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Which holiday game will you play the most?

Halo 5 Guardians
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Game Profile
PlayStation 3
Namco Bandai
Cyber Connect
GENRE: Fighting
PLAYERS:   1-2
November 04, 2008
Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3

Naruto: Ninja Destiny

Naruto: Rise of a Ninja

Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution

More in this Series
 Written by Jason Fanelli  on September 02, 2009

Review: Naruto in high definition!

Fighting games are my forte.

Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, Tekken, if you fight other people, I'll probably love it.

I used to say "I'll definitely love it," until I played Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm.

Don't get me wrong, it looks beautiful, the soundtrack is great, and the voice-acting, while sometimes grating, is expertly done. The game has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, none of those things have anything to do with actually playing the game, more the aesthetics and presentation than anything else.

I LOVE the cel-shading in this game. Every character looks like he or she popped right out of the anime and dropped onto my PS3. The facial expressions, the subtleties, everything is there. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered, with eye-popping scenery and realistic effects, such as splashing water and breaking rocks. The attacks themselves are Marvel vs Capcom 2-esque flashy: big, bright attacks that your neighbor could see through the wall. I particularly like the one where Naruto multiplies himself and slams the opponent down using all of his doubles, it's very cool to watch.

The soundtrack is one of the best a fighting game has to offer. Like Afro Samurai, it contains a lot of Eastern-style sounds infused with hard, techno beats that anyone can jam to. I'm a big fan of music that mixes two different styles into one, and this soundtrack is definitely one that does it very well. The voice-acting is done well also, the only problem is the fact that Naruto's dubbing angered me to begin with, and hearing those voices over and over again made playing the game rather annoying. I only wish that the gameplay itself was as enjoyable (for the most part) as the soundtrack.

One of the most important things about a game, logically, is the controls. Naruto, unfortunately, has such a confusing layout that I never really got the hang of it.. The buttons seem simple enough, but I found myself pressing Shuriken when I wanted to strike, summoning partners almost at random, and I still don't know how to perform the ultimate moves. This makes playing rather difficult, obviously, but what's more infuriating is the lack of a practice mode. There's no way to make sure you know everything. The game just assumes that players know what they're doing, and makes you play without any help.

It may sound harsh, but I view this as a bit of video game treason: how are beginners to the series (like me) suppose to learn how to play? We're just supposed to do Free Battle until we learn? That would be fine, except that the opponents in Free Battling are ridiculously hard and will leave you down and out before you even know what's going on. I have a huge problem with sequels that assume only series vets will play, and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm commits this crime as blatantly as possible.

Bottom Line
What could have been an enjoyable fighting game experience instead becomes a lesson in what games shouldn't do. The sights and sounds are great, but as a game, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm will leave gamers lost in the process. But what it does well, it does REALLY well, and its flaws are mostly things that gamers new to the series would complain about. For fans of the series, this is another great Naruto game.

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