Our initial impressions of this battler are pretty fair. It looks nice enough, with simple cel-shaded character models set against some attractive and diverse backgrounds, and the control mechanics, while feeling a little ‘old’, are easy to grasp.
The fundamentals of the game are simple. You can choose three characters. Fights take place on a 2D plane, and you can dodge in and out of the screen by tapping either shoulder button.
Finding the game’s hidden depths isn’t quite so easy, though. Swapping characters in and out of battle and activating supers can feel a touch confusing.
And when you start, you’ll hit a level of difficulty where you get your face pounded into the ground without any idea of how or why, the CPU dishing out unholy amounts of damage in a blaze of blurred, cel-shaded neon madness. Once you get your eye in, though, you begin to work it out.
It all comes down to character swapping and super-move activation. Characters can be brought in and out of battle mid-combo, for example. You can start a combo with one, and half-way through, bring in another character to do their bit. This is the first key to understanding the game.
Second is the cueing system. Characters in a battle build up their super meter for damage done and taken, while characters out of battle build up their meter in the background.
Mastering how, when and why you use a character or activate their super is where the game gets its longevity, and various combinations of characters work well for different strategies.
At this point, Naruto really blossoms as a fighting game, and when you take into account the counters and dodges, you have a balanced, tactical battler with some really outrageous supers.
It may take a while to grasp, and it certainly takes practise to master, but underneath it all there’s a very solid and enjoyable fighting game.
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