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Naruto: Ninja Destiny: 3D on DS

Company: Tomy Ltd.

We recently got a chance to sit down with Tomy Ltd. and discuss in depth their next Naruto release for the Nintendo DS, Naruto: Ninja Destiny (aka Naruto: Shinobi Retsuden in Japan). We learned a lot of interesting facts, including how this version of the game improves on many of the problems seen in the original release. The least of these changes is a rework of the game's handling of the 3D environment to give it a much more appealing feel.

In fact, that was one of the aspects that the publishers stressed the most, how this 3D fighter would have a better handle on frame rate and the unresponsiveness issues that were prevalent in the first game. Here, the developers put extra effort into reworking the system so that it could handle the fast-paced action easier and quicker. Associate Producer at Tomy, Nobby Matsuo, stated that the DS has a lot of libraries to help make polygons and that it isn't really difficult to do a 3D game on the DS. This version gives them a second chance at re-creating that pocket fighting game with all the same gameplay style and feel, but with more characters and a smoother backbone.

While the Naruto line has had other 3D fighters, Naruto: Ninja Destiny will be the first of that flavor on the DS to come to America. The style of the gameplay has a very Tekken feel to it. So while there won't be a lot of running around the arena, the action stays pretty close to the center and you will be able to dodge attacks by stepping left or right into another plane. These dodges can be either a substitution jutsu, or a simple sidestep depending on which shoulder button you press.

As for other improvements, besides the 13 characters that are already offered in the game, Ninja Destiny will support three new US exclusives: Tsunade, Jiraiya and Orochimaru, which tells me we may be able to take part in the big fight between the three characters when Jiraiya and Naruto go searching for Tsunade after the Third Hokage's death. Of course, characters like Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Neji, Nine-Tailed Naruto and Itachi will still make their appearance.

While each character will have one major Jutsu he/she can pull off, this would, of course, be their most cinematic and flashy Jutsu; several smaller ones will appear in the combos you can execute in the game. For instance, while Sasuke's fire flower Jutsu might not be as easy as a button press, hitting a combo sequence might cause the enemy to fly back and Sasuke will fire off his shot.

During battles (which can take place in eight different environments, one being an exclusive for the US release), the player can stock up to six items that will do everything from improve his health or chakra to increase his defensive or offensive capabilities. These six items appear on the touch screen as large buttons that can easily be tapped with your thumbs while in the heat of battle. The idea here was to make using a wide variety of items as easy as possible and still give it the arcade-fighter feel.

The game's story will start off during the Chunin exams, carry into the search for Tsunade and end around episode 100 where Tsunade has become the Fifth Hokage. While Tomy could not say exactly how far into the series the game goes (they said "about episode 100"), one of the arenas is the waterfall at the edge of The Leaf Village's territory where Naruto and Sasuke fight and Nine Tailed Naruto is a playable character, so the game could extend all the way to the Sound Ninja's request of Sasuke to leave the Leaf and the following chase by his friends to bring him back.

Naruto: Ninja Destiny will have three gameplay modes: Story, Battle and Wireless Battle. Story Mode is going to be just as it sounds. Here you will play through the events of the show (as opposed to an original story line as seen in the Japanese version), and unlock characters as you progress. In Battle Mode, you can take on either specific characters, or square off against a series of random opponents. While Tomy believes these are solid modes, they believe "the heart of this game" lies in its Wireless Battle Mode. Here you can connect to anyone else in the immediate vicinity that has a Naruto: Ninja Destiny cartridge and challenge them to a fight. The game will only be one-on-one combat, so don't expect any kind of tag-team type fights.

With the year it took to grow Naruto: Ninja Destiny from Naruto: Shinobi Retsuden, it looks like the developers at Dream Factory have put a lot of effort into ironing out many of the problems people had with the original and plan to make the first 3D fighter for the DS a hit in the US. Expect to see it on shelves February 26th with a Teen ESRB rating.

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

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