Whenever I see a new MMO has been released based on an anime I sort of cringe because I’ve seen the mess that can come out of that. They either try too hard or they don’t try hard enough, and there is typically no in between. Now seeing that Naruto Online is a browser based game, there are certain things that I have come to expect, and I wasn’t wrong. The game engine is still very similar to many others that I’ve seen in the past, meaning it has the standard ‘battle rating’ along with the enhancement system, though I must say that they took some new directions and I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s start by talking about the character selection screen, which said rather excitedly in bold text: Let’s go to Konoha!
Character Selection in Naruto Online
The first thing I noticed was the fact that you couldn’t actually make your own character – you had to choose from five pre-designed characters which are gender locked, though you do get to choose your own name:
Midnight Blade - Lightning Style Ninjutsu & Kenjutsu
Azure Fang - Warrior Style Ninjutsu & Medical Ninjutsu
Scarlet Blaze - Fire Style Ninjutsu & Genjutsu
Breeze Danger - Rasen Barrage & Wind Style Ninjutsu
Crimson Fist - Earth Style Ninjutsu & Taijutsu
Let’s Go on an Adventure!
I started out by exploring the Hidden Leaf Village, and I have to say I was pretty happy to find that it didn’t actually try to stick you to a certain path with involuntary auto-tracking. It does have auto-path, but activating it is voluntary. In the beginning of the game I set about exploring the area, walking through the streets, and of course visiting Naruto’s favorite ramen shop, but in the end the village wasn’t that interactive. There wasn’t much to do other than look at the pretty scenery, and I found myself jumping back onto the main story before long. I was a little disappointed but I have to say the scenery was beautifully drawn.
I’m not sure I’d have wanted to see the storyboard for Naruto Online simply because it borrows a bit heavily from the source material and it seems that for at least a few of the quests, whoever was in charge of making sure they stuck to the lore took a sick day. Basically, the game’s story follows the arcs of the first Naruto series, though I have no idea if it ever morphs into Shippuden. I’d have to imagine it does, otherwise the game would simply run out of material. That being said, you start in the Hidden Leaf village taking orders from the first Hokage, who actually died pretty early on in the Naruto anime.
I was surprised to see that instead of following an original story, you literally follow Naruto himself through his ninja registration, at which point he pulls out his ‘sexy jutsu.’ If you haven’t seen the show I’m just going to fill you in: the sexy jutsu is where Naruto transforms into a naked woman to offend the sensibilities of a bunch of people who have apparently never experienced nudity in their lives. It’s great for stunning bad guys, lowering their defense, etc. I have trouble believing that some of the enemies in the Naruto universe would even be phased at seeing a naked woman, but that’s just one small gripe at what is an otherwise pretty good browser game. Okay so maybe it’s also a gripe at the anime itself.
There are few issues I have with Naruto Online, other than the fact that they drew heavily on existing dialogue and plot to fill in the gaps. First of all, they retconned part of the story; Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura were assigned to Kakashe and they met him in a classroom, but in the game they met him in the field where they were given their ninja exam. Is that just me fangirling? Probably, but if you’re going to make a game that appeals to fangirls you should really follow the source material. Aside from the really obvious retconning, there is also the fact that they like to rush the dialogue when they don’t want to stay on a particular subject. Whenever the story is coming up to what would be more of a filler, they simply scroll white text across the screen, explaining what happened, and to be honest they don’t do a very good job of it.
Going into Battle
Naruto Online is a turn-based affair, as you would probably expect from a game like this, and the attacks feature all of the signature abilities from series favorites. For example, Naruto has his shadow replication, which seems to be a lot more effective in this game than it ever was in the show.
Part of the main quest and sub-quests in Naruto Online involve picking up new teammates, all of which are staples from the actual anime. You have Sasuke, Sakura, and others, though there are also other characters you can summon, like Lee. Your power (battle rating) increases with each new team member, giving you a significant advantage in battle whether you’re doing PvP or PvE.
As you progress through Naruto Online you will level up, obviously, but there are numerous things you can do to make sure that your characters are up to task. For one, you can eat items like bread to upgrade strength, and your characters are going to make some amusing comments when you feed them. In addition to that, you can always upgrade your items to make them stronger and give you more of an advantage when you head into the fight.
Unlocking New Tasks
As with any other browser RPG you’re going to unlock new tasks and options as you level up. For example as I leveled up I unlocked things like daily missions, the home instance, etc. In addition to that I ran into the Ninja Exam scenario, which allowed me to fight against various instructors in the hopes of raising my level as well as gaining new abilities. In the beginning, most of the upgrades were freebies but they did become a bit harder to obtain later on.
I found that having friends in this game is a good idea – you need them for missions. No seriously, aside from the grouping mechanic, you can assign missions to your friends and once they complete them you’ll get a commission, and it works both ways. This ability is available from your home instance and there are a ton of other options you’ll want to look at while you’re there.
I can’t say the gameplay in Naruto Online is original, but it is pretty fun. If you don’t want to button mash your skills, you can put the battles on auto and it will pretty much do what you were going to do anyway. It’s responsive, it’s fun, but it does have some of the same issues that you see in other browser games with slow rendering graphics. One thing I’d like to point out is that during one of the training missions you’re supposed to fight against other members of your team, but during the fight those members are still ON your team which leads to you literally fighting against yourselves. I guess someone didn’t really think that one through.
There’s nothing new in Naruto Online; the mechanics are all borrowed from other browser games and renamed in an attempt to look original. Does this make it a bad game? Not really, but it’s nothing to write home about.
Many of the players spoke Spanish in Naruto Online, and while I don’t’ speak Spanish myself, I can’t say I found much conversation going on in the chat. For the most part people kept to themselves and played the game, which may or may not be a good thing.
Okay I just have to say that whoever designed this game really paid attention to the source material. The graphics are true to the Naruto canon, character animations are on point, and it just looks amazing. The artists really knew what they were doing and as a Naruto fan I really appreciate it.
Value for Money 5/10
I’m going to say the same thing for Naruto Online that I say for every browser game: It’s probably not worth your money. First of all, it’s the same game you’ve probably played over and over with a different skin. Sure, they did a good job of reinventing the wheel in this case, but it’s still the same wheel. The one thing I will say is that while the story is definitely recycled (and shamelessly so), it will definitely be great for kids who haven’t actually seen the anime and want to catch up the story. It’s an entirely new experience for them and it is definitely one worth reliving. That being said, if you just want to rush through the story here it’s probably worth a play through, though there’s a good chance that you’ve already heard it all before. If you’re looking for something a little deeper or even a lot deeper, then this game is going to drain your wallet pretty quickly – keep that in mind when you’re adventuring in Konoha.
+Sound is Pretty Nice
-Story Conforms to First Naruto Arc and We’ve Already Seen It