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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja - hands on

Only having one attack button kinda keeps the combos simple, but the multi-layered, 2D stages force you to stay on your toes. As you're blocking a barrage of punches and kicks, a giant snake statue may suddenly start breathing fire or your opponent could call in his helper for a quick hit or special weapon (health, shuriken and the like).

Also, at any point you can hop into the background of each level and scamper around, looking for items to use in the scrap. If the action gets too hot, you're given the option of taking the fight to another area, one that happens to give you a slight health bonus when you arrive.



The levels we fought on ranged from the extremely simple (a flat, grassy field with a couple of trees) to elaborate (bustling city street with scalable buildings all around), with some of the later boss levels really getting dangerous. Falling off the level entirely wasn't out of the question, though; if you're good, you can toss the other guy off the map over and over - cheap win, but effective.

It's a totally different take on the franchise, but the gimmicky super moves and trap-laden arenas should definitely keep fans battling all summer long. Plus, aside from the Versus modes, there's a Story mode for each character and a Mission mode that requires you to win under set conditions. Will it be deep enough for plain old fighting fans to check out? We'll know for sure in just a couple of weeks.

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