|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|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Naruto is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he have his own manga and anime series, but he has a huge amount of video games that bear his ninja insignia. From the mission-based Ninja Council series to the RPG-style Naruto Path of Ninja, and even the hugely successful Clash of Ninja series, it seems that this spiky blonde ninja really gets around. But amidst all of these titles, the Ultimate Ninja series has always stood head and shoulders above the other Naruto titles in terms of a true arcade fighting experience. And while Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3 delivers as the arcade fighter that fans have grown to love, this entry shows incredible depth and includes several new modes that make this title rise above the already high precedent set.
There are three main modes in Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3. The first mode, Ultimate Contest, is completely new and takes the form of an RPG-style adventure. The story revolves around a festival that Konoha is hosting to further their diplomatic relations with the sand. You play chiefly as Naruto, although Sakura, Sasuke, and Kakashi are all playable in some instances. The story is quite flexible, and you have quite a bit of in-game freedom. Maps are completely open, and you can travel to different areas to perform missions in basically any order. You can also level up your characters before big fights and unlock special moves. This mode is by far my favorite part of Ultimate Ninja 3, chiefly because it is such an anachronism in this type of game. I never expected to find an RPG tucked inside an arcade-style brawler. But this game shows that you can have this type of mode within an arcade-style game, and it actually works really well!
The next mode is Hero's History, which is a more traditional arcade-style story mode that includes significant battles from the Naruto anime. This mode does not feature the same free-roaming gameplay like the Ultimate Contest mode, but instead has a number of available battles that you can choose via a menu. You'll be treated to some backstory via a cutscene, and then you'll be able to fight your battle. This mode is the most reminiscent of the previous Naruto Ultimate Ninja titles, but it definitely pares down the Naruto story element of the game quite substantially when compared to its predecessors. I count this a good thing, however, because if you're playing Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3, chances are that you are very familiar with the Naruto storyline and have played through the different story arcs umpteen times and therefore don't really need the full rehash one more time.
The final mode is the one we all love, and that is the vs. mode. Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3 sports the series' largest character roster, and there are some notable newbies among the crowd. Some of the characters that are brand-new are not exactly the most prevalent in the series, but instead fall under the category of fan favorites and unlikelier characters. Among these characters is the Green Machine-which is Naruto in Rock Lee's trademark green spandex and moves set. In the category of most unlikely is Hyuuga Hanabi, who you might remember as the middle level Hyuuga from a flashback episode from the Chuunin exam arc. There are definitely some other surprising characters in Ultimate Ninja 3 in addition to all the usual suspects, and the character roster for this title is definitely the most complete in an Ultimate Ninja title yet!
Graphics in this title remain largely unchanged from Ultimate Ninja 2, and still have the same cel-shaded look. Controls are also basically unchanged save for a few small improvements. One thing I really appreciated about Ultimate Ninja 3 is that it gives you prompts when you can do certain advanced combo attacks. This is really useful because combos are definitely more difficult to perform than the chakra special attacks, and traditionally took longer to learn. But now you can just wait for the prompt. Another huge improvement is the inclusion of the Japanese Seiyu voice track. I've always applauded the Ultimate Ninja series for its faithful inclusion of the original music from the anime series, as well as the original voice actors from the English version of the anime. Many fans of the Naruto series seek out the Japanese version of the anime, and these fans will almost certainly appreciate the Japanese voice track more than anything else.
Overall, Ultimate Ninja 3 is undoubtedly the best in the series. There are many ways to play this title, and it is the most complete of all the other Ultimate Ninja games. The Ultimate Ninja series has always been my favorite among the different Naruto video game series, and I was a little worried that Ultimate Ninja 3 would not be able to succeed Ultimate Ninja 2, which was one my personal favorites among the vast Naruto video game catalog. But Ultimate Ninja 3 has improved upon its predecessor in a substantial way, and it is definitely a must-own for fans of Naruto. If you love the previous Ultimate Ninja games or the Path of a Ninja title, then this one is sure to delight!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer