Review: Naruto Shippuden Dragon Blade Chronicles (Wii)

The Naruto franchise has good games; it may be hard to fathom, but there are a few (with a stress on the word few) great games based on the popular Shonen Jump series. Naruto Shippuden Dragon Blade Chronicles is not one of them. Taking a stab at the character action style of game play, Dragon Blade represents somewhat of a departure from the popular and relatively well liked, albeit derivative, Clash of Ninja fighting series for the Nintendo Wii.At the core of Dragon Blade sits the story mode, which takes a page directly from the Naruto films by billing itself as a stand alone story that has little to do with the overarching Naruto series narrative. Before you even have a chance to really delve into the story (which isn’t robust or remotely interesting of its own merits), it becomes apparent that the story doesn’t make any sense within the context of the source material. Characters that shouldn’t be alive based on contextual clues of when the game is supposed to be set in the series timeline inexplicably appear alive and kicking, making the narrative instantly lose any sense of credibility.

The story mode flips between different characters and perspectives within the story periodically, but ultimately these switches come off as little more then a way in which the game was artificially lengthened by the developer, as you are forced to play through the same areas with different characters.  No matter which character you take control of, actually making your way through Dragon Blade‘s abysmally designed levels ends up feeling like a chore. Levels are barren arenas that act as little more then funnels as they lead you from one area to the next. Between some of the arenas are brief platforming segments that feature instant deaths, which when coupled with a horrible checkpoint system become a source of continual frustration. Combat is incredibly mash heavy with little finesse or actual skill involved, fitting the literal definition of “rinse and repeat” gameplay.
While the Wii is not necessarily known for its visuals, it is certainly capable of much better than what you get with Dragon Blade. The entire game looks muddy and hazy as if Vaseline were smeared on the television screen, almost as if to actively detract players from realizing how horrible the images really are. Noticeable stuttering and dropped frames are a common occurrence, once again calling into question what the “Nintendo Seal of Quality” really means in this day and age. Environments are boring, enemies are uninspired, textures are ugly; simply put, Dragon Blade is a horrendously poor-looking game.

Probably Dragon Blade’s strongest suit is the voice acting, as it uses the same voice talents as the English dub of the anime. Unfortunately, the generally terrible plot and pacing makes it difficult to actually care. The music, as with everything else, is throwaway and repetitive. It’s certainly a joy to listen to the same musical loops and cues while fighting through an arena battle for the 31st time after falling to your death from an ill placed jump caused by a poor camera angle.

From beginning to end there is nothing redeeming about Naruto Shippuden Dragon Blade Chronicles. It manages to fail on so many fundamental levels that paying actual money or even spending any amount of time on it is far more then it deserves.

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