.0/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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"Tiger uppercut!!"

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