- Release Date: September, 2013
- Publisher: IceGames
- Developer: IceGames
- Genre: MMO
Ultimate Naruto is yet another free-to-play, browser-based MMORPG. Of course, it’s a little different from the rest of them right off the bat because it’s got a powerful franchise attached to it. Naruto is a huge force in the world of manga and anime. There’s a pretty decent collection of Naruto video games out there too, but this is its first foray into the world of free-to-play.
The game lets you play any of three classes — Ninjutsu, Taijutsu, or Genjutsu. You can play as a male or female, but those six combinations of class and gender are all that’s available as far as customizing your character goes. The game has tons of animations for each character, so I think they wanted to stick with pre-made characters instead of letting players design their own. That’s okay though, the six that are available look perfectly capable of holding their own in a fight.
The game is extremely formulaic, closely following the mechanics you’d find in just about every other free-to-play, browser-based MMORPG out there. It would have been nice to see a game built from the ground up with the Naruto theme in mind, but I’m sure this was a cheaper investment. I’m pleased to report, at least, that the Naruto theme has been applied with care instead of just being slapped on. Whereas most of these games lean dialogue-heavy, Ultimate Naruto has a nice mix of dialogue and combat. The story is a little thin, but it is definitely Naruto-inspired and brings more excitement and depth to the table than your standard free-to-play RPG. Undoubtedly the best addition is anime-inspired combat animations that are fluid, explosive, and chock full of special effects.
Ultimate Naruto is definitely the best-looking of the browser-based MMORPG I’ve played. Not only do the characters and attack animations look fantastic, but there are so many different attacks to see. Each character’s unique combat style is apparent in the way they fight. Great motion blurs, puffs of smoke, and bursts of explosive light all serve to make attacks look cool and crazy powerful.
Indeed, Ultimate Naruto is a delight to watch, but that’s all you’re going to do in combat. Like the other browser-based MMORPGs out there, combat is entirely automated. If you haven’t experienced this before, you should probably be made aware that pathing is automated now too. This heavy automation is a weird trend in modern browser-based MMORPGs that reduces the game down to more of a management game. You are responsible for choosing the next quest location, equipping the right gear, and changing your party’s formation — but once combat begins it’s out of your control.
I am not at all a fan of the auto-pathing and auto-combat that is so common in today’s browser-based MMORPGs. Sure, it’s convenient to let the computer do so much work, but it really makes me feel disconnected from my characters. So much potential strategy is stripped away because I’m not making the calls during a fight. Instead, the strategy is limited to what gear I equip my team with and what ninjas I choose to put into which position in the party formation. Playing this game is like playing Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon except all you do is build your deck and then let a computer play it for you. I have no doubt there are players out there who would enjoy that, but it’s certainly not my cup of tea. That’s not even a great analogy though, because at least it’s possible for a weaker deck to beat a stronger deck sometimes in Magic or Pokémon. On the other hand, Ultimate Naruto’s combat is deterministic: the stronger team would win every single match against the other team, even if they fought each other a million times. There’s basically no strategy beyond being as powerful as possible. When you earn/buy enough premium currency to become a VIP level 6, the game even lets you skip the battle cutscenes — something that’s okay to do because the game already knows who’s going to win the fight before the first punch is thrown.
Alright, enough ripping on the gameplay. It’s not great, but at least it’s pretty to look at. The game strangely starts out with the music muted. Unmuting it surprisingly brought several nice relaxing tracks when I was in town and several exciting tracks during combat. The music is not repetitive at all, which is a really nice change from the other free-to-play MMO games. Sound effects are missing though, which is a real shame because a few whirs, tings, zaps, and booms would go a long way to make the combat more exciting to watch.
Like the other free-to-play MMORPGs, this one gets you coming back with regular doses of events and prizes. There are packages of goodies you can claim daily just for logging in as well as smaller packages you can claim every 10 minutes or so as long as you are online. The game is monetized through the sale of gold, a premium currency that lets you increase your VIP level or buy items in the in-game store. Bumping up your VIP level provides all kinds of benefits like discounts in the store, higher limits on daily events, higher limits on recruited allies, and enabling more things the game can do automatically for you. The game does have an energy system (Vitality) that somewhat limits how many fights you can do in one sitting, but a full bar is quite a bit of energy and it recharges for free over time.
In the end, I need to recommend skipping Ultimate Naruto just because the gameplay feels so incredibly thin to me — automated combat just doesn’t serve these games well. That said, of all the free-to-play, browser-based MMORPGs I’ve played (and there’s a lot of them), Ultimate Naruto has the best music and its visuals blow the rest out of the water. The characters look great, the attack animations are awesome, and there’s a huge variety of both. If you’ve really got to play one of these games though, Ultimate Naruto would be an excellent choice, even if you’re completely unfamiliar with Naruto.
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