Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising
spans the first story arc of the Naruto Shippuden
series. The game's story mode (called Scenario Mode) starts off with Naruto's return to the village after years of training under Jiraiya and goes to the end of the Gaara Rescue story where the Akatsuki have kidnapped the Sand Village's Kazekage. This story brings back a lot of old characters (though the younger ones are older and have new costumes) as well as introduces two new Akatsuki members, Deidara and Sasori (don't worry, Itachi and Kisame also become available as well).
The Scenario Mode itself is broken into a series of chapters that cover each of the main story elements of these first few episodes. While some details are left out, there is still a lot of information conveyed in the game's cinematic, so even casual fans of Naruto, or those that haven't gotten a chance to see how these events play out in the anime or manga, can follow the story pretty well. As you fight your way through waves of enemies (which range from animals to bandits and even quite a few boss battles with characters from the show), you will earn XP that causes the character you are playing as to level up. With the new levels, characters gain the ability to use more powerful Jutsu through the use of Skill Scrolls collected in the missions or combined in the shop (more on that in a minute).
But Akatsuki Rising's Scenario Mode isn't the only place to gain experience for your characters. Mission Mode allows you to take the various unlocked characters through several random jobs. Low level ones require you to collect wheat for The Ichiraku Ramen Bar, or make your way to a field and clear it of boars and birds. Higher rank missions will involve much more complex and harder tasks that should only be attempted with higher leveled characters.
Survival Mode also lets you level up your characters. Despite the name, this game doesn't actually pit you against an endless series of enemies to see how long you last. Instead, this feels more like another type of Mission Mode, where the mission is simply to take out a certain number of enemies and survive. As you complete each Survival Mission, a new one is unlocked that has more powerful enemies.
Both Survival and Mission Modes open up fairly early in Scenario Mode, but the last major gameplay mode in Naruto Shippuden Legends is Akatsuki Mode, and that only unlocks after completing all of the missions in Scenario. Here you can take the unlocked Akatsuki members through their own story in a slightly different Scenario Mode.
Besides these mission-based modes, Akatsuki Rising also lets you take your characters (either the ones you customize in the game or pre-set ones) into battle either against the computer or with a friend (in Ad Hoc mode).
The final element to its gameplay is Legend's Shop. Here you can restock your equipment and buy everything from weapons (i.e. kunai, shuriken) to pills that will rebuild your health and chakra. But the main purpose of the Shop is the Scrolls section. While it would seem natural to think that this is where you go to buy new Skill Scrolls (which allow your characters to perform jutsu like Naruto's Shadow Clone or Kakashi's Lightning Blade), instead you can either sell scrolls or combine existing ones into more powerful versions. It took me a bit to actually understand this mechanic (actually a majority of a car ride between Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Baton Rouge, Louisiana), and while this system doesn't always produce the desired effect, it is interesting to see... at least as a first attempt. The idea is that you will end up earning scrolls throughout your adventures, and you will undoubtedly get duplicates. By combining these duplicates (or other scrolls for that matter), you can make more powerful ones. For instance, if you take two Attack+1 scrolls and combine them, you get one Attack+2 scroll. Similarly, if you take two Level 1 Shadow Clone scrolls and combine them, you get a Level 2 (and a Level 1 combined with a Level 2 yields a Level 3). For the most part, this mechanic is straightforward, especially when dealing strictly with duplicates. But the game allows you to combine non-duplicate scrolls as well, and the results aren't always what you desired. For instance, you can combine Shikimaru's Level 1 Shadow Paralysis Jutsu with Kakashi's Level 1 Lightning Blade, and get either a Level 2 Shadow Paralysis or a Level 2 Lightning Blade. Thankfully, the screen that you use to select the scrolls will tell you what will result before you combine and purchase them, but this doesn't always work as well as you would hope. For instance, I was trying to get a Level 2 Naruto Shadow Clone. I had two Level 1's, but one was marked as a Naruto exclusive and the other a Kakashi exclusive. According to the combination screen, it results in a Level 2 Shadow Clone, but it wasn't until after committing to the combination and spending 6000 Ryo that the game told me it is a Level 2 Kakshi Exclusive Shadow Clone (something I already had). There are other similar issues found in the Scroll Combination mode which left the overall feel of this particular feature more trouble than it is worth (which isn't good since you need it a lot to get some higher level scrolls). But hopefully this feature will be improved upon in future versions of Legends, provided it does well enough to warrant a sequel, of course.