Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Council 4 DS Review
Naruto, the wily-eyed ninja and anime sensation, is back in yet another handheld game for the Nintendo DS, Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Council 4. After a two year sabbatical with Lord Jiraiya, he returns to Hidden Leaf Village, only to find a strange group of enemies known as the Akatsuki attempting to control it. While this sounds like a decent storyline, Ninja Council 4's frustrations are too much to bear.
First off, not much has changed from previous Ninja Council games. The fourth chapter doesn't look any different from the first, with Game Boy Advance-style visuals. The animations are below average at best, with very little personality from the game's characters. Some of the backgrounds, showing the tranquility of the Hidden Leaf Village, look lovely, but they don't make up for what's happening in the foreground.
The same goes for the audio. You've got the same upbeat music looping over and over again with no variety. There's no voicework, which is both an advantage (for those who hate Naruto's voice) and disadvantage (all you hear are minor grunts and attack effects).
What will really throw you off, however, is the gameplay. Ninja Council 4 lets you assign a third partner to your team, such as the very effective Rock Lee and the mysterious Neji. However, when you call your partners, all they do is execute a quick Jutsu attack. Worse yet, to charge up these attacks, you need to draw a pattern on the touch screen, whether it's rubbing back and forth or wearing out your wrist going in circular motions.
Responsiveness is not Ninja Council 4's strongest suit. Your attacks actually go off a half-second after you press the corresponding button. So, when you're ready to kick, you actually have to time it so it hits your enemy. Otherwise, you take the cheap hit. The platforming sections are even worse, especially when you're trying to jump onto rickety floorboards and run up walls. If running into spiked walls or floors doesn't tick you off, missing a simple jump for the ninth or tenth time will.
Only the most hardened of Naruto fans will make it through the game's story mode. Outside of that, there's a multiplayer beat-em-up mode, where you and up to three friends can smack each other around with a number of characters. Sadly, you need multiple carts to make it work, and there's no online play. You also can't play it solo against computer opponents. Still, if you have some Naruto fans that don't mind hopping into a match, you'll have fun. Just don't expect anything along the lines of Nintendo's superior Jump! series.
Ninja Council 4 disappointed us. The sloppy controls, ancient presentation and sub par multiplayer options will leave you reaching for another Naruto game. You know, one that's actually fun.
What's Hot: Multiplayer mode is mindless fun with friends, you can use obscure Naruto characters like Neji and Rock Lee.
What's Not: Frustrating platforming controls and Jutsu attacks, can't play multiplayer battles against bots, plain-looking visuals and below-average audio.