Ninja Survive

Naruto: Ninja Council 3
Reviewed On
Nintendo DS
Available For

"Naruto: Ninja Council 3" makes its debut onto the Nintendo DS platform following up two rather lukewarm prequels on the Game Boy Advance. Somewhat of a highly anticipated title a lot of fans of the hit anime cartoon have been waiting anxiously for some time to play this third installment. The question is does the game live up to the hype of the big screen or like the other installments before it does it lack the ability to pack a serious punch? Well the results are in and I’m afraid that the answer to that question is much worse than you might actually think.

First the good: The series has never looked better. Ninja Council 3 boasts some pretty sharp visuals, easily some of the best seen in a DS title. A cast of over 20 characters from the show make the roster, looking good, decked out in all their signature ninja gear. Spaciously detailed 2D environments leave plenty of room for ninja acrobatics and plenty of objects to bust up during combat. Every character sports at least one or various special secret attacks that when executed on screen make for a pretty cool mixture of anime, real-time cut-scenes, and awesome lighting effects. No doubt, the game really pushes the envelope allowing fans to see the true graphical capabilities of the DS system.

There isn’t much to brag about in the sound department, but overall it gets the job done. Most of the characters have pretty distinguished voice-overs and even though they might have a cheesy line or two to say at times, they do stay somewhat true to the personalities of their counterparts portrayed on the T.V show. As far as sound effects go, kudos go out to the sound team for synchronizing those same voice-overs with punches and kicks to help further accent each character and their distinct fighting styles. The musical tracks themselves actually seem a little watered down, but then again that can be said of quite a few anime sound tracks.

The game has no underlying story line whatsoever, but instead offers up a 60+ level mission mode where players will have a chance to work their way up the ladder from pupil status to head ninja by completing missions. A lot of the missions will involve challenges such as collecting items or destroying enemies within a time limit, defending strongholds from barrages of enemies, one-on-one versus matches, or even battle royal matches consisting up to 4 players. There are a few more complex mission modes out there but most of them are going to fall within the general categories just mentioned above.

During your quest to complete each mission you will unlock hidden characters within the game as well as their unique secret attacks. All available characters can carry up to 4 customizable secret attacks of their choice. Players will be able to choose any unlocked characters secret attacks and combine them to form a lethal combination of special attacks. Outside of characters and secret attacks are some other cool un-lockables including some bonus concept art.

All that said, the major problem with Naruto 3 lies primarily within the game play department. For starters the control scheme is pretty awkward to say the least. Sure, punches and kicks are pretty much A, B, C to execute and performing all of the wild stylus motions to unlock and perform secret attacks aren’t all that big a deal. However, it’s when you try to put all of those elements together in a real time combat situation that things begin to unravel big-time at the seams.

The problem is that movement is performed with the cross-pad thereby occupying your left hand. Basic punches and kicks are performed with the four DS buttons just to the right thereby occupying your right hand. All is fine and well until it’s time perform a secret attack.

Here you have two options: Option 1, you can either take your right hand off the buttons momentarily, quickly whip out your stylus, touch the secret attack icon you want to perform on the lower dual screen, move up to the upper dual screen and then perform all of the wild stylus movement requirements, be they full circles, side to side, or dotting motions, to actually unleash the attack OR Option 2, you can take your right hand off the buttons momentarily, SKIP whipping out the stylus to touch the secret attack icons on the lower dual screen and INSTEAD use your finger which is a hair bit faster to do the job with but smears your dual screen up something awful, AND THEN whip out your stylus to perform the required movements on the upper dual screen because while the simple thing to do would be to use your finger again it appears that the game has a hard time recognizing hand motions up there! In a nutshell, things get frustrating pretty fast.

To help further add insult to injury, during all this time you’re going through this tedious mumbo jumbo to perform a secret attack, you will, at least half of the times, be knocked down before you get your attack off. That’s because the enemy(s) can knock you to the ground by landing just one hit on you or simply making contact with you. What this ultimately means is that you will have to cleverly find some way to establish sufficient distance between you and your opponent(s) to have time enough to pull all of this off without getting knocked down first. The only consistent cheap trick I’ve found is to let yourself be knocked to the ground momentarily and while your temporarily invincible for about 1 1/2 seconds you can begin executing your secret attack. This is, of course, not cool.

Moving on though, there are also a few miscellaneous head-scratching flaws in the game I just don’t understand. For instance, I don’t understand why the only time you can throw projectiles is when your feet are firmly planted on the ground and you’re perfectly still. You can’t throw in mid-air or during a jump at anytime. That’s insane. You are a ninja after all!

I also don’t understand why when you see that things are going bad during a match or mission and you’re clearly going to fail at your attempt to complete it, that you cannot find a "restart mission or match" option when you pause the game. Instead you have to quit completely and then go back in and set everything back up. Why? I don’t understand why the game gives you a primitive map on the lower dual screen that displays a dot representing you and another dot representing your enemy(s) so that you can locate one another during versus matches but then turns around and displays only your icon and location during timed missions where you have to locate and kill "x" amount of enemies before the clock runs out consequently leaving you to run around blindly. Why is that?

And finally, I am truly at a loss when it comes to figuring why they chose to call the mission select screen the "Bingo Mission Grid." Are you serious? Bingo and Ninjas? What’s wrong with that picture? Couldn’t you have called it by another name? Perhaps something like the "Council Mission Grid" or anything else that would have been more innovative than bingo. It just doesn’t fit here.

Look, the bottom line is that by now we can see where this title is going. Naruto: Ninja Council 3 looks fantastic and initially shows a lot of promise. Not to mention the fact that there are over 20 playable and customizable characters from the hit T.V show, each boasting their own unique secrets attacks and abilities. However, the major issues with the game all stem from the game play department which is largely comprised of awkward controls and shotty mechanics. On top of that the game obviously looks to be half-done as there are more than a few topics to raise a question about.

What’s really shameful is that this one could have really been good if just a little more time and careful thought had been put into it. Instead we receive something much less worthy than original expectations as this game only rakes in a very disappointing 2 1/2 GiN gems.

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