Video games based on existing story-based properties are seldom great, and Naruto: Path of the Ninja is no exception. Most licensed properties fall into retelling the show’s story, and therein lies the problem. By the time a program is popular enough to warrant a video game translation several season and numerous episodes have already made their way into the series’ canon. Some shows get the serial treatment with each game covering a season of the story (Avatar: The Last Airbender does this) while others just tackle as many major plot points as possible like Naruto. The result is a story that is too bare-bones for Naruto enthusiasts, but not in-depth enough for players looking for a good introduction to the series. Whatever happened to telling a side-story or detailing adventures hinted at in the series proper? Path of the Ninja‘s target audience knows the ins and outs of Naruto’s time spent as a Genin-level ninja, his experience with the Chunin-level exam, and the nefarious plans of Gaara and the Sand Ninja. RPGs depend on their story, and retelling one the audience knows doesn’t make a lot of sense here.
Path of the Ninja‘s controls are par for the course, and in this case, there’s nothing wrong with that. Battles are turn-based, and menu options make sense. Among the options are Move, Item, Attack, Escape, and Jutsu (magic). Moving about the battlefield opens up new Jutsu options and alters the amount of damage Naruto and his buddies can inflict on their enemies (and vice versa). Everything works as one would expect, and the development team did a good job of rationing out random encounters to make grinding for levels unnecessary.
Graphically, Naruto: Path of the Ninja shows that it is based on GBA games. Sprite work is beautiful, environments are large and bright, and the whole thing looks and plays like it belongs on the SNES. Most DS developers insist on using the third dimension just because they can; Naruto proves that just because you can doesn’t mean that you have to in order to make a decent game. Naruto’s visuals get the job done and feel appropriate given that Naruto is a cartoon.
As RPGs go this one is decent. It doesn’t do anything wrong, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd either. Naruto fans already know the story being told, and there’s too much plot for newcomers to really feel comfortable. Naruto: Path of the Ninja is aimed at the enthusiast buying on name alone, and it shows.