Everyone's favorite ninja-in-training is coming to the PlayStation 3 this October in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, and we checked out Namco Bandai's booth at E3 2008 to get our hands on this flashy fighting game. The whole Naruto roster is on hand to take place in the action, so fans will be able to create any matchup they please. With its impressively sharp visuals and accessible control system, this is looking to be one of the strongest Naruto titles yet.
Jumping into the head-to-head fighting mode, we chose Sasuke as our primary fighter, but the selecting didn't end there. We then had to choose two teammates to back us up throughout the fight. These allies won't jump in when you are defeated; rather, you can summon them intermittently to jump in, land a flurry of blows on your opponent, and then jump out again. We chose Chouji and Sakura, autoselected our computer opponents, and then headed to a riverside arena for our showdown.
We were initially struck by the ample size of the battle area. It spanned a sandy bank and a grassy knoll beyond and was bordered by forests and the river. We ran around with the left analog stick for a while to get our bearings, and though we wandered hither and yon, we always refocused on our opponent whenever we inclined the stick toward him. The size of the area was evocative of many of the fights from the anime series, which often take place across a broad swath of land. Soon enough our opponent, Naruto himself, got tired of our antics and began a fevered assault.
At first we jumped and dodged out of the way, but then we struck back with attacks of our own. Jump and attack are each mapped to one face button, as is the shuriken throw. We soon felt the need to kick things up a notch, so we hit the chakra button to charge up our strikes. Single shurikens grew larger and multiplied, and our fists and feet began to pack more of a punch. Holding the chakra button down for longer made our attacks even stronger, and soon we were dealing some pretty hefty damage. Naruto countered with his shadow clone technique, which left us pretty low on health. We desperately called in our reinforcements to lend us a hand, and their attacks were quite effective, though we then had to wait a while before using them again and were soon defeated.
Despite getting our headband handed to us, we enjoyed the smooth controls and vibrant visual effects, especially during chakra and jutsu attacks. The open arenas allowed the battle to flow naturally through space, and the flashy reinforcement strikes were definitely handy in a pinch. Naruto is on track for an impressive PlayStation 3 debut, and we'll be sure to keep you updated in the coming months.