It's a pretty safe bet that Naruto is just about the most popular anime running in North America right now, so publisher D3 is providing due service to all the fans of the series out there with its third Naruto-based fighting game, Clash of Ninja Revolution. This is the series' first appearance on the Wii, and it looks like the developer has done quite a bit to enhance the sequel for the unique capabilities of the platform. It also generally looks like the most fully featured Naruto fighter yet, with a sizeable cast of characters and a wealth of gameplay modes on offer. We got to take a look at a few of those characters and modes recently.
As we've previously reported, the Japanese version of Clash of Ninja Revolution focuses on Naruto Shippuuden, which is set later in the series' continuity when Naruto and friends are older. Because those episodes haven't made it to US shores yet, the developers chose to literally toss out the 14-character roster in the Japanese game and start over with a younger cast of characters that will tally 20 in the final game. So in addition to replacing existing characters in the Japanese game with their younger selves, a number of new characters have been added who weren't in the original at all. The game has also been enhanced in a few other ways when compared with the Japanese version. For instance, there will be a number of two-part stages that allow you to transition from one adjacent fighting arena to another, and there will be eight of these transitional stages in the American release, versus six in the Japanese game.
The core fighting engine here should be familiar to those who played the previous Clash of Ninja games, but it looks like quite a bit of new gameplay has been added for each character and in general. As we noted at the E3 Media & Business Summit, the fighters' most powerful "jutsu" attacks--which proceed in an over-the-top fashion with cinematic camera angles--can be controlled with Wii Remote and Nunchuk motions now. There are a number of other places where you can use motion controls. During those stage transitions we previously mentioned, you can waggle one remote to get in a solid hit en route to the next arena, or you can use the other one to teleport ahead and land before your opponent to set up your next attack. For instance, you can shake the controller at the right time to deflect some projectiles, and even the basic attacks can be delivered with a good controller shake. It's worth pointing out that diehard GameCube fans can still play the game with the controller from that system, if they prefer.
A number of general changes and additions should make the fighting more interesting this time around. The arenas now have objects scattered around them that will provide cover, and you can snap directly to that cover by using the dodge button near one of the objects. Revolution also offers the first four-player combat in the series, which you can set up in team-versus-team or battle royale configurations. Purportedly, the performance has been increased considerably in comparison with the Japanese version, which we're told ran at a paltry 10 to 15 frames per second and suffered significant slowdowns. We tried a two-player match with two computer-controlled characters thrown in, and while it was noticeably less smooth than playing one-on-one, it was still quite playable.
It looks like the designers have put a lot of thought into giving each character his or her own unique and varied moves, as well as special attacks. Naruto naturally has an ability that lets him clone himself, so you've got several Narutos hanging out in the arena as long as your chakra meter lasts. On the other hand, Kakashi has a move that lets him copy certain incoming special attacks from other characters if you time your execution right. And Tenten has a move that lets her drop a trap on the ground to ensnare characters who then wander over it. We're not able to reveal the entire lineup of characters just yet, but if they all have such a diverse array of moves at their disposal, the combat in the game should end up being pretty varied.
In addition to all of the expected story, versus, and training modes in the game, Clash of Ninja Revolution will have a few Wii-based minigames to occupy your time as well. One of them is a simple shuriken shooting gallery that has you firing off throwing stars at pop-up cardboard targets for points. Another game has you performing martial arts kata of sorts with the controllers to make Naruto perform training moves; we had a hard time wrapping our heads around that one. But the most addictive one from our perspective has Naruto splitting himself into multiple clones, each of which flits quickly around the screen. When they stop moving, you have a few seconds to point to the original Naruto. Each round adds on more iterations of Naruto, and while it's pretty easy to track the movements of the original guy when there are only three of them onscreen, it's not so easy when there are a dozen of them.
Clash of Ninja Revolution is looking like a solid third installment in the popular fighting series. Because the Wii isn't enormously upgraded from the GameCube in terms of hardware, this game has seen a similarly modest bump in graphical quality. Our favorite sequences were the cinematic attacks, which use creative camera angles and fast action to effectively approximate the sort of high-flying combat you'd see in the TV series. The game is due out in late October, so look for a full review to hit around that time.