When I saw the misspelled title on the box I didn’t know what to say. Was this mistake an omen for what I was about to experience upon opening the case?
Thankfully, I have never been happier to be proven wrong. Naruto Powerful Shippuden is a surprisingly fun, child-friendly beat ‘em up that captures the anime’s humor and charm. Although an enjoyable distraction, I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is a genre changing title. It does have its share of issues — like low difficulty and lack of variety — but series fans, or those looking for a pick up and play title, will find it suitable.
Powerful Shippuden can also serve as a gateway for those unfamiliar with Naruto. You’ll meet characters from the anime — like Jiraiya (aka Pervy Sage), and Might Guy (yes that’s his name) – while completing missions and unlocking new abilities with Naruto and Rock Lee.
The game’s strength rests within its simplicity. You have two attack buttons — one for normal attacks and the other for special attacks — and a block button which lets players dodge attacks if pressed at the correct time. Both characters have signature attacks like Naruto’s Rasengan or Lee’s Primary Lotus attack (performed by pressing the block button and special attack buttons together). Ground combos can dispatch of enemies, but I found launching enemies into the air and following up with air combos immensely satisfying. Later in the game you can call-in support characters to assist in wiping the floor with enemies.
The on-screen action is carried out by cute chibi characters who often comically over exaggerate pain, anger, or joyous expressions. Regardless of whether or not you play with 3D on or off, the characters jump off the 3DS’ screen with their fluid animations and colorful attacks. The soundtrack is upbeat and amusing, matching the games visuals. Characters spout a bit of Japanese dialogue after missions are completed, but don’t expect full-on voice acting throughout.
Sadly, the game’s biggest flaw is also its main gameplay mechanic. Unlike the typical beat ‘em up that lets you guide your fighter from scene to scene within a stage, Naruto: Powerful Shippuden lets you choose a mission and plow through waves of ninjas, birds, and wolves against a static background. The game’s main draw is clearing these missions, but after extended play it becomes dull. This is sometimes punctuated by the occasional boss battle. It’s by no means a deal breaker, but it makes you ponder on how much more fun it could have been if it was a traditional beat-em-up. That said, earning experience and unlocking new abilities will have you coming back for more brawls. A multiplayer mode could have extended play, but sadly there isn’t one.
Naruto: Powerful Shippuden, with its simple learning curve, low difficulty, easy to follow story, and cute character design, is obviously meant for the younger crowd. However there are a few adult themed jokes that the younger kids might miss, like Pervy Sage. If you’re a fan looking for a cute and hilarious change in pace this one is right for you, this is also a suitable entry point for younger children interested in Naruto and the anime.