Naruto: Are Two Buttons Enough?

by Steve Bowler on January 7, 2008

in combat,critique,user interface

Was playing some Naruto:  Rise of the Ninja at work today, and did some head-to-head vs. mode combat.  It turns out it was good research/competitive analysis, because Naruto only uses two attack buttons, and it seems that’s the direction a lot of modern titles are heading in for combat as well.  The idea is that “mass market” appeal is more important than overly complex button configurations for combat, especially when combat isn’t the only thing your game does.  Deep/complex combat button use is important when all you have is combat (such as fighting games), but if your game has to also do world navigation duty, you can’t use all of your face buttons for combat, typically.

At any rate, while I thought that they did do a good job of managing just two attack buttons (and combining block and jump buttons [which are also part of your world nav set] to help further mix things up), their summon use during a fight just felt broken.  The summons (Jutsus) themselves are awesome, and the executions of them is a great idea (use the dual analogs to replicate arm/hand gestures), the problem is that they don’t combine well with the combat.

For one thing, they slow everything down to a crawl.  Naruto’s combat is so fast and furious, that the summons become a stark jarring contrast.  Maybe they seem more useful in more experienced hands, but with the counters and the quick poke jabs, flurries, and combos of the normal combat, the summons seem like you’re pausing the game by comparison.  You pretty much have to knock your opponent down in order to get one fired off, and it felt like it broke the pacing of the fighting.  Not to mention that the mini-games themselves seem much slower paced than the actual gameplay.  This link above isn’t the best example, as in many instances the opponent isn’t attempting to avoid the special attack (which makes it more interesting), but still, even with the “game” involved, it just doesn’t jive well.

So in Naruto’s case, I have to say that no, two isn’t enough.  I would have rather your summons were slotted to other shoulder buttons in order to get a fast-paced summon execution, because the “immersive” way they were handled broke the flow of combat.  There’s no point in having one button plus two analog sticks combine to allow up to three summons when there are three other shoulder buttons going unused, and some characters can only do the one summon!  You’re not simplifying anything with that control scheme, especially when even with only two gross directional analog inputs, I was getting confused as to how to execute the summons.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: