While Naruto's roots are firmly placed in the original manga series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 takes a lot of its look from the successful anime series. Featuring the same slickly animated style and visuals, the game is bright, colourful and constantly dynamic.
From the menu screen you're immersed into the vibrant tone of Naruto, with a choice of Practice mode, Free Battle for a customisable fight with any of the available characters on the 13 battle maps, the story-driven Master Road and other assorted modes to check your records and settings.
The fights reveal nicely animated visuals which act and sound like their cartoon counterparts. Everything moves at an astonishing pace, with dramatic zooming and panning to keep track of the characters, as well as intensifying the action. Special moves light up the arenas, bathing them in colour and flashes, while Ultimate Jutsu attacks are accompanied by impressive cutscene animations which can be watched individually when you collect them during your quest. It all works together to make a satisfying and faithful recreation of the source material.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 brings a massive roster of over 50 characters, with 11 unlocked when you first play the game. Fans of the hugely popular manga and anime series can enjoy the colourful likes of Kiba, Hinata, Sakura and, of course, Naruto, all eager and ready to fight.
If you want to unleash extras, the Master Road mode is your path to discovery. The more you play through this story-driven mode, the more characters you encounter (and fight) and the more you unlock. It doesn't take long to find battlers such as the hulking Hiruko and the fearsome Kisame lighting up the colourful character select screen.
Naturally it's the brash and headstrong Naruto who takes centre stage in the main storyline, although the game allows you to play as a vast variety of other characters as the plot unfolds. Even if you're not familiar with the wealth of personalities on display, you soon become acquainted due to the swift drafting in of new faces during the story to keep you on your toes.
The ninja way
There is always something going on in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3. As a beat 'em up that allows you to fight on multiple levels, up to four characters can brawl simultaneously in an arena, making for some fraught and fun gameplay. Battles can bounce between foreground and background, upper stages and ground floor all in the space of seconds, adding unpredictability to the smooth and fast fights.
Should you want a little more purpose than just beating your foes into submission, the Master Road throws you into a mission based story where there are a mixture of over 80 conflicts and side scrolling platform style objectives where you must fulfil a certain goal such as reaching the end of the level in time or defeating a number of enemies. These offer a break from the regular fighting action, and there are even some challenging restrictions during the main battles to keep you guessing.
Power-ups, bonuses and collectibles can all be gained, keeping the incentive to progress, although it's the large combos and special moves which steal the show. Sandstorms, energy barriers (which can separate combatants), extendable tails, flying dragon sculptures... all these and more will emerge during a bout, with entertaining and engaging results.
Unleash your jutsu on friends
With up to four players able to take each other on simultaneously using the Wireless Ad Hoc Mode, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 is perfect for a multiplayer blast. Any combination can be created, whether it's three on one, two vs two or every man (or woman) for themselves - which is particularly fun when you realise that alliances can be broken as quickly as they're forged.
The fast and furious action doesn't stop in just a Free Battle brawl, either. During the single player Master Road mode, there are missions which require partners to help you fight a common foe. Up to three players can tackle these threats together when called upon, meaning friends can share your adventures and experiences in Naruto's quest.
Regardless of whether you team up with mates or just want to take them on, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 features a fantastic multiplayer enjoyment for Naruto and beat 'em up fans alike.