Naruto: Ninja Council 2

Azmol Meah

Ninja Council 2 is very much an advertisement for the Naruto license first and a game as an afterthought.

Publisher: D3
Genres: Platformer, Action
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Naruto: Ninja Council 2
Number of players: 1-4
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Developer: Aspect
US release date: 2006-10-10
Developer website

This is the second time in as many weeks where I've attempted to review a game that normally I wouldn't give a passing glance to. I never really got into the whole 'anime' scene, so I'm unable to, say, recite the banter between Naruto and Sasuke from episode 4 of season 3 of the TV version of Naruto. I am, however, able to tell the difference between a good game and a bad game. Naruto: Ninja Council 2, for example, falls firmly in the latter category.

Naruto is the anime of choice for a lot of fans, fans whose passion applies to all forms of Naruto merchandise: scarves, rings, wallets, T-shirts and, of course, videogames, regardless of their quality. The devotion and sometimes obsession shown by fans (of anything, really) to fully absorb themselves into the sub-culture that they've dedicated themselves to is a fact not lost on game companies. A fan is likely to be blinded by love of the brand and unable to tell any better -- at least, so hopes the developer. As a result, licensed nonsense like this probably doesn't even go through the Q&A process before it gets released and ready to be consumed by its ever loyal following.

Things start off well, for the presentation is striking, most noticeably in the level of detail given to the three main characters Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura as they attempt to thwart the evil Orochimaru as well as pass their ninja exams. Each is playable from the start, with the option to alternate between the three on the fly, via simply tapping the L button. You'll utilise each persona's strengths to pass the various obstacles, while saving health for the trickier segments of the game. One can start fighting with Naruto, then when his health and his repertoire of skills let you down, switch to the fresher Sasuke (and his own set of techniques) and then finally finish off your nemeses with Sakura.

While basic attacks make up the barebones of the combat, the main draw is the spectacular super attacks -- extravagant and outlandish, they add to the already silly, over the top flavour the series is known and loved for. An interesting addition is the scrolls feature; you're allowed to store up to three different scrolls at any time, and by pressing the R and A buttons simultaneously, the scrolls will unleash one of the side characters to help you in battle. This turns out to be a a useful aid and a testament to developers Aspect, who have incorporated a fairly vast array of techniques into the humble old Gameboy without ever being too excessive.

At this point, though, the novelties of the license should wear off as you encounter some of the blandest and most unimaginative level design ever to rear its ugly head. The typical Naruto level goes like this: Hold down right on the directional pad and press B to mash your way through the endless hordes of incompetent clone enemies. Fight the end of level boss (which surely must be the oldest cliché in gaming history). That's it. Occasionally, you're required to jump over the odd log or to avoid an oncoming attack, but that's as imaginative as it gets.

As you keep playing, you'll yearn for some decent platforming or, for that matter, even some lousy platforming, anything to take you away from the horrendous, sleep-inducing combat. Yet it never happens -- while each level does have its own gimmick such as the cave level where you'll battle on the backs of snakes, in reality you're just repeating the same trick. The change of scenery is the only attempt to differentiate the levels between each other. The world feels empty and void of any life, and even when playing as the hyperactive Naruto, Ninja Council 2 fails to spark any excitement.

The saving grace for Ninja Council 2 has to be its combat; 2D, scrolling fighters are always welcome and the GBA is the perfect fit for that glove. Yet even that isn't accomplished with any degree of flair -- the action is clunky and simplistic with horrid collision detection thrown in to boot. Button bashing becomes an all-too-easy habit to fall into, made even easier by the omission of any challenge from your enemies.

The chunky combat isn't just exclusive to your ground attacks as even the aerial combat lacks the fluidity and, most importantly, the pace you'd expect from a series of brawlers that bases itself on lightning quick action. The collision detection only serves to reinforce the notion that most of development time was spent on capturing the look of the cartoon rather than the actual feel that a beat-em-up should have. Receiving and dishing out attacks when there's clearly a huge pixel divide reeks of laziness and really grates when enemies that are nowhere near you land fatal blows.

Undeniably, Ninja Council 2 is very much an advertisement for the Naruto license first and a game as an afterthought. The sense of style over substance is overwhelmingly clear; why Aspect didn't put as much effort into the actual gameplay, to rival the effort it put into Ninja Council's presentation is a question that won't leave the player's mind for the entirety of the gameplay.

Naruto: Ninja Council 2, for lack of a better word, feels unfinished, though worryingly that is unlikely to be a deterrent for the diehard fans. You don't need to know the ins and outs of all of Naruto's cartoon antics to know that this is a bad game, pure and simple. Truth be told, if it didn't have the Naruto name branded across its front cover this would be lucky to sell ten copies. But, just as the headline implies, until certain fans are actually deterred by this fact, there's no incentive on the development side to even slightly improve matters.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.