Aug 29, 2007
You’ll be forgiven if you feel like you’ve played this orange-clad ninja beatdown before: it’s a stripped-down port of the PS2 brawler Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2, which was itself only slightly tweaked from the first Ultimate Ninja which came out just last year. So yes: if you’ve played one of these “3D characters in 2D worlds” bash-a-thons – or the Smash Brothers games they’re clearly styled after – you should be right at home. Which is good, because then you can get straight to the really rather nicely crafted face-kicking.
This is flat-out one-on-one combat, plain and simple. Well, okay: it’s simple, but not too plain. All of the 20 characters – down from 30 in Ultimate 2 - are mystical ninja of one kind or another. So, your base selection of punches, kicks, thrown weapons and guard breaks are complemented by flashy, “jutsu” moves – like, for instance, when Sakura spawns a giant-sized spirit clone of herself with fireball eyes and a tendency to smash her enemies under its mammoth open palm.
The action is quick, the control scheme relatively simple to pick up; almost everything is handled with taps of the d-pad and single or double-taps of the circle button (double-tapping circle to dash is odd, though). There’s a fair selection of moves, though you won’t use most of them – this is a pretty button-mashy affair. But it’s solid, it looks really good and it moves smoothly.
The game modes are a bit stripped down from the PS2 versions: you’ve got one-on-one matches with the CPU and three-on-three survival matches, which can get brutal near the end, when the game boosts your opponents’ stats mercilessly. You’ve got Promotion Test missions, in which you have to complete a battle under certain parameters (when they’re super-fast, with a full life bar, etc.)… and that’s it except for multiplayer. However, the fact that multiplayer modes include a game sharing option, so you can huck shuriken at a friend who doesn’t even have the game – provided you live through the centuries-long loading screens – is really appreciated. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes is easily one of the best fighting games on PSP, and one of this fall’s strongest portable titles.