(Namco Bandai for PS2)
By Mike Delano
Games like the Ultimate Ninja series are how I always imagined fighting games in my head. Far from the supremely tactical maneuverings of a Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter, the battles in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 take place across huge, beautiful battlefields three stories high, with projectiles constantly flying, and special attacks requiring no more than a few simple button presses. Dark alleyways or cramped cage fights have no place in this world where every instance of physical combat between two characters feels like an epic, end-of-the-world showdown. Of course, there’s a tradeoff for battles this big and fast, and it’s gameplay so simplistic that it’s not very satisfying once the initial buzz wears off. You’ll be craving a little more combat depth since fighting makes up the meat of the game. The collecting missions and minigames that pad the main story mode are throwaways, so plan to spend most of your time chasing after unlockables or with a friend in versus mode. Thankfully, the overall presentation is fantastic, from the excellent graphics (the PS2 can impress in 2008?!) to the fine voice work and writing, so it’s great fun to play every time you pick it up. In short bursts, of course. You don’t want that buzz to wear off.