"Ready to Rumble?"
Portable fighting games have been a mixed bag for quite some time. Taking a fighting game, which is almost intrinsically complicated, and condensing it down to a handheld will always bring some limitations with it, which can only be maneuvered around and not outright avoided. Embracing that a portable fighting game will have to be simple almost invites new ideas into the game-making process, which can improve the game as a whole. Naruto Shippuden: Shinobi Rumble appears to accept its limitations as a handheld game while fully embracing everything it possibly can relating to the Naruto universe.
Of course there's a story mode, which can be summarized as brief a series of missions culminating in an inevitable "cliffhanger"; though any Naruto fan who has been even remotely following the storyline for the past few months should be well-versed in the events taking place. The story is told through portraits and text boxes which, admittedly, gets tiresome to read through. Because I do keep up with the current story of Naruto, I found myself skipping the text more often than not. There's no real reward for playing through the story mode, though, other than a reminder of what happened during this particular arc in the Naruto story, because all unlockables are handled through a very unique system.
- This handheld fighter accepts its shortcomings and is better for it -
In order to unlock characters in Naruto Shippuden: Shinobi Rumble, you have to play through various modes and collect symbols. You then take these symbols and draw them on a summoning board in order to unlock the character or stage in question. Each one of these symbols appears to be more unique than the last, and it felt extremely satisfying to have to do more than just fight, fight, fight in order to unlock more content. The only downside I've seen to this system is that the recognition can be picky when choosing which of your symbols to recognize. It took me several tries just to unlock some of my favorite characters like Itachi or Jiraiya, even though it seemed like I had the symbols more or less perfectly drawn.
Other available modes include the standard Versus mode along with Personal Battles and Special Missions. In the Versus mode, you set up a match, pick which stage you want to fight on, and decide how much time you'll have available to you. You can also pick how many CPU opponents you want, up to a total of four, which of course means that up to four people can play against one another with the wireless multiplayer option as well. Then, there's the Personal Battles mode, which is a fancy way of saying survival mode. Here, you fight ten matches of varying difficulties, and if you manage to make it to the end, you're rewarded with something, usually a Summoning symbol, to unlock another character. Fortunately, it's rather easy to complete Personal Battles on any difficulty, because Naruto Shippuden: Shinobi Rumble is a farcry from being difficult.
The actual fighting in this game was made extremely simple. You have jumping, guarding, normal, and strong attacks all mapped to the four face buttons on the DS, with evasion on the R trigger and all of your jutsu on the bottom screen. This, of course, means that almost every character is easy to pick up and play with, although they all play differently. Common combos usually entail normal attacks, followed by a strong attack and then a jutsu to send your opponent flying. This varies from character to character, but it's a decent enough outline for how the fighting in the game works. My only gripe came from the absolute necessity to initiate supers using only the touch screen. It can be challenging to press the appropriate justu on the touch screen mid-combo, which usually left me open to some counterattacks while I fumbled with the stylus. But, this is a minor concern, overall.
- You gotta love the flaming farmer's blow jutsu! -
Alongside a character's justu on the bottom screen is an Ultra version of whichever justsu you've picked, which consumes one portion of your tri-segmented chakra bar. Then, there's the large Chak-Rush button above all your jutsu on the touchscreen, which empowers your character with all of their available chakra, resulting in an increase in strength, no flinching when hit, and the ability to "cancel" normal jutsu into Ultra attacks. The unfortunate thing about these cancels is that most of them only work to a limited degree. Still, it's nice to have some semblance of advanced fighting techniques in the game, and there is some strategy behind when to use the Chak-Rush and when to conserve your chakra for other things like evasion or more Ultra attacks.
Naruto Shippuden: Shinobi Rumble is a relatively decent portable fighter, overall. Because it doesn't attempt to match the complexity of console fighting games, it brings enough to the table to remain enjoyable for brief periods of time. The story mode isn't truly up-to-date, but it still covers a significant portion of the Naruto story to feel fairly fleshed out. The core fighting game dips lightly into advanced fighting techniques, but not enough to spoil the overall casual tone of the game. Shinobi Rumble feels like exactly what it is: a portable, casual Naruto game that's best enjoyed in light play sessions.
GameDynamo's Score for Naruto Shippuden: Shinobi Rumble (DS/DSi)
|Joey Blackwell II
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Avid gamer who's more passionate about writing. Hopes to be a renowned writing voice in the world someday, while still being addicted to games.
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