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Naruto: Ninja Council 3 Package Art
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Naruto: Ninja Council 3

Naruto Uzumaki is quite the popular guy these days, as evidenced by his internationally popular comics, TV series, licensed toys, action figures, apparel, trading cards, and, of course, electronic games. After two GBA outings, the apprentice ninja's portable game series comes to Nintendo DS with Naruto: Ninja Council 3.


Since Ninja Council 3 is inspired by an existing property, it makes sense that Masashi Kisamoto's artwork is used both directly during title and select screens and indirectly as a basis for in-game character sprites. The lush backdrops accurately represent the locales that Naruto and his rivals visit throughout the series. Attacks are emphasized with a Batman-like "Whack!" or "Bam!", which emulating the comics, and Naruto's Japanese roots are evident with writing on signs or in menus that looks awkward in English. Since Naruto and his fellow ninjas all live and fight in Japan, this is appropriate.


Like the game's visual touches, the soundtrack also bears many Japanese-flavored overtones. Not just the varied music tracks, but even the minor sound effects and flourishes display the cultural flair. Naruto: Ninja Council 3 also features voice acting from the English version of the television series.


While the title's sights and sounds are true to the source material, the game itself doesn't quite hold up. Ninja Council 3 is a mission-based brawler. Each mission is selected from a grid and allow the player to select a favorite character from the series, like Kakashi, Sasuke, Kiba or Naruto himself. There is a good deal of variation between characters, which is fitting considering their different abilities and fighting styles. Completing certain missions will unlock additional characters.

Controls are a big problem. While walking around isn't too difficult, for some reason the jump button and the attack button are on opposite sides of the layout (Y button and A button, respectively), which makes timing a jumping strike almost impossible. Placing the button used for running (B) elsewhere or eliminating it entirely would have been better. Touch control isn't generally used for input except during special attacks, like Rock Lee's Front Lotus or Sasuke's Chidori. This turns out to beunwieldy, as nearly all of the techniques require stylus use to complete. Touching a panel on the lower screen begins the attack, but touch input of another sort, such as rubbing, spinning or tapping is necessary to finish -- a task to which the fingertips are generally unsuited. Fumbling for a stylus during the split-second needed to input the command often results in a failed attack.

Some of the missions are confusingly set up. Beating up thirty snakes within a time limit may or may not be beneficial to ninja training, but it's definitely not entertaining, especially when the hit detection is as unforgiving as it is here. Naruto or another hero will often get hit by a charging snake, only to get up and be hit immediately again by the same enemy. This process often repeats five to ten times before Naruto can be extracted from the vicious loop. Fighting ninjas is a bit more interesting, but again, the game too often repeats the defeat twenty enemies theme. One-on-one combat with a series character is by far the most interesting of the available missions, but these are few and far between. Other missions such as engaging in foot races and item collecting also serve to break up the monotony.


Two to four players can compete in Party Mode, which requires a Game Card for each player. Gamers can compete for treasure, try to get the most scrolls or simply fight it out to see which person falls last. The same stages and special attacks used in one player mode are available here, but only for the characters that each individual player has unlocked.


The impressive amount of playable characters and authentic artwork and sounds will definitely recommend Naruto: Ninja Council 3 to fans of the series. Greater attention to gameplay mechanics might have resulted in a broader appeal, but with an off-putting control setup, poor hit detection and repetitive objectives, gamers who've never heard of Naruto probably won't want to take the plunge.

final score 4.3/10

Staff Avatar Aaron Roberts
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