Sometimes it seems as though a person could close their eyes, throw a rock in any direction, and hit a Naruto game. Since the anime franchise became big, countless installments have come out across every platform. With so many options it can be rather daunting for a fan of the show to find a game that's worthwhile. One of the biggest franchises within the Naruto game world is arguably Clash of the Ninja, and with the third installment of the Shippuden line just hitting the Wii, there's plenty of reasons to check it out!
Now, for all intents and purposes, Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 is pretty old hat (though really hard to say ten times fast). It's a straightforward, all-out, anime fighter with simple to pick up controls and a bevy of things that tie it to the Naruto franchise. Let's face it; this has been the premise backing every game the plucky little ninja has had. I suppose there's no reason to reinvent the wheel, though it should be said that this latest installment certainly brings a little more to the table than previous iterations of this particular line.
Because Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 takes place during the Shippuden part of the franchise, it means Naruto is a little more grown up and there are tons of new bad guys as well as some familiar faces that look more mature. It’s a fantastic setting for the series that we’re just getting into through VIZ’s American DVD releases. It is also worth noting that the story mode here doesn’t give too much away in terms of plotlines which haven't arrived on this shore, so fans of the show don’t have to worry about spoilers. To be quite fair however, there’s a good chance they won’t get very far in the absurdly difficult single player campaign anyway.
Even though there are several modes that will eat players time away, the one that most gamers will take up first is the Single Player Story mode. In this adventure setting, players will work their way through the story of Shippuden and further their game by beating opponents and accomplishing missions. This mode is fairly lengthy, but the problem is that the game becomes unrelenting in terms of how challenging it can be. It’s not just that the difficulty increases as one progresses through the game either, Revolution 3 cranks it up for no apparent reason for some battles. Those brave enough to enter the mode should plan for lots of frustration as punishment comes randomly. Getting a hit in can be virtually impossible sometimes and on some matches players can expect to be dead in a matter of seconds. Needless to say, this saps a lot of the fun out of the Story mode, though if you stick through it there are plenty of nice bits.
Fortunately, though the single-player bit lacks in consistency, the rest of the game and the combat system more than makes up for it. It may not be inherently different than other Naruto titles, but Revolution 3 tweaks the mechanics just enough to feel fresh and refined. The system feels sharper than other Naruto games and it’s perfectly balanced for newcomers and veterans alike. The controller set up for the Wii also offers several options including motion control, classic, and the GameCube controller.
The flow of the gameplay works similarly to other fighting games — two characters battle it out in a one-on-one environment and the one who defeats their opponent within a set time limit wins the round. In all honestly, Revolution 3 is about as straightforward as a fighting game can get — there’s a hard attack, light attack, throw, and jutsu button. Players can also maneuver back and forth through the environment, jump, duck, use ninja substitution, and block. The gameplay is very similar to other installments of this series, but the uninitiated could compare it to something like a faster, more insane version of Tekken.
Many of the 40 characters have a unique set of moves, though some characters are basically identical to others (think of them as powered up variants). Anyone familiar with the anime will instantly be able to identify special moves and appreciate how much detail the developers put into making every character authentic. For instance, Kakashi, Guy, Gaara, Naruto, and Sakura all fight exactly as one would expect. This variety and attention to the series' detail goes a long way to extending the life of this title and it’s safe to say game nights with large groups of friends who love the show will last for hours. This brings us to our next topic: the multiplayer.
Locally, the multiplayer is incredible. The available options for this mode are extensive and the core gameplay that backs everything up is rock-solid. This is easily the mode where most gamers will spend the majority of their time. In addition to one-on-one multiplayer, there are also plenty of options to explore, tag-team, and a 4-player feature that turns out to be every bit as intense as it sounds. I found the regular matches to be far more interesting, but this mode is definitely worth investing some time in as well.
Unfortunately online multiplayer is quite a different story entirely. Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 features wi-fi support for non-local matches. While great in theory, the quality of the wi-fi structure here leaves something to be desired. Matches drop frequently and excessive lag makes it nearly impossible to time moves correctly and an all around miserable experience. Occasionally players will find a good match, but that’s something of a rarity.
Graphically, Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 is more or less what one would expect for a fighter such as this one the Wii. The characters are cel-shaded and match their animated counterparts quite well. The graphics are bright and colorful, but lack the resolution that games on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 enjoy. Backgrounds are a bit of a letdown and sometimes the animations themselves look kind of awkward, but considering how frantic the gameplay is, it's hardly an issue.
The sound in this game is good as well. A decent, familiar English voice cast is present, though no Japanese track is included unfortunately. The game sounds exactly like one would expect as well, so that means lots of punch and kick effects and screaming to boot. The music is pulled directly from the show, so fans will appreciate that as well.
Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 is probably the best entry the franchise has seen in quite some time. The fighting system is as strong as it has ever been and it truly is a blast to play. I seriously haven't had this much fun with a fighting game in quite some time. Fans of the franchise and players just looking for a good fight will find a welcome and rewarding game that is great for groups of friends sit down with. The single player mode can be too brutal for its own good, the wi-fi play isn't very stable, and the presentation could have been more consistent, but this game is definitely worth picking up despite its flaws.
Naruto Shippuden: Clash of Ninja Revolution 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes.