Any gaming Naruto fan will tell you that the history of Naruto spawned video games is a dark one, full of bitterness and heartbreak. It is with that weighty baggage in mind that I reassure you there's no need to stock up on ice cream therapy, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja is the cute boyfriend you can bring home to mama.
Rise of a Ninja runs the course of the first Naruto plot arc, and is rife with the expected nostalgia as you get to game through the series' highlights. This shouldn't frighten off the ninja uninitiate, though, Rise of a Ninja can accommodate the most anime-ignorant. From the cell-shaded graphics to the easy-to-follow storyline, you may miss some of the nuance but hey, if you cared about that you would have watched the show. If, however, you are a subbed-anime devotee you'll want to download the Japanese voices off Live before you begin (note: downloading the Japanese voices after downloading Shikamaru causes the audio bugs; the patch is in the Jiraya/Sarutobi DL) or the American voice actors will be ear poison.
An adventure and fighting game at its core, you play as Naruto, a delinquent orphan ninja with big plans to become the best ninja in the village. Your single player game will having you running fetch quests, completing timed races and collecting coins to win the love - er, smiley faces - of your fellow Konoha villagers. You will also have to commit to not giving up within the game's first hour, it's a slow one. By the time you've finished the Chuunin exam, there's no turning back, you're a ninja, dattebayo.
You'll explore the remarkably platform oriented forest outside the village for a number of the quests, which feels a little redundant a little too quickly. Be sure to stock up on ramen anytime you leave the village as bandits (well, make that the same four or so bandits miraculously revived and ready for another round) will pop up at every opportunity to challenge your burgeoning ninja aptitude. Health resets after completing a mission and reporting to the individual that sent you into the death trap in the first place, so eat ramen at will.
In addition to ramen's heretofore unprecedented healing powers, you'll be able to store powerful memory clips, which you can use mid-fight should your enemy vanquish you. Following some vigorous button-tapping, these memo-clips restore your health and return you to the battle; consider it a really sentimental rally. The Hokage kindly refreshes these clips for a, er, small fee. Tightwad.
The main points of the battle system are combination moves and jutsu. As you progress through the game you'll acquire moves and learn jutsu from walking on water and up walls to an enemy befuddling "sexy jutsu" (the latter also cheers up lonely villagers). The more your skills develop, the more of the environments you'll have access to, and I would highly recommend exploring for some fun achievements.
Rise of a Ninja ultimately feels like a kids game, and if you can't complete a quest you may find yourself questioning your gaming skills. About eight hours later the adventure will pretty much end, and your jutsu and combat skills should be perfected enough that you won't look like a total noob in the multiplayer mode. Naruto fans hungering for more, or gamers that just can't get enough of Konoha's rambling, free-running friendly cityscape will eek out a few more hours in the remaining side missions and achievements.