Naruto: Ninja Council Review

Naruto Ninja Council box art

Side-scrolling ninja action with lots of familiar faces from the Naruto series.

Story

Naruto and Sasuke, two young rival ninjas in training are about to start off a series of tests to prove themselves to their trainer and master Kakashi. In order to advance in their ninja academy education, they must complete and survive a series of challenges, but they also need to defeat other ninjas and learn how to avoid and counter deadly special ninja techniques.
Sakura who also studies at the ninja academy decides to join in to help. Both Naruto and Sasuke are loaded with confidence and are up for the harsh challenges that await them – will they both make it through, though? These battle trials may hold more surprises than they are prepared for.

The Game

Naruto: Ninja Council is side-scrolling platform game based on the story from the famous Naruto manga. The game is a fast paced action game where the characters have some nice abilities such as wall running, various ninja weapons and techniques. Many characters known from the series make appearances and that is really important for a game like this.
Note that this game is exclusive to Game Boy Advance and had its original Japan release in 2002.

Controls

The controls are pretty basic and easy to grasp; there’s one button for attacks and one for jumping. You can run up walls and make wall jumps easily. Using ranged weapons is done with a press on the right trigger. Special ninja techniques are executed by pressing and holding the attack button. A special gauge will then appear and show your charging level along with what technique you have charged up to. If you over-charge, you will lose your attack and must start charging all over again. Your chakra will drain for as long as you charge, so you need to have some timing to make the most out of your chakra.
On top of this, there’s also one button for using the power of the scroll you are currently carrying.narutoninjacouncil6When attacking with your standard attacks your character till take a small step forward, which leads to some awkward unintentional movement – but jumping around the levels as a ninja trainee and bashing away at other ninjas is actually kind of fun.

Content

As you start the game, you get to select if you want to play as Naruto or Sasuke. The biggest difference between the two is obviously their personal special ninja techniques but also their speed and how fast they regain chakra differs. Naruto is not as fast as Sasuke, but regains chakra faster.
Chakra is used to unleash powerful ninja techniques and these are key to many of the boss fights in this game. Naruto’s ninja techniques include the experimental “Harem no Jutsu“ and different attacks where he clones himself while Sasuke uses his iconic fireballs and other fire based attacks.

The game has two game modes; Story Mode and Free Mode. Story Mode lets you play through the game from start to finish while Free Mode allows you to select which stage (from the once you have unlocked) you want to play – or practice rather.
All in all, the game features fourteen stages set in seven different settings – you’ll be fighting in the ninja village, forests, caves and so on. Each stage include numerous obstacles that you need to work your way around by either jumping, going around them or destroying that which blocks your path. This is done by using ninja techniques from special scrolls that can be found on the levels. These scrolls will allow you to burn down trees and quench fires that are in your way. This may sound exciting as it is, but it really is the same basic problem that keeps repeating itself across every stage with just different looks. On the bright side each stage also has its fair share of secret areas and other hidden bonuses. The stages are filled with hostile entities such as ninja warriors, snakes and crows.

The stages are short, often beaten in a mere few minutes but are often presented in a multi-layer design in which you may explore underground tunnels, run around on the tree tops and anything in between. Waiting at the end of each stage is a boss encounter which potentially will require a try or two before you figure out what technique you are supposed to use against it. This is where you will be facing off rival ninjas from the ninja academy and this is perhaps the biggest novelty of the whole game.

The game starts you off with two lives and a generous health bar. You will take damage from simply touching enemies, and if you are unlucky they can drain huge chunks of your bar in very short time. But if you are careful, you’ll make it through the stages without problems. The boss fights are basically the only part of the game where you have to worry about your health, as their attacks are outright deadly.
Naruto: Ninja Council allows you to save your progress after each completed stage, and the game supports up to three save slots, giving you more than enough room for saving and loading.

The various ninja weapons that you can find include Shurikens, Kunai and throwing needles. Shurikens and Kunai work as your most standard ranged attacks, and throwing needles are special in that they cover a wider area (straight forward and a 45 degree angle upward), as they are thrown in two directions in one attack. The trade-off is that they cause lesser damage, but against standard enemies they are very effective nonetheless. You may also find other power-ups along the way such as health packs, extra lives, hints and Sakura herself! When you find her hiding place she’ll restore your health. Other than special power-ups the game has some unlockable bonus content such as one extra playable character (Kakashi), a picture gallery and an extra level of ninja techniques for each character.

Graphics

The graphics in this game come off as flat – it’s not that they are bad, but they are lacking. The whole feel of the visuals look a bit quick and dirty. It’s bleak and for the most part uninspired. Sometimes it’s hard to tell background from the foreground props and the design of the levels does not seem very well suited to the characters. Even though the animation of the characters are okay, the game feels a bit jerky because the scrolling isn’t smooth enough. The special ninja techniques uplifts the visuals somewhat, but not even those look very exciting in the long run.
The various environments that the game portrays look different, however, but they feel the same. It’s almost as if something is missing from the visuals.

Sound

The music in the game is somewhat catchy but sounds way too bare and basic. It’s pretty shrilling, high-pitched and quickly becomes annoying. The game comes dubbed to English, which robs fans off of the original voice acting, and there is a bunch of voice acting in the game such as commands yelled when ninja techniques are activated, and your standard “ugh” sounds when you take damage. The sound and music work okay together, but it could have been better.

Summary

This game has very few features and basically just has one single game mode that makes sense to play. This game just hasn’t got enough content to serve all the fans of the Naruto series, and as a game it’s a little too basic. It lacks innovation and the replay value is doubtful because the stages are so short and similar to each other. Sure, it’s fun to fight against characters known from the series but the game itself doesn’t hold water for very long.
If you are a hardcore Naruto collector and find this game for a cheap price, you’ll be satisfied with the purchase regardless. Otherwise it’s safe to say that you’re not missing out on anything spectacular.

Developed By: Tomy Corporation
Published By: Tomy Corporation
Version Reviewed:
Game Boy Advance
Genre: Platform /
Run ‘n Gun
Players: 1
Released:
2006-03-22

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