It’s hard to imagine that the Nintendo DS, the wildly popular handheld from Nintendo, still hasn’t covered all the gameplay genres. Yet 3D fighting on the handheld has been pretty much non-existent…until now. Naruto Ninja Destiny on DS is the first true 3D fighting game on Nintendo’s portable, and it’s a good one. Featuring scenes, characters, and storylines from up to the 140th episode of the hit TV series on Cartoon Network, Ninja Destiny provides Naruto fans with the portable fighting action they’ve been lacking.
Originally released in Japan, the US version of Naruto: Ninja Destiny is an improvement in just about every way from its Japanese counterpart. More characters, a more consistent framerate, an improved story mode, as well as tweaks to the fighting engine means that this is easily the better version. For those unfamiliar with the cartoon, most of the terminology and character names being thrown around in the game’s story mode will be quite confusing, but your enjoyment of the fighting action isn’t dependent on the shallow backstory, anyway. It’s unfortunate, however, that you can’t pick your character in story mode. Instead, your character and opponents are all pre-determined for purposes of moving the story forward. The story mode is fairly short, and depending on your skill level, can easily be completed within an hour. Still, it’s fun to re-visit the story mode once you’ve mastered the different characters and run through it with your newfound skills.
Of course, the meat of the game can be found in the single and multiplayer battles, where you choose from one of sixteen characters and battle against the CPU or, ideally, other players. In general, the characters are well balanced, and during my playtime I didn’t ever find any overpowered characters, or especially weak ones. Most of the fighting is done through the dpad, though you can use the touch screen for one of fifteen different power ups that can be used to turn the tide of battle. Fortunately, the buttons on the touch screen used for the special attacks are quite large, making it easy to select them. In fact, once you work with the characters and get to know their specials, you probably won’t have to look down to press the proper button. The power ups can be used to replenish health or chakra, to increase your attack power, and also to block enemies from using jutsu, among other things.
Playing wirelessly against other people works great too, especially when you’ve both spent time learning a character. The speed of the game holds up through the local wireless play. Unfortunately, you can’t play Naruto: Ninja Destiny online via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection service. This feature, perhaps reserved for the next Naruto 3D fighter, would’ve added a ton of replay value to a game that could use some more depth to truly set itself apart.
The graphics in Naruto: Ninja Destiny are outstanding. The team at developer Dream Factory did a fantastic job of bringing the art and characters of Naruto to life with 3D graphics. The animations on the characters are superb, with fluid movements reminiscent of the cartoon. The framerate on this game is also rock solid, resulting in silky smooth moves and fast paced gameplay. Really, I don’t think you can expect better results in 3D from Nintendo’s ubiquitous handheld.
As the Naruto brand continues to grow, the products associated with the brand will continue to flow. As the first 3D fighter on the DS, Naruto Ninja Destiny is clearly a credit to the franchise and a testament to the 3D capabilities of the DS. Aside from concerns regarding the game’s length, and considering that this is a pocket fighter, there really is no doubt that this game will be a welcome addition for Naruto fans and fighting game fans.