Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes
The thing you need to know about this game going in is that it's strictly fighting. There is very little here in the way of a story and you truly do not even have to know who Naruto is to appreciate it. Anime licensed games tend to latch on to the fact that you're a fan if you're playing the game; this is not the case here. Sure it's nice to know who Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, and Kakashi are but do you need to know about their exploits as ninja from the Hidden Leaf Village? Nope! This game is all about the fighting and fortunately the system is very capable and enjoyable.
If you have been following the Naruto franchise for any length of time, chances are good you have played Ultimate Ninja 2 when it came out back in July. Well, it's hard to deny that Ultimate Ninja Heroes for the PSP is basically a watered down version of the console release. That doesn't mean it lacks in quality and it certainly doesn't mean that the originality isn't there; it's just that if you have played the full-fledged version of the game then you may be somewhat disappointed here.
In its truest form, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes is a 3D/2D fighting game. I say that it's both 3D and 2D because of the playing field on which you battle. There are multiple areas to teleport or jump to and it's these plains of combat that make the game so frenetic. The fighting takes place side to side like a traditional 2D fighter but once you start throwing in multi-tiered levels, you'll realize that the game bears many similarities to Nintendo's Smash Brothers series.
The fighting engine is mostly solid here and it seems to have been faithfully translated from the original PlayStation 2 title. The intensely fast nature of battling ninjas comes through brilliantly and smoothly. There are plenty of combos to be pulled off, counter attacks ripe for the picking, and areas of the map to utilize to your advantage. Granted the game strongly promotes button mashing over actual strategy most of the time but there are moments in between that alleviate to some semblance of depth.
In Naruto Ultimate Ninja 2, there were these special attacks that each character had. For the most part they are ported to this smaller version of the game but there is a cost involved. Rather than have multiple attacks, Ultimate Ninja Heroes only gives you one per character. It doesn't necessarily alter the way that the game plays out but it certainly gives you the sense that you're limited to what you can do; especially if you have played Ultimate Ninja 2. Also a source of disappointment is the noticeably smaller character roster which is lacking some notable and obscure names from the play list.
As with any good fighting game, the modes make or break the title. While Ultimate Ninja Heroes does feature a Versus CPU mode, Wireless multiplayer, and some mini-games to twiddle around with, the only "weighty" experience here comes in the form of Heroes Mode. In this particular gameplay mode, you're going to be taken through the motions of fighting up the ranks of CPU opponents. You'll work as a team and eventually beat the whole affair. There isn't much in the way of story or background here but the fighting experience is satisfying enough to make it worth while.
At the end of the day, the gameplay mechanics make Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes worthwhile. The console version of the game was solid and a lot of fun whether you were a Naruto fan or not. The same can be said of the PSP rendition and though it lacks modes, characters, and some of the special moves, it's a faithful representation of the game franchise. The multi-tired combat environment gives way to some intense action. With plenty of ninja moves tossed in for good measure, there's never a dull moment. I suppose the biggest flaw is the button-mashing aspect of combat. It doesn't allow for much strategy and can grow tiresome rather quickly.
Like other entries in the Naruto franchise, this game looks very similar to the anime with some fine areas of the design. The cel-shaded graphics resemble characters and there is enough detail in the world to make for some flush environments. Animation is another rock-solid area in Ultimate Ninja Heroes and some of these attacks look simply amazing. As nice looking as the game is, I do have to admit that there is something of a high pixel count and there have been better looking PSP games before. There's nothing that really detracts from the overall appeal of the game but I couldn't shake the feeling that everything could have been better.
If you have played one Naruto game then you have essentially played them all where the sound is concerned. It's safe to say that you really need to have an appreciation for anime dubs in order to get into the English vocals for this show. Some of the characters; Naruto in particular, have whiny voices that will grate on your nerves after a while and the limited phrases get repetitive rather quickly. The music is fine though and the sound effects are suitable enough for this style of game.
If you're a Naruto fan and you own a PSP then Naruto Ultimate Heroes is a game to get. Sure it's essentially a smaller port of the Ultimate Ninjas 2 game from the PlayStation 2 but it's still a solid fighting experience. The action is intense, the game resembles the show in every way, and though the roster is somewhat lacking, there are still plenty of familiar faces. The button mashing style of combat can lead to some boredom after a while but this is one smooth fighting entry for the PSP. Recommended