Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 review
The world of video games is no stranger to Naruto, a manga/anime franchise that presents a ninja-centric world of special ninjistu moves and powerful characters. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 represents the latest title in a long line of Naruto-based games released on a bevy of systems. Developed by CyberConnect2, the game certainly has the pedigree that fans will expect, and does a fine job of capturing the mood of the loved franchise.
However, when held up against other fighting game fare on the PSP, Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 begins to falter. The game’s mechanics are very simplistic and lack a real sense of challenge or strategy, and the story feels like a second-tier episode from the TV show. While the game still plays well and has the solid presentation that Naruto fans would hope for, it just doesn’t do much to stay competitive against other fighters on the system.
Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 finds the titular hero, Naruto, returning home to Hidden Leaf Valley after a two-and-a-half year absence. He meets up with old friends and begins to fall back into the grind, but this is short-lived as his friend Gaara is kidnapped by the Akatsuki Corporation. Naruto and his friends must them band together in order to rescue Gaara from their nefarious clutches. The game’s storyline isn’t really anything to get too excited about, and the dialogue is composed mostly of uneventful small talk that will do little to pull you in.
The game’s story mode is composed of a Master Road mechanic, which has the player moving through a grid in order to view story-driven cut scenes, unlock new abilities, and fight through side-scrolling missions and centralized brawls with other characters. The Master Road works fairly well in a handheld game, giving players the freedom to play for as long or as little as they want. It’s still a fairly straightforward system and doesn’t really foster much of a sense of exploration, but is ideal for those who want to play the game in short bursts.
The gameplay is separated into two basic stage layouts. Some missions will have you taking on one or two combatants in a fighting game-styled match, while others will adopt a more side-scrolling mechanic, requiring you to move from one point to another while utilizing your ninjitsu magic to defeat any enemies that stand in your way. You are ranked on your performance at the end of each stage, earning ninja points that can then be applied to unlocking new abilities that you can apply at the beginning of each level. Additionally, your ninja points can be used to open up a variety of unlockables, including new characters, art, and special movies if you’re that kind of hardcore Naruto fan.
The combat is where Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 really begins to show the franchise’s lack of progression. Fighting is overly simplistic, often falling into the button-mashing category and lacks the overall finesse and strategy of other PSP brawlers. The game also controls stiffly, with some moves lagging and feeling generally unpolished. The game boasts a character roster upwards of 50 different unlockable fighters to play as, but none of them have the feel as solid as those characters featured in other, more capable fighting games.
One element that Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 brings to the Naruto table is the ability to have four-character fights. While these add some variety to the Master Road missions and allow for some nice co-op moments, they are ultimately at the mercy of the gameplay, which leaves much to be desired.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good, sporting a fine cel-shaded aesthetic and some nice character models. The environments are also well done, featuring a brightly colored look that doesn’t detract from the action. While they won’t dazzle you by any means, they still make for a solid-looking PSP game. The sound effects allow for either Japanese or English voice tracks, and while they are fairly ham-fistedly delivered, they keep with the feel of the TV show well. The music is typically run-of-the-mill fare for a Naruto game.
In terms of presentation, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 is a fine entry to the franchise. However, series stalwarts will begin to see the seams showing in the game’s tepid storyline and bland gameplay mechanics.