Back in the days of the GameBoy Advance, there was a series called Naruto Ninja Council. It was a bit of a hidden gem, but there were those of us who spent countless hours playing as my favorite ninja in orange. Later titles focused on a mission-based structure, since it made picking the game up and setting it down very easy. Naruto Powerful Shippuden takes this formula, but instead of giving you the same story you have been replaying/watching/reading over the years, it mixes things up a lot. This is because Powerful Shippuden is actually a game for not only Naruto Shippuden, but more importantly a Naruto spin-off call Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals.
You will play as Naruto and Rock Lee, but this time they and everyone else in the Naruto universe are all turned chibi. Chibi means that characters are super-deformed and have tiny bodies, supporting their large cartoony heads.
When playing as Naruto you will still be going from the start of Shippuden all the way up to getting to the waterfall of truth. This seems like a lot, but Powerful Shippuden actually is a parody of all of these events. These stories hop all over the place and the focus is clearly on gameplay over everything else.
This doesn't mean the bits of story are a waste though as this is actually one of the best written Naruto games in terms of comedy. The events that happen before each story mission are filled with fourth wall breaking conversations and other crazy antics that blend the main show's story with the spin-offs crazy nature. For example a serious talk about ideals and evil schemes, will now be replaced with talks of cross dressing or even building amusement parks.
The Rock Lee story follows the same as Naruto, but obviously with a heavier focus on Rock Lee's squad. This is not a way you want to experience the Naruto story for the first time, (that is what the Ultimate Ninja Storm series is for) for fans of the series, or even funny writing, it is hard not to chuckle at each scene. These are text-only scenes though, but the wacky character designs, music, and sound effects more than make up for the lack of voice acting.
As stated before, Powerful Shippuden is all about the mission based gameplay and boy does this game get it right. It plays as a single player 2D sidescrolling game and the controls are simple, but deep enough to have you mixing up combat. You can use a weak attack, strong attack, jump, dash, guard, jutsu, and call for support. The bottom screen is used to go into a powered-up state, use a jutsu or call for support if you don't feel like pressing buttons. The array of options is wide enough that you won't be able to just spam a certain combo or move the whole game.
You will have to use these skills in the different missions you will have to complete throughout the game. The variety in mission structure is nice because it rarely forces you to do a single mission. Your mission map branches out a lot and will have you picking a mission that you want instead of the game forcing you. Also you will switch between playing as Naurto and Rock Lee a lot thought your playthrough. At certain points on the mission map, you will need to have a certain amount of keys for both characters and the only way to get these keys are by completing missions. This keeps you from just getting burnt out by simply playing as one character and lets you mix things up.Both ninjas will also need to gain experience after completing a mission and this is put into developing each character's stats. Experience can be put into leveling up your character, giving them more chakera, new jutsu, stronger support characters, and raising other defences. It's nice that it isn't some tacked on RPG like system where all that happens is you grow a number and get stronger. You actually need to manage where you put experience or it will really bite you in the butt later.
Powerful Shippuden has some of the best presentation for a 2D game in a while time. Its sprites and backgrounds feel like you are interacting with the show since the spin-off doesn't really have the most visually demanding art style. This simplicity actually makes the over the top combat feel fun and frantic. Sometimes it actually helps the game's 3D effect when you remember to turn it on.
The 3D effect in games that aren't made my first party Nintendo games normally are forgettable, but it can be done really well in 2D games like this. You can easily see the depth between your characters and the background during each mission and really helps the character art pop during cutscenes. There are even times in battle where an enemy will literally come flying towards the scene and is a fun visual gag for those using it. Still nothing makes a 3D effect better than seeing Rock Lee in a swan tutu as the head is coming right at you.
Along with keeping the tone and visual style of the show, the voice acting is lifted straight from the show. Literally, there is only an option for Japanese voices and none for English dub. This could be from the fact that the spin-off hasn't been confirmed for a localization yet, but either way most of the words spoken are jutsu you already hear a million times before if you are a fan of the show. The original voice actors still excel at selling you on that character, even in the brief time you hear them in Powerful Shippuden.
With tons of missions that are quick to play and come back to, it is hard to run out of things to do in Powerful Shippuden. Along with all the different missions to play as with Naruto and Rock Lee, there is an endless battle mode to test out your highly levelled up characters. Playing the game at a casual pace will help you get the most out of it. This is the kind of game you want to save in between classes or an extended vacation. However, it might not be the best for other times.
While on the surface a single player only, mission structured game that only lets you play as two character may not sound like a lot, Powerful Shippuden delivers in terms of quality as well as content. Still it is a bit of a bummer to not have any sort of multiplayer battle or even a co-op missions as an option. This game scratches an itch most portable games released now don't even try and hit and if you've got a 3DS, it might be worth taking for a whirl.
|Breaking the 4th wall|
|Only two characters|
|Single player only|
|Men in swan tutus|