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Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Impact
Score: 68%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Cyber Connect2
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 -2 (Ad Hoc)
Genre: Action/ Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Impact is the first of the PSP-based Ultimate Ninja games to take the fighting into 3D space, and while it hits the mark in a lot of the right places, there isn't really anything that makes Impact truly stand out.

When it comes to the main characters, Impact does a good job of portraying them both visually and audibly. Each character continues to be voiced by their American translation actor, while the models themselves look just like they should. Its the rest of the game that makes Impact bland ...both on a presentation level and a gameplay one.

Most of the game consists of fighting hordes of cookie-cutter ninja that all look exactly the same. While most of the time you will be fighting the same bland enemies, there are occasions where you will fight multiples of some of the named characters as well, like Sasuke fighting tons of Naruto clones. Even then, the fights consist mainly of wave after wave of the same model. As a result, you tend to feel like you aren't really making any progress, even if you've mowed down dozens of enemies.

The rest of Ultimate Ninja Impact's audio does what it needs to do. The standard Naruto music is accompanied by a variety of sound effects, but much like the rest of the game, there isn't anything here that makes Impact really stand out. Though there is one aspect that gets annoying pretty fast, and that's the one-liners spouted off by your character or one of the other main characters in the mission. The various characters speak up often, but none of them seem to have a wide range of comments to say. As a result, you will hear a character make the same remarks over and over again before you are done with a level. In the end, the game might as well be played with the sound turned off.

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Impact's Ultimate Road mode is the game's main story. Here, you will cover most of the major battles from the Kazekage Rescue Mission all the way through Naruto's fight against Pain and to the end of the Five Kage Summit story.

Ultimate Road portrays Naruto's journey as a map with different stops consisting of shops, gifts and story events containing both dialogue and fights. While there are a few forks in this road, the path is pretty linear and it's just a way to bring you from one fight to the next.

As for the fights themselves, like I said before, Impact is a 3D fighting game. Similar to the console-based Ultimate Ninja Storm games. There is a difference though. In Storm you pretty much jump straight into the fight. In Impact, you are dropped into a larger map that not only contains your main enemy, usually some big bad guy, but also a lot of that main enemy's henchmen. These can be anything from Itachi's crows to Deidara's clay spiders, but more often than not, they will be variations on human fighters with only a few different kinds of attacks. In all cases, these enemies go down in only a few hits, and many of your characters' moves are designed to deal out damage in all directions instead of direct attacks like you would expect for one-on-one confrontations.

As you progress through the game, you will not only unlock more playable characters to use in the other Versus modes, but you will also unlock battle cards that can be used to modify your characters' stats. These typically just increase numbers like attack, defense, speed, luck and chakra, but you can also get bonus benefits by putting cards that have some connection on the same character. An example would be using the cards for Teuchi and Ayame, the proprietors of the Ichiraku Ramen shop. Individually, they increase the character's health and chakra, but when both cards are put on the character, you also get a major health-restore bonus when you find a bowl of ramen in the field.

Other modes in Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Impact include a Tag Missions option that takes you through some co-op missions where you and a friend (via Ad hoc connection), or you and a CPU-controlled character, take on various challenges. The other mode in the game is Extra Missions where you are tasked to take on some even more challenging jobs than the ones in Ultimate Road. Truthfully, I found the Extra Missions to be a far better experience than the Ultimate Road one; they were at least more of a challenge.

One of the reasons that Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Impact feels as bland as it does is because it's not very difficult. As I said before, the typical mission has you running around a map for a while taking out cookie-cutter enemies until you've cleared enough of them to make the real enemy appear. Even then though, I found myself rarely failing a mission and having to try it over again. I don't know how much of this was because the game has you pretty much pressing one button over and over again to perform some killer combos, or if it simply feels that way because you are mowing down hundreds of enemies at a pretty constant rate, but either way, there just isn't a lot of challenge in Ultimate Ninja Impact.

Game Mechanics:
Like I said above, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Impact is designed around being able to take on dozens of enemies at a time, and because of that, it is really easy to perform attacks that do massive amounts of damage in all directions.

There aren't that many different button combos you will need to learn in order to perform these attacks either. You will find yourself primarily tapping the (O) button over and over again with the occasional Triangle or (X) thrown in for some slight variations, if for nothing else, than just because you are tired of seeing the same attack come out of your character. In the end, this fighting style just makes Ultimate Ninja Impact feel more like a button-masher, and while I feel like the developers were trying to keep the Ultimate Ninja series in the fighting genre that it has always been in, the combination of the controls with the open maps and hordes of enemies makes this game more of a hack-n-slash title.

If you are like me and you see the words Ultimate Ninja, you think about one of the best running Naruto fighting series to come out. Unfortunately, I have to say that Impact simply doesn't live up to that standard. As it is, it is barely a fighting game, and most Naruto fans are going to expect something different than what this game is offering. If the title was under a different line of Naruto games, then I might feel differently about it, but even then, there is a lot of lackluster in this game from beginning to end. If you are still considering picking up this title, then I would recommend a rental before an all-out purchase.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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