Previews

Naruto: Rise of a Ninja

Martial Arts at the Ancient Academy. In other words: Old-Skool scrapping!

Cel-shading, side-on fighting, energy bars in vibrant colours... It may not look throat-grabbingly next gen, but for any Xbox 360 gamers frustrated that the console's opportunities for scrapping so far comprise jelly-chested girlies in fancy dress, mullet-faced wrestlers and... little else, the sight of such an apparently traditional beat-'em-up like the one above could provide some comfort.

But additionally, for those who insist that a game that only features beat-'em-up action like this belongs on Xbox Live for the Gamerpoint equivalent of 50p, it's worth noting that there's a lot more to Ubisoft's new manga adaptation Naruto than just garish combat.

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Based on a popular Dragonball Z-style franchise (the usual thing - from comic to anime to card game) that you'd have to be a committed mangamaniac to care about, Naruto follows the plot of the comics and TV show closely, charting the progress of the mysterious young eponymous ninja in an allegedly 'epic' 'freeroaming' 'saga'.

Anime-Zing
Kicking off right at the very start of Naruto's story, you'll get to learn many fighting techniques from scratch, Karate Kid-style, on your journey from bully-fodder to ninja master. There'll be weapons to collect and upgrade, different schools of martial art to master, and you'll also have to be careful to keep your chakra balanced... which we're hoping doesn't mean that yet another light/dark character progression system is involved.

Of course, most of your skills will be honed in head-to-head battles (which we can't wait to get hands-on with), but between scraps, Naruto's journey will be a fusion of platforming and freeroaming RPG action that's looking so exactly like the anime series come to life that we're prepared to drop our prejudices against cel-shading effects - at least for now.

But it's the wider gameplay options that could spell success for Naruto on 360 - multiplayer fighting, both on and offline, is going to be central to the game's appeal, with even a character customisation option, and a huge array of battlefields.

The original anime is massively popular in Japan, and as Ubisoft have designed Naruto specifically for the 360 from day one, it's clear that the game's exclusivity is designed to go some way towards turning around our favourite console's lacklustre performance over there. So, until we get to spend some real time with Naruto, we'll keep all digits crossed.

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