Naruto isn't always trying to bring back rogue ninjas to his village or avoiding organizations trying to rip out the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox that is inside him. Sometimes, he just has to save the world from being destroyed by giant elemental dragons.
Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles doesn't really feel like a filler arc. The story of this game could really work as an animated movie, especially with the creative choices Atlus decided to go with the game. While training on taijutsu with Kakashi, Naruto returns to the village to find in under attack by an army of clay warriors called Mugonhei and a giant dragon. He meets a young girl named Akari who request Naruto's help in defeating the other elemental dragons, called Genryu and stop her older brother, Kuroma, from destroying the world. To aid him in his battle, she entrusts Naruto with a magical sword called the Dragon Blade that can harness the power of the elements themselves. From there, it is up to Naruto along with Sakura, Sai, Yamato and Kakashi to save the world from Kuroma's evil plan.
The designs for the characters are at first puzzling, but seem to overall fit with the story. It is very hard to use Ninjutsu on Mount Koryu, where the Genryu reside. In order to regulate chakra and use it effectively, the ninjas are equipped with special armor that stabilizes their chakra. It seems like just an excuse to come up with new clothing designs for characters we have seen wear the same clothing over the years. Still, the developers are to be commended for making new clothing designs that weaving into the story rather than just leave it in the air with no explanation.
Aside from Naruto, players can also take control of Sasuke. He has discovered that Itachi and other members of Akatsuki are after the power of the Genryu and he follows them in order to find Itachi and kill him. His side of the story didn't really need to be told here. It feels it was just added on to extend gameplay. Once you reach the conclusion of it, you feel a bit cheated in the end.
Gameplay is rather mundane. Players go from room to room defeating Mugonhei in combat galleries. There are some small puzzles and some light platforming to do, but you are just mainly using an assortment of sword strikes and ninjutsu to defeat opponents. Ninjutsus are regulated by equipping scrolls and using the D-Pad to activate them. There are also scrolls that increase stats such as defense and reduce chakra cost. Some of the ninjutsus are fun to use especially when using combinations of scrolls. For instance, the Clone scroll combined with the Rasengan will produce a Giant Rasengan, while the Clone2 scroll with the Rasengan will enable the use of the Wind Style: Rasen Shuriken technique. To break the trend of crawling from room to room, each area concludes with a battle with a Genryu. These boss battles are perhaps the better feature about the combat, but they conclude rather quickly.
Combat could have overshadowed gameplay, unfortunately it is pretty lackluster. If you want to play this game because you want to see how Naruto wielding the Dragon Blade meshes with his fast-paced combat style, you are going to be quite disappointed. Naruto feels very stiff. He doesn't move very fluidly and it is quite hard to hit enemies sometimes. It is very agitating to power up the Wind Style: Rasen Shuriken, only to lose it when Naruto doesn't face the right way while launching it. Sasuke isn't really a step up from his former teammate either. He is a bit faster than Naruto and has a few other jutsus to use, but the same problems with one transfers over to the other.
What makes combat even worse are the graphical issues during the game. If more than two or three Mugonhei show up on screen, the games suffers crippling slowdown. And it isn't just combat that showcases this. There are portions where Naruto has to outrun a collapsing floor and what could be a thrilling run looks like Naruto is just running in slow motion.
While players aren't fighting endless waves of Mugonhei, there are quite a number of cutscenes in the game. The voice actors from the series lend their talents for their video game counterparts. The lines aren't completely horrible and any fan of the manga or anime can expect the same type the dialogue from there, but the overall pacing of the lines are. I don't know if it is a loading issue, but the lines of dialogue in the game have quite the number of pauses. The line will begin....then pause, followed by more dialogue.....then another pause and then it finishes. It really looks like you are watching actors overact during a play. It is annoying. It could be disregarded, but there are just so many cutscenes and the dialogue pauses are prominent with each character that it can't be overlooked.
Naruto has definitely seen better days. In the end, all these problems can't be forgiven when put together, not even by the most die-hard fans. Naruto: Dragon Blade Chronicles is perhaps a story that would have been better seen as an animated film. But as a video game, you can pass on this story.