Included in a "big box of love" from Mattel to AFi was the TRU exclusive Naruto Ninja Battleground Game. It so happens that my "little brother," Johnny, is quite the Squad 7 fan. So we gathered our shurikens, opened the box and took this game for a whirl.
Lets start with the packaging. The window box is definitely attractive and, along with the box art, showcases the 6 mini figures well. The back of the box has a large illustration of all 6 characters. But if not for the small word "game" on the front of the package you’d have no idea that this was something other than a 6 pack of figures. Nowhere on the outside of the packaging is any description or picture even remotely related to the "game" aspect of this set. You can hear something sliding around underneath the figures, but its all up to your imagination at this point.
Open it up and you find all the "game" stuff stashed below, including character and battle cards, bases for the figures (but only 4), and various other playing pieces. The inside box art flips around to double as the playing field.
Oh, and there’s also the instruction booklet . . . which took me 30 minutes to read aloud. Needless to say, having to read 15 pages of instructions to an 11 year old is one of those things prohibited in the Army Field Manual. Granted, most kids are gonna rip this open, start playing, and figure it out as they go. Like Johnny said: "I’ve never read a rule book before." But I’m a little more anal. Plus, this game is just advanced enough that you really do need to spend time with the directions. For some this may be a turn off. But here’s my opinion about games of this sort: for it to be worth playing more than once, it needs depth and complication. It needs to be robust to make it engaging and challenging.
Here’s a few of the cards and pieces you’ll be playing with. You’ve got your main character cards with health meter down both sides and a health token to keep track. There are scrolls: blank and marked. And then there are the battle cards split into 3 catagories: Chakra, Technique, and Special.
This is what the game looks like when you’ve got it set up and ready to play. Johnny chose the good guys, I got the bad guys. Essentially, the object is to either capture your opponent’s marked scroll or to eliminate all 3 of their characters. Not contained in the instructions are on-the-side-deals like the one Johnny tried when my Itachi attacked his Sasuke: "Hey, we’re brothers! Lets make friends!"
After we got through the instructions (whew!) we played the game. I have to say we both really enjoyed it. I just couldn’t help thinking how crazy it is that this well developed and engaging game is practically hidden in the base of a TRU exclusive 6 pack of mini figures. I had expected something much more basic and dull.
All six of these 3" mini figures were available in a couple series of 3 packs. Coincidentally, Johnny’s very first gift to me was series 1 of these guys! Naruto came in the series 1 Squad 7 pack. Itachi and Kakashi came in the series 2 Sharingan Battle back. Gaara and Sasuke came in the series 2 Forest Battle pack. And Orochimaru came in the series 2 Sannin Battle pack. The sculpts and details on these little guys are great. When we pulled them out of the box Johnny asks unprompted: "Do you want me to tell you anything about the characters?" Of course!
Naruto. He has the Nine-Tail Fox in him. His parents abandoned him. He wants to be the next Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village where he comes from. Um, he’s the chosen one, I guess you could put it that way.
Sasuke. He is part of the Uchiha clan which has Sharingan. He is a ninja who wants a lot of power. And he betrays the Hidden Leaf Village for more power. (Dan: so is he a bad guy then?) Kinda. Not at first. This is kinda off topic but all the girls like him. Lets put it that way.
Kakashi. He is a copy ninja who copied Sharingan. He is a sensei for Narurto, Sasuke, and Sakara. And that’s pretty much it. Kakashi rocks.
Gaara. He is a very powerful ninja. He is a Sand Ninja who has a big calabash of sand on his back. He’s evil at first but he becomes good. Oh yeah, Gaara has a demon inside him.
Itachi. I don’t know much about him but I know most of the details. He’s Sasuke’s brother. He comes from the same clan as Sasuke. He’s a bad guy. And Sasuke kinda wants to kill him for killing his parents.
Orochimaru. Is pretty much fully bad and his arms get stunned by the fourth Hokage. He’s this really evil guy who wanted to be the Hokage and he didn’t get chosen so he’s pretty much all bad.
Nothing like playing a game like this with an 11 year old fan. I mean, when Johnny attacks, he attacks with full sound effects and gestures! And it turns out that Johnny also has the Nine-Tail Fox in him ’cause he won. But we came together at the end to give Naruto Ninja Battleground two thumbs up!