Video games based on anime and manga series have been in existence for decades. Many take an original approach and create a storyline all on their own. Others choose to stick to things by the book and let you play out the plot as it’s meant to be. Naruto Online is a mixture of both new and old published by Oasis Games. It is a popular MMORPG around the world and has finally come to North America, offering a lot of enjoyment for fans with plenty to try.
You take on the role of one of five original characters each specializing in their own Chakra Nature and special techniques. Control this character as you go through various scenes set in chronological order as based on the anime. You start out as a sort of instructor/student accepting and completing missions for the Hidden Leaf Village. The storyline progresses with the same characters and results as it does in episodes but you get to choose your team. With enough fragments of a main character you can build your own team of shinobi no matter what the combination. You can have enemies and heroes together along with yourself. Unique teams is a highlight of Naruto Online; though there have been many Naruto games released, this one in particular does an excellent job allowing us to almost rewrite history. The outcome doesn’t change but never before has there been a team consisting of Shino, Shizune and Temari to take on the like of Zabuza. It’s truly a fantasy to control the action of various characters during vital battles.
As the leader of the team, you are in charge of powering up and maintaining balance between the four. You gain experience for completing missions along with items, money and other helpful materials. Combat is simple to understand though may be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out everything. For the most part you can sit back and let everything run automatically, but adding in some attacks of your choosing will benefit you during serious fights. Each character has a jutsu listed along the bottom screen to select. It may take some time, but as soon as it’s charged, they will use it even out of turn which is a good benefit for strategizing. Since you’re basically in charge of the group, you get to place them around the field in formation. Depending on the shinobi chosen, they may gain certain advantages when attacking first or last. Fights are easy to figure out, but it lacks an actual targeting system. You can click on an enemy, but it doesn’t mean anything. Tutorials even instruct you to do so and it may work with one member of the team, but the rest ignore them and attack whoever else is around. Fights will generally finish pretty quickly, though, partly due to the automatic combo attack system your team can pull off. Putting various shinobi together can create a string of unique attacks which makes it fun to try out new approaches to battling.
A lot of small details add a lot to make this a unique experience compared to previous Naruto games. Since fans will be aware of the characters, villages, and background information of everything. Little touches like unique defeated poses, the variety of opponents (from humans to animals), and even anime cutscenes are fun to see. Even little traits and quirks such as Choji eating are portrayed in humorous ways. Balancing the previously mentioned Chakra Nature has been implemented as well. Fire attacks will inflict more damage on Wind-based shinobi. These natures are also affected by your own character as they could provide certain advantages to a team or member with the same trait. Then, including a combo count makes it feel like some of the other Naruto and fighting titles we’re more familiar with seeing. Something like fast travel is very important in such a massive game, but it’s really not offered. If you try to reach a further destination, your character will automatically run the shortest path available which will take you through various screens and possibly the entire village. Since Naruto Online is still in quite an early stage, there is at least the possibility to enhance the experience.
Naruto Online isn’t like some of the bigger MMORPG titles on the market. There is a severe lack of exploration, with walking around contained to the already laid out areas. With an open-world feel and a few minor tweaks, Naruto Online would be an absolute candidate for an outstanding game, but it falls short as it stands. Still it’s enjoyable enough that its shortcomings can be overlooked, especially when the added content and constant updates (hopefully) begin to take affect in the near future. Naruto Online can provide even more enjoyment to fans and opens up a gateway for other anime and manga titles to get in on the action; some of the greats like Dragon Ball and One Piece have a big enough fanbase to create their own turn-based massive multiplayer game. We can only hope Naruto Online paves the way.