I picked up Naruto: Rise of a Ninja and Hellgate: London on my birthday as a gift to myself, and I think I’ve won with both games.
Naruto I’ve largely completed, having finished the quest proper and a large portion of the optional sidequests. The gameplay is divided among a few major themes: fighting, exploring, and racing. Fighting is pretty satisfying and similar to other Naruto games. It’s not as deep as fighters like Tekken, but its simplicity leaves a lot of room for fast, frenzied battles. My only real complaint is with the rage moves, which can completely tilt a battle just as it’s about to end, making all your hard work seem worthless. Exploring is one of the areas where Naruto shines. The sandbox village is vast and varied, and the immediately adjoining areas have a lot of fun portions. As you progress, you gain new abilities which allow you to unlock more and more of the maps, until finally you’re running up walls, walking on water, and ninja hopping on rooftops. Again, there’s a bit of a problem - you’re constantly backtracking through the same areas, and sometimes they can get a little stale. The game does a good job of providing branching paths that are revealed when you get new abilities, but it doesn’t quite counteract the amount of times you’ll be asked to visit the same place in the same forest. Racing is also well done. Naruto is constantly challenged to get to a certain location in a short amount of time, either to deliver ramen or beat someone else in a challenge. Once the ninja dash ability is unlocked, these races are fast and intense. It’s almost like a Sonic game just how fast you’ll be moving, and you typically can get through without slowing down if you’re good. Some of the races are interjected by the tree-hopping minigame, which was fun at first but quickly became repetitive. They make losing a long race a chore. But otherwise, the race portion is great.
Visually, Naruto is amazing. The village is absolutely beautiful; one of the most polished sites on the 360. The cel-shading is really well done, and you get the impression that you’re playing the anime. This is compounded by the music, which was taken straight from the anime and is pretty good.
I was never a huge fan of Naruto, but I am a huge fan of the game. I’m really hoping they release a sequel such that I can continue the storyline.
Hellgate: London I’ve just had a chance to bite into today, so I don’t have a whole lot to say. My initial impressions place it firmly at a cross between Diablo, Deus Ex, and World of Warcraft. The action is definitely fun, and it doesn’t require the twitch reflexes that most FPS’s do. The quests so far have been relatively interesting. A few of them involved killing X amount of some monster, a common WoW gimmick, but since I had to go through those monsters anyway it wasn’t a big deal. I’m really hoping Zach will pick it up so we can dive into the multiplayer aspect, and if my or Zach’s laptop can run it it’d be great to get Ricky in on the action.
OK, OK, I think I’m done talking video games now.
You gotta believe!