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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 on PSP Impression

Hot and cold; incredible and mundane; taste great, less filling; Dan or Dave. When a license like Naruto is split between developers by system the results can be a mixed bag. Naruto titles on the DS deliver good old-school side-scrolling gameplay but wonky 3D titles while the Wii servers up good fighters with some of the better graphics on the system. The true gems are those delivered by Namco Bandai and Ubisoft on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 respectively. These titles look beautiful, play great and find the sweet spot balance between fighter, adventure and RPG that some of the PlayStation 2 titles missed. Then there’s the PSP. The latest title, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3, falls in-between the excellence of the PS3 Storm titles (Ninja Storm 2 still to be released) and the misses that were Uzumaki Chronicles on PS2. What does this mean for Naruto fans and PSP owners alike, let’s take a look.

Gameplay – See the ninja, be the ninja. At this point in the franchise fans know what to expect but for non-fans this is a PSP fighting game with a huge roster of characters from the mega popular Naruto anime series, now in the Shippuden seasons. Gamers can battle their way through the story in Master Road mode, take on friends and the computer in Free Battle or jump into practice. Ad-Hoc wireless battles are a blast but best to practice first. All the personality of the anime comes shining through but this won’t mean much to non-fans, but Ultimate Ninja heroes 3 is for fans, don’t even try to deny this. A good fighter with friends but built for the fans.

Graphics – Fights and character models look spot on from the anime along with the environments. Not much creative freedom for a developer but when it comes to a licensed property, one that follows a specific story-arc, nailing the established design is mandatory and its mission accomplished on this front. There are times the character models can look block but this is infrequent and not an issue. The side-scrolling platforming segments are a miss that feel more like the failures of Chronicles than what Storm delivered. The platforming would have been great in the DS style of old-school then jumping into the 3D battles but split license, nuff said. The use of 3D graphics in 2D battles is pulled off quite well.

Sound – Tons of canned vocals from the anime along with some familiar sounding tunes and battle music, nothing spectacular but it serves its purpose. Aren’t ninja supposed to be silent and deadly?

Design – Mixed bag with good fights containing main characters but limited moves sets and a platforming experience that feels very forced. The story mode is a great idea but needs a bit more refinement. Taking on filler characters is never fun, not when a series like SoulCalibur has managed to deliver a quest mode that’s fun and engaging.

Miscellaneous – Fans, 45+ characters, some say over 50 (have not seen/unlocked them all). A game most definitely built for fans, this huge roster and the amount of un-lockable content rocks.

Overall, the PSP may not sport a huge lineup of groundbreaking titles and yes there are even some very solid fighters out there (Tekken, SoulCalibur) to compete with Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 but from a pure fan standpoint it does not get better than this on the PSP … really. There are two ways to take a licensed title, from the gamer’s perspective and the fans perspective. As a fan it’s rock solid with good gameplay, graphics and tons of content from the anime and manga. From a gamers perspective it’s a second tier fighter when compared to the other more mainstream titles above, but still a solid fighter in Ad-Hoc mode. The main drawback for regular, non-fan gamers is the ‘huh’ factor as events and attacks from the anime are pulled out and have no meaning. A game for fans that can be enjoyed wireless with regular gamers, good times.

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