Naruto isn’t something I’m particularly familiar with, nor is it something I’ve ever been that interested in acquainting myself with. Nonetheless, it’s a popular franchise with a decent enough, albeit well worn, concept – a bunch of ninja oppose the forces of evil, etc – so the prospect of playing Naruto Shippuden 3D: The New Era was a somewhat enticing one. After all, surely a game based on an animé in which ninja throw around insane attacks in edge-of-your-seat fight sequences must be something pretty special, right?
Well, no, not really. You know those edge-of-your-seat fight sequences I just mentioned? There aren’t any. Naruto Shippuden 3D is a side-scrolling platformer in which Naruto makes his way through each level while kicking seven shades out of anyone or anything he crosses paths with and collecting scrolls and coins along the way. It’s all standard platforming fare: jumps, double-jumps, that sort of thing, which sounds fine in theory, except developer Takara Tomy seems to have gone to insane lengths to make this as boring as possible. Flat, uninteresting and clunky combat means you’ll just spend your time walking up to enemies and spamming the attack button until they fall down, before moving on and repeating the process until you come face to face with the level’s boss. You can perform a back flip dodge move by pressing the jump button mid combo, but more often than not I found this to be pretty pointless as it rarely had me evading an enemy’s attacks; stopping the combo early and actually jumping out of the way proved far more successful.
There’s more to Naruto Shippuden 3D than that, but none of it’s especially well done. You’ll have access to back-up characters who’ll leap in and perform a flashy attack that damages enemies and may allow access to previously inaccessible areas if done in the right place, although you’ll always know who to use and where to use them because an icon pops up telling you which character you need to access that area, which negates any reason for exploration or actually figuring anything out for yourself. Back-up characters’ attacks are triggered by a quick tap of the touch screen, which is also used to launch special attacks, of which you can store two at a time. By treating you to their own specific screen-filling animation sequence in which Naruto brings the pain in spectacular fashion, special attacks are easily the most impressive part of the game, or at least they are until you’ve seen their animations a handful of times, by which point you’ll have grown weary of them, more so because they’re not skippable. You triggered that attack, so you can damn well watch the animation each and every time you do so.
So while it’s clear that Takara Tomy tried to enhance the combat beyond the standard button mashing, the execution leaves something to be desired. But Naruto Shippuden 3D’s biggest crime is that it’s needlessly difficult because its upgrade system requires players to repeat levels over and over before they can gain access to anything of any use. Those scrolls and coins I mentioned earlier can be traded in for new back-up characters and upgrades to Naruto’s health and special attack meters, combo chains and the damage his special attacks dole out. The problem is that each upgrade is ludicrously expensive and once you’ve completed a level it’s highly unlikely you’ll have amassed enough scrolls to actually buy anything. Repeating levels until I’ve horded enough scrolls to buy some upgrades and actually progress is certainly not my idea of fun; it’s simply a less than cunning ploy to lengthen the game.
Naruto Shippuden 3D fails to capitalise on its source material by nerfing what should be some flashy and exciting combat, forcing repetition upon players and sporting distinctly bland presentation; levels are barren and dreary looking, while the story is equally dull and told by way of speech bubbles projected by stiffly animated characters. Now, I don’t care if a game I’m playing is based on something I have no interest in, as long as the game itself at the very least has enough redeeming features to make it enjoyable to play through. Unfortunately, Naruto Shippuden 3D: The New Era can boast very little in the way of enjoyment, instead being perfectly content to offer nothing but humdrum gameplay and irritating monotony enveloped in presentation that makes few attempts to ape the spectacle of the animé it’s based upon. If you’re a hardcore Naruto fan then you may be able to squeeze some blood out of this stone, but if you don’t know what a Shippuden is – and if you do know, drop us an email because I’m still none the wiser – or couldn’t care less about Naruto, then your money is best spent elsewhere.
Verdict – Off-target
Platforms Available – 3DS
Platform Reviewed – 3DS