Yeah, I know I've been talking a lot about Naruto lately, but don't worry, this will probably be my last post for a while. I'll try to keep the following lines as much spoiler-free as possible, but if you're following the series and don't want to know anything about Shippuden you'll probably want to skip to my thoughts on the game (after the picture of its cover). So, I've only seen the first 3 episodes yet, but so far it's being nothing short of AWESOME! With so much filler shit I've almost forgotten how great the story arcs are. It all starts with Naruto's return to the village, and so far I've only seen him, Sakura, Shikamaru, Temari and Gaara(from, the "kids, that is, because the other characters stay basically the same). I already knew they had different outfits, which is good for Naruto because the full-orange one was ridiculous, and although some are almost the same (Shikamaru) or retain the basic aspects of the first ones (Naruto, Sakura, Gaara), Temari has a completely different outfit, much better than the old one, in my opinion.
They've all grown up (just look at the picture above) and Shikamaru also changed earrings, but unfortunately some things stay the same, and Sakura's boobs remain strangely undeveloped. Seriously, I'm worried about the girl, she's cute as hell but she really needs bigger breasts. Anyway, one thing that's worthy of mention is that, since Naruto was away from the village, he wasn't able to participate in the chuunin exam, so from the old group he's the only one who's still a genin (lower ninja). Everyone else is either a chuunin (middle ninja) or a jonin (higher ninja). This is rather ironic, that the most powerful shinobi from the "kids" has the lowest rank, but as of the first episodes the chuunin exam is about to begin, so hopefully he will finally advance in ranking. Also, funny how Shikamaru, the first one to advance to chuunin, earlier in part 1 of the anime, is not one of the select few who are already jonin in Shippuden. Overall i'm really liking this new part of the series and I can't wait to see the remaining characters and the future plot developments.
Now to the game. I have to admit that I had low expectations for Ultimate Ninja 3, for two reasons. First, the previous game was really similar to the first one, and this one seemed like it would be no different, and I hate sequels who look more like expansions than a new game. Second, the first two games were hard as hell! Really, not only the AI was merciless, but some battles also had stupidly difficult winning conditions, like winning with a certain special move or with a certain amount of energy or chakra left. If just winning was already hard, than winning with this conditions was almost impossible at times, and it was really frustrating to defeat the opponent but still lose the battle because the special conditions weren't met. I actually reviewed Ultimate Ninja 2 for PTGamers back in the day, you can read it here. Of course, my international friends won't understand shit, but they can at least see the score and look at the pretty pictures.
Fortunately, UN3 is completely different in this aspect. The game is so much easier, and thus enjoyable, than the last one that this one really seems like a real sequel. Of course that the difficulty level wasn't the only change, and the gameplay itself is a little different. In the previous games, in order to use a special attack, you had to press triangle in order to activate your chakra and then attack, with the resulting special attack being different according to how many times you pressed triangle before, from 1 to 3. In UN3 this is no more. For the ultimate attack you just have to press triangle once, and for the other 2 special attacks you just have to do a simple combo (up+up+circle for one attack and down+down+circle for the other). It might look like a minor change, but it really makes the gameplay more enjoyable, because now you don't waste time pressing triangle 3 times before unleashing your best attack.
About game modes, there are two that stand above all the others, and so far I've only properly played the one that lets you recreate the famous battles from the anime, sort of like a story mode. Unlike the previous games, however, here we don't fight every single battle, but just the major ones. In the first Ultimate Ninja we played from the beggining of the series to the chuunin exam and the second game started there and went to...I don't know, I never finished the damn thing! Anyway, UN3 just covers the main events, divided into 4 story arcs, namely the genin training arc, the Konoha attack arc, the Tsunade search arc and the Sasuke retrieval arc. Each one contains 4 battles, except the last one which has more than that, so it's not a particularly long mode, but it's great to play nonetheless.
In the other main mode, which I'm yet to properly explore, we just run around the village, doing quests and completing missions, I guess. Really, I'm not going to talk about it much because I've barely played it yet, but what I can say already is that, although we can travel around Konoha like in Rise of a Ninja, the PS2 is no 360, and it shows. The village is much more ugly and lifeless than in RoaN, and it only makes that game look even greater. Still, we have to take into account that this game was originally released in Japan back in 2005, so back in the day it probably looked better.
Speaking of Rise of a Ninja, logged into Xbox Live today for the first time with that game and I discovered that if you have a Ubisoft account you can download Shikamaru as an exclusive character. Fuck yeah!
I'll now return to the game because I'm really hooked to it right now. I just hope that they don't take long to release Naruto: Narutimate Accel here (or in America, because UN3 wasn't released in Europe yet, I wonder what the fuck are they thinking!), the next sequel to the series but now based on Shippuden. If not I might have to play the Japanese version, which shouldn't be so bad considering that they're fighting games and I already know the plot, but still it's always better to play in English.