NARUTO: Ninja Council 3 - NDS - Review
There are some genre forms that die with the passing of each era. Aside from ports of old titles, we don’t see new retro-style fighting games. The old fighting style involves more than a dimension (2D or 3D); it leans on the very essence of what it meant to be a fighter in the early 90s. Those gameplay nuances were forgotten a long time ago.
Single-player fighting games – AKA beat-‘em-ups (and in weapon form, hack-n-slash) – are a different story. They receive semi-3D sequels with each console generation and new retro-style iterations with every handheld. The genre has also found its way into properties that did not exist when it was first invented, such as Naruto. Separate from the Namco Bandai-published titles, Naruto: Ninja Council is from Tomy and D3Publisher.
Having received much acclaim from the Naruto fan base, Ninja Council has been given not one, but two sequels. The latest, the simply titled Ninja Council 3, is a straightforward romp more than 20 of the series’ characters. Play as Naruto Uzumaki, Tenten, Tenten, Shino Aburame, Hinata Hyuga, Kiba Inuzuka, Rock Lee, Neji Hyuga, Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Harumo, Shikamaru Nara, Ino Yamanaka, Choji Akimichi, and about 15 others.
You can’t have a platform without someone who knows how to jump. As far as the games are concerned, every Naruto warrior is a jumper – thus, you can’t have this Naruto game without several platforms. Ninja Council 3 has an endless array of them. The game is separated by missions that may be completed in nearly any order you please. Each mission, selected via the “Mission Bingo Panel,” contains objectives that differ from the standard beat-‘em-up menu, but not so much that the game strays from the genre.
Defeat 30 wolves
Defeat 20 snakes
Destroy all rocks
Break objects and find the dog
Get to the checkpoint before [character]
Get 10 weapons
Attack [specific character] with [specific secret technique]
The defeat creature objectives are just as they sound – travel the stage in search of the designated beast. When you find it, attack until it has been defeated. Multiple animals and other enemy types may be defeated through cluster pummeling (ex: by attacking a wolf standing next to another wolf). However, if the requirement involves their extinction, you will not get points for pushing them off a cliff. It defies the logic defined by our game development ancestors, but it’s a rule you’ll have to follow if you want to win. The time limit is usually the most difficult thing about each mission. Wolves will re-spawn after being pushed off a cliff, but it’s unlikely that you’ll have the time to pound on 30 of them if you have to wait for one to reappear.
Get 10 weapons – that just means you have to find 10 weapons (any type) hidden in the stage. This is a cakewalk challenge because weapons reappear in the same area after a certain amount of time. You’ll lose one weapon for falling off a cliff, which causes your character to re-spawn. But most weapons will re-spawn with your character, making your job several times easier.
The checkpoint objective is a platformer race where you’ll run back and forth between a particular stage. Checkpoints appear in a few locations – find them, run back to the beginning of the stage, and repeat until the mission has been completed.
Similar, But Different
If you’re like me and play every fighter and beat-‘em-up available, chances are you won’t see a huge difference between the 20+ playable characters. But there’s a cool gameplay element that makes their presence important: secret technique sharing. Secret techniques are this game’s answer to the special attack – a move where the supernatural becomes natural and everything in its path is destroyed. These moves are generally interchangeable. Pick any playable character, access any of that character’s own special moves, and add other characters’ moves to that character! The chosen moves are accessible via the touch screen (all actions play out on the upper screen), where a simple tap is all it takes to activate a secret technique.
But don’t count on the touch screen to get you through a battle. Special attacks are limited by the Chakra Gauge, an easily-depleted tank of secret technique juice. The tank refills on its own, but you’ll be slaughtered (and in some cases, run out of time) if you allow such constraints to dictate the course of each battle. That’s why the basic punch, combo, and ranged attacks are used so frequently – and is why the game hangs on repetition from beginning to end. The first five minutes aren’t that different from the last five minutes.
However, the game is fully playable – there aren’t any grossly disturbing technical problems to keep the game from satisfying the core Naruto audience. On that note, Ninja Council 3 effectively uses the given license to achieve a greater level of Zen with the beloved anime property. This game might not win any awards, spawn a new fan base, or instill Streets of Rage fans with any sense of nostalgia. But if you love Naruto, you’ll find value inside this beat-‘em-up.
Review Scoring Details for Naruto: Ninja Council 3
Naruto: Ninja Council 3 is quality fun hampered by an insurmountable dose of repetition. The level objective variety sounds more appealing than it actually is. The one-on-one battles and secret technique objectives are fun. But chasing after wolves, a creature that shouldn’t be considered a villain (unless they’ve been infected by the T-Virus), is really just a task that needs to be bypassed before you can get back to the fun. The same can be said for the checkpoint and item collecting games.
Primitive, below-SNES-quality visuals. Ninja Council 3 isn’t an ugly game, but there aren’t any details or cool graphic effects to speak of. The game itself uses the license well, but the graphics seem to have forgotten that this game had a cool license from which to pull interesting material.
As low-tech as the visuals. Fails to take advantage of the great Naruto license. Fails to deliver a memorable soundtrack.
Cheap moments aside (the time limit is a bit annoying), Ninja Council 3 is a simple game.
A beat-‘em-up platformer action game meets touch screen “secret technique” move activation.
More than one game card is needed to engage in Ninja Council 3’s multiplayer mode. The repetitive nature of the single-player combat makes it hard not to question if it’s worth the trouble.
Gamers with an undeniable need for Naruto gaming action will be amused – if only on the first play-through – by the gameplay this sequel distributes. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a beat-‘em-up with something more substantial than license amusement, you may want to look elsewhere.