Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 «

Unlike our reviewers for the first two installments in the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja franchise, I’m not familiar with the anime. I’ve seen portions of episodes, perhaps even a full one once, but I only know enough about the series to be able to pull out a few names here and there. Keeping this in mind, I’m sure that it comes as no surprise that most of the fan service — and man, is there a lot — in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 is lost on me. Still, I can appreciate a good fighter (even if I don?t get why we’re fighting), and Ultimate Ninja 3 surprised me with its depth.
I was expecting Ultimate Ninja 3 to be a fighter with combos that made me dance my fingers around the controller, forcing me to memorize complex button sequences…and I was partially right. While the game uses all of the controller’s buttons, it also has one of the simplest melee combat-control schemes I’ve ever seen, focusing every physical attack or combo on a series of D-pad and Circle button combinations. Characters also share combo patterns, so no matter whom you select, you can always be sure that Up, Up, Circle will do a special move. For someone like me, who’s a casual player of fighting games, this system works because it’s just complex enough that it feels gratifying to do a special move without presenting an overly daunting learning curve.

Click the image above to check out all Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3 screens.

The fighting controls might sound overly simplistic, but they don’t sell Ultimate Ninja 3 short — the combat receives a level of subtlety when you bring the rest of the buttons into the fray. They control functions that are necessary for mastering combat, like jumping, throwing weapons, or activating your Chakra for an ultimate move. Trust me, once you factor in the thrown weapons and aerial maneuvers, you’ll be thankful that the melee combat centers on a single button.

While the fighting mechanics behind Ultimate Ninja 3 are solid, the narrative elements are lacking. The problem isn’t the storyline — it’s the insufficient amount of material to help familiarize outsiders with the Naruto universe. The Hero’s History mode — where players fight “historic” battles from the anime — gives you the most basic backstory about Naruto and his companions, but it doesn’t give enough details to explain the relationships or conflicts between characters. I never felt like I knew enough about any character, friend or foe, to care about what happened to them; I imagine fans will enjoy it, but for me, this makes the story a chore to read.

Click the image above to check out all Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3 screens.

For fans, Ultimate Ninja 3 has a lot to offer. They get to engage in a series of minigames (that I assume are based on something to do with the anime), compete in Ultimate Contest mode — where the player takes Naruto through his village and engages in a series of fights and quests for other ninjas — and collect money to buy items from the series. It isn’t that these modes are terrible for the uninitiated. They’re just not particularly appealing — they kind of feel like fluff rather than content that I cared about.

Maybe I’m wrong and fans of the series will hate the modes that I didn’t find interesting…but I doubt it. Not only are they going to get a good fighter, but they also get to mess around with any number of secondary modes that let them delve into the Naruto universe again and again. Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar — or who have an inexplicable hate — of Naruto, the bulk of the experience will be wasted. Sure, you could buy it for the fighter, but it’s clear that much of the content is made for the fans.


looking for something?