Overall this game isn't horrible, but it's just not great either.
I borrowed this game from a friend of mine a few days ago, and I'm really glad I did not buy it myself. Being a fan of the anime in the past myself, I had some hope for this game. I gave the game 2/5 stars because it seems it could have had a lot of potential but it fell flat. I was on the breach of giving the game 1 to 1.5 stars, but I did enjoy the game the brief time I spent with it.
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja is plagued with repetitive quests, enemies, and boring surroundings. I'll get more in-depth with those things later on in my review. Naruto: Rise of a Ninja follows the path of the television anime to about episode 80 or so. The game itself doesn't really have an ending. I can't really give it bad points on that since the anime is long itself and still hasn't ended. What I didn't like about the ending was it seems Ubisoft was told to finish up two-thirds through the game's story. The game's missions are basically the anime/manga's story, and the quests in the game are these side things to do for townsfolk for more health, money, and training points. The story is seems very rushed through the game until it ends when you fight Gaara in his Sand Demon form. After that another clip from the anime and that's it.
It's not just the missions that bothered me, the quests are far worse than that. The quests are given by different people in the village, but they're either 1 of 3 things. You have a chance at getting a race quest, (which there's a race mini-game you can do in the city that also give heath and money, so there's no point in race missions) collecting quest, (which is where you have to collect 20 herbs usually which is spread close together in a random part of the forest around the village) and finally a go and fight some bandits quests. You'd think being a great and respected ninja village wouldn't have such a bandit problem so close to the village.
Each of these missions are quality tedious and you will draw tired of them quickly. Race missions, like the mini-game races, have you running towards target circles with a time limit and running through a circle causes the timer to reset and/or add time. The races are usually starting from the village and heading into the forest, and sometimes having you get to a point in the forest then starting there.
Collecting missions are pretty boring, but you don't have the worry of running out of time at least. Every one I was sent on I had to collect 20 herbs because someone was low on them. The herbs are usually crammed together since there's 20 to collect in most times, small to medium sized areas. After collecting the herbs you take them back to the client then gain your health bonus, cash, and training points.
The bandit based mission, or running into the forest, and fighting a few bandits as returning missions are the most fun of the set, which isn't saying much. I'll admit I haven't done every single quest yet, but I'm sure I'm 20/25 or so done, and every mission based on bandits has you running into the forest, kill the spawning bandits which always spawn in the same area, fight them, kill them, proceed. After reaching the desination you have a bandit "boss" fight, retrieve the item they stole and take it back to the client and collect the spoils.
Overall the quest system is pretty tedious, and really could have used more variations on quests, and more types of enemies. On that note, I'll not discuss the enemies in the game. When you first start you run into all the bandits, the weird peon bandit with a headband over his nose (maybe he's sick?), the weird bandit lieutenant with a bandage wrap about a good portion of his head, and finally the bandit boss, which doesn't resemble a boss at all. He looks like he should be one of the peon bandits more than the boss. At least he doesn't have a bandage on his face, just some stupid hat. You might think, "at least they made bandits looks different and have some voice acting" until you see those same bandits pop up everywhere when you run into a stray bandit. Every bandit boss fight is the same looking bandit, every random spawn bandit is either the same peon or the same lieutenant. Besides recurring bandits you have recurring medical, chuunin, genin, and jounin ninja. They, like the bandits, pop up out of nowhere in the forest out side the village and surrounding areas. You'd think they could of put a little more time and effort into the little thing like that.
One thing of the game I really enjoyed was the open village of Konoha. Modeled after the anime's village, that's what the box says. I really enjoy freedom in games, where you an run and jump across where ever. I got a Crackdown feel to the game and how you could climb buildings in the village, and sprint across rooftops and collect hidden coins and such. That was a positive aspect of the game that I really enjoyed.
On to the combat system. This is of course a fighting-adventure game, not a role-playing game like some say. The fighting system is same as most fighting games. There is the health bar, and the bar for the chakra, and the common circles or emblems, whatever the game has to signify a win in versus combat. The combat itself is pretty solid, having combos, and jutsus, that aren't to hard to do or learn is always nice. I also like having to do the hand signs with the thumbsticks for jutsus, that added a nice touch into the combat.
What I didn't like about the combat was that like some other fighters the idea of harder difficulty is usually make the computer player dodge more and basically be more annoying. Besides that, there were a few other pet peeves I had with the fighting system. A main one being the rage mode that each character has. Basically if you're not any good, or just having a bad round you can activate a rage mode when you've taken enough damage to fill the meter. This mode greatly increases damage delt, but negates jutsus. Going into this mode can severly help the person using it by taking the majority of the opponents health away in the brief 10 seconds or so you're in this mode. The thing is, by the time you have the chance to use this the opponent's health is probably midway anyway, so this is a sure fire way to finish the battle quickly, without needing really much skill at all, just go into rage and swing away. While in this mode, the one having to defend this can block the attacks, except for the power hits and if they're not properly blocking a sweep or any lower attack. They can also decide to engage in combat and still be able to knock the one in rage back to waste some time, which helps balance the system out, but not enough.
The jutsus are pretty interesting in combat, since most have you going into a button combo mini-game, or button mashing mini-game with the opposing player. If you don't press the button faster you won't do any damage, or maybe even none at all. I myself never really liked that sort of thing in the first place. Besides the button pressing jutsus you also have the timed button pressing jutsus which can be a pain for the most part, and also the jutsus where you have to try to get the target over the player and press A, which the player tries to dodge the target, which is more my cup of tea. The jutsu system is decent, it works, but I think it could use some tweaks.
Finally, we draw near the end of the review. Just two more things I want to talk about, which is the audio, and graphics. The audio itself is pretty good, the quality is fine, and no really any corny voices, but the audio system does have some flaws. I noticed the dubbed actors from the anime scenes, and the dubbed actors from the in-game scenes and just when a main character in the talks, the voice actors are different. Also, some of the voice actors do say some of the characters name wrong, which is more of a pet peeve for me. Everyone who has watched Naruto, and played the games knows that "Sakura" is not pronounced "Sakora".
Graphics wise, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja does a good job there. The cell-shaded graphics for these cartoon/anime games seems to work, and why fix something that's not broken? Another positive note to the game, the graphics are really well done, and makes you feel like you're more into the anime with the cell-shading and art style.
Overall this game isn't horrible, but it's just not great either. If you're a fan of the Naruto anime/manga, then I think you should check it out, and you shouldn't feel cheated. On the other hand, if you're a casual/hardcore gamer, you'll feel cheated with the mediocre depth in the game. I wouldn't recommend buying this unless you're really into Naruto, or you've played this game and loved it. This review is just my opinions on the game, and I know everyone has their own and should run with it. Thank you for reading my review and I hope it helped or informed you in some way.