|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cyber Connect 2||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
December 26, 2007 - Naruto: Ultimate Ninja parts one and two were great games. They played well, featured a whole host of ninjas, and had several modes to play in. Both of the previous titles were excellent games on the PS2 system and served as standalone titles that nearly anyone could enjoy. This left many gamers (myself included) thinking about what could possibly be next for the series. Ultimate Ninja 2 was so good it was difficult to think of ways that the series could move forward and make another truly distinctive entry in the series. Luckily, Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3 looks like it will take the winning formula from the first two games, and instead of redefining it, add more to it.
So what all can they add to the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series? It may be surprising, but there is so much that has been changed and modified from the first two games. Those who played the first two games noticed a large difference between the way that the story modes played. The second Ultimate Ninja game featured a semi-open world system that allowed the player to run around on little side quests and explore their environments before matches. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 is going to take this small part of the gameplay from the second itineration and make it its own mode. This mode has been described as an RPG-style mode where the focus won't necessarily be on fighting but on progressing through the individual character's story and doing all the side quests. These side quests generally involve some type of puzzle or button mashing mini-game, but it seems like a worthwhile mode for those who can appreciate a variance in gameplay. Of course there's fighting in this mode; after all it is an Ultimate Ninja game, but this brand-new mode looks to open up gameplay options.
In addition to the RPG-style mode, there is also going to be a traditional arcade-style story mode. Since this game comes pretty far along in the series, the story mode is separated into different "arcs" much like the manga and anime. This is a great option for both those who are new to the series and old veterans. Newbies will appreciate having the entire story at their disposal without having any experience with the previous games. Those who have played the Ultimate Ninja games before will appreciate being able to skip all of the content that they have already played through. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3's story goes right up to Sasuke's departure and includes every major event up to that point.
The battle system has also received a facelift for Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3. Although the first two games featured special moves and power-ups, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 will feature special transformations and summons that will help you power up when facing a difficult foe. The button-coordination system for special moves has also been re-invented and now incorporates more of a button-smash system that can only end in one character's success. Previously you could have both characters succeed at hitting the right buttons, which would result in minimal damage, but the new system takes an all-or-nothing approach to the special moves.
One facet of the Ultimate Ninja games that has continuously gotten better over the years has to be the graphics. The visual style has remained unchanged over the years, but the animations have gotten sharper and the environments always feel a little crisper. This is still the case with Ultimate Ninja 3, and the game continues to look better, even though it is still on a last gen system (keep in mind that this game originally premiered in Japan in 2005). Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 will continue the tradition of keeping its cel-shaded manga-inspired graphics in tact, but the look is much cleaner this time around, and the in-game animations seem to run at a much quicker framerate.
There is also an element of the game that has been altered that is sure to please long time fans of the series. Many fans of Naruto (and anime in general) like watching the subbed versions of the anime with the original Japanese audio. While many games have offered an original Japanese language track (like Soul Calibur III and Blue Dragon), the Naruto series has yet to add this feature. Many Naruto purists have been upset about this decision in the past and have opted to import the original Japanese game simply to hear the original audio track. But fortunately for them, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 will have both an English-language audio track and a Japanese audio track with the original Japanese voice actors from the anime reprising their roles.
Sometimes it can be a little frustrating when a new itineration of an enumerated series comes out. Many times videogame fans are left scratching their heads and wondering why they should fork over their hard earned cash for a higher number in a series that they already own. However, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series always somehow manages to keep itself fresh and warrant that next-in-series purchase. And even if you haven't been keeping up with the Naruto series, the third installment of the series still looks like a great game. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 looks like the best entry yet in a series that keeps reinventing itself and has become one of the staples, not only in the category of anime-based games, but in the category of arcade-style fighters as well. So train well, Genin, because your greatest challenges are coming this spring!
CCC Freelance Writer