Aside from the magical students of Hogwarts, the cast of Naruto has got the be the country's favorite pack of school-bound adventurers out there. Their exploits took over Japan first and have since made their way over to our shores, ensuring many years of orange-draped ninja merchandise. A steady stream of games has helped buoy that popularity over the past year, but there's one title you won't be seeing despite its guaranteed success in the states - that'd be Naruto Shippuden: Gekitou Ninja Taisen EX.
EX hit Japanese shelves just two months ago. That means it's way ahead of the US storyline, featuring characters, plot points and villains that most of the US has yet to see. Also, it's the first game to take place in the series' Shippuden era, which picks up with Naruto and company two and a half years after the end of the current anime. A lot can happen in two years, so many characters are missing, aged or enhanced, all things that publisher D3 doesn't want to release onto an easily confused marketplace. By the time our anime catches up with the Japanese series, it'll be too late to put out EX in its current state. Thus, you'll never play this game.
But there is a light at the end of this shuriken-studded tunnel - the newly announced Naruto: Clash of Ninja MVZ will plunder the fighting engine and overall style of EX and totally rework for the American audience. That means a custom-built Naruto title that Japan never received. Everything from the environments to the playable characters will be changed, so even those who imported EX will have something to cheer about. Granted, it's only appearing due to a lapse in the anime, but hey, a new game is a new game.
If you played either Clash of Ninja titles for the GameCube, you know what to expect out of MVZ and EX - bouncy, rubber-bandy anime action that sends the fighters flying and teleporting in all directions. It's almost as chaotic as the immortal Marvel vs. Capcom 2, but not quite. We've reviewed both of them here and here.
EX features 14 characters, some of which have yet to appear in game form or in the US at all. Longtime fans haven't played as Sasuke's brother Itachi yet, nor the clay-wielding Deidara or Team Guy's Ten Ten, but EX brings 'em all in for a round. And if you're hoping of finally pitting Sasuke against Itachi for an all out grudge match, sorry, as Sasuke's MIA. Other Clash 2 vets like Shikamaru and Hinata Hyuga are also gone, as they don't fit into EX 's post time-skip storyline.