Naruto: Ninja Council 3 - hands on

Given the continued success of both the DS and the Naruto anime juggernaut, it's a no-brainer that the orange-clad ninja would make a new handheld appearance. Due later this spring, Ninja Council 3 will offer more run-and-jumpy action for fans of the series while tossing in a new mission-based level system that loosely follows the plot of the cartoon.

Instead of beating one level after another, you're given the option of clearing individual missions within a given world. Each mini area has a specific goal to accomplish, not unlike what Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura have to go through in their daily training. Well, that's true if mandated ninja tasks include beating down wolves, spiders and various henchmen that wander the countryside. And if these quests are accomplished by running left to right and mashing down on the attack button over and over.

It's a simple formula that's been done time and time again, but it must be said that this Council does strive to be something more than the previous two. The missions may be simple, but they are varied and offer more than one-on-one fighting. Ninja tricks like wall running and super leaps are fun to pull off, and the requisite "secret ninja art" attacks break up the monotony by integrating touch screen commands.

When using a powered-up ninja art (to clear the screen of enemies, for example), the bottom screen will display a series of kanji. You have to match four of these characters with four on top to successfully execute the attack. Sounds easy, but recognizing kanji that quickly will require a few attempts.


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