TGS 2003: Naruto: Narutimate Hero Hands-On Impressions

Bandai is crafting a second brawler based on the increasingly popular manga and anime franchise.

Naruto is a manga-cum-anime series that's big in Japan and has recently been gaining a lot of popularity in the United States as well. Last spring, the first game based on Naruto was released for the GameCube in Japan by Tomy, and now Bandai is bringing out its own game based on the series this October for the PlayStation 2. The new game's title, approximated from Japanese, is Naruto: Narutimate Hero, and like the first game, it's a high-flying fighting game somewhat akin to the PowerStone and Super Smash Bros. series in its cartoon-like, larger-than-life mechanics and presentation.

We got to try a bit of Narutimate Hero's versus mode, which let us pick from a fairly large stable of characters from the series. Once in the match, the game plays about like you'd expect--you can pull off a variety of hand-to-hand and projectile combat moves by using various button and d-pad combinations. You'll also be able to dodge, leap way, way up into the air, run up walls, and perform various other evasive maneuvers, and these are useful since the combat moves at such a fast pace.

The look of Naruto: Narutimate Hero is especially noteworthy, as it features one of the most stylish and unique implementations of cell-shading we've seen to date. Though the characters have the flat, cell-like cartoon look that's typical of this graphical technique, they also feature prominent shading that looks like it was drawn on by a pencil. The net effect of this is that Narutimate Hero's characters pretty much look like they've just sprung from a manga; indeed, matches are also preceded by cutscenes in which the characters taunt each other from the panels of a comic book. The game's backgrounds also have a characteristic look that's reminiscent of hand-drawn art, and overall, the game is quite appealing to look at.

The build of Naruto: Narutimate Hero at Bandai's TGS booth was said to be 100% complete, and the game is currently scheduled for a late October release in Japan. Though it doesn't currently have a US release, the Naruto anime has been getting more popular there, so perhaps Bandai or another publisher will opt to bring it over. We'll bring you more on the game if and when that happens.

See more of GameSpot's coverage of the 2003 Tokyo Game Show.

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