On the touch screen, you can tap icons to activate the six power-up items that were randomly given to you before the battle. These items can refill some of your health, give you temporary strength and defense buffs, and even prevent your opponent from performing a finishing move. Power-ups are usually a bad idea in one-on-one fighting games, but here they fit like a glove. Some combos and finishers can take away more than half of your health, so having a way to recover and keep the fight going for a few more seconds is appreciated.
Nitpickers may question some balance issues, such as how certain characters can hit grounded foes while others can't, but the quick teleport move and rapidly re-filling Jutsu meter generally prove to be the great equalizer. Basically, once you learn the ins and outs, you can hold your own with any character on the roster.
The only real sore spot is the lack of play modes. You get a story mode that pairs together specific opponents, a battle mode that lets you do one-off matches or tackle all of the other characters in succession, and you get the usual wireless VS mode that requires both players to have their own system and cartridge. Honestly, the fighting is fast-and-furious enough to keep Naruto nuts occupied for a good while, especially if two friends make it a point to jam together, but we still think they should've included a character building mode and online play through Nintendo's WFC service.
Feb 29, 2008