Pre-E3 06: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja hands-on

The publisher name may have changed slightly (what with the Namco-Bandai combo), but Bandai's fevered output of anime-licensed fighting games hasn't slowed one bit. That being said, the latest Naruto offering will enjoy a surprising bit of innovation - or at the very least, modification - over the endless, cookie-cutter, anime-inspired brawlers Bandai’s been releasing for the past few years.

The 12-character lineup will obviously still feature a handful of your favorite series mainstays (Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee, Sasuke and more) doing battle with one another. But this time you'll be able to do a whole slew of new, interesting moves. You also have a partner, who can streak in from time to time to deal a quick attack or deliver a bonus item - though you don't choose who you get. The characters are paired up permanently, so whomever you choose as your main fighter will always have the same sidekick.

Additionally, each stage features a foreground and a background, and you can jump to and from each at will. And that's not the only unique bit about the battle arenas. In each, you'll also find bits and pieces that your character can grab and use as a weapon, as well as various, level-specific traps that either player can use to his or her advantage.

The most interesting bit, though, is that you can actually switch stages in mid-fight if you so choose. If you're getting pounded, you'll have the option to perform a special move that will knock you and your opponent to another, randomly selected area - possibly one that's better suited to your skills.