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Good on it's own, Best with Sonic 3

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 18 August 2010 02:47 (A review of Sonic & Knuckles)

2 Sonic games in one year! How privileged are we? Well, not very, because once you use the lock on feature and connect Sonic 3, you get the game we should have gotten the first time. There are a few things that separate this from the Sonic 3 that Japan had, one major one being that now you play as Knuckles in Sonic 2. Sounds pretty neat, but there is a drawback to this to be mentioned later. Don’t get me wrong, this game is as good as the earlier Sonic adventures. This is his 4th hit game on this system. Sonic is a platform game, which is unlike any other. It is unique due to its speed. No other game is as fast paced as Sonic in this genre. Character graphics are exactly the same as Sonic 3. The backgrounds are superb, with lots of color and a very atmospheric feel to them. The enemies are drawn great, and the sub-bosses and bosses are even better. The tradition of great music tracks continues as S&K brings in some great tunes (my favorite is the Death Egg one). Other than the great music, the sound remains at its high quality too, although a lot remains the same from Sonic 3, which in actual fact is not a bad thing. The story picks up where Sonic 3 left off. The Death Egg has crash landed on Angel Island. In order to make his ship operational, Dr Robotnik needs an extraordinarily large amount of energy. The island which he has landed on is the home to the Master Emerald, an emerald which has enough power to make the Death Egg fully operational once more. Knuckles has turned against Dr Robotnik, after discovering his plan to steal the Master Emerald, a special chaos emerald which is keeping Angel Island, Knuckles’ home, afloat. Without the emerald, the island will fall into the sea. On its own, S&K plays exactly like Sonic 3, except that you now can play as Knuckles. It still has all the same old chaos emerald stuff. Knuckles and Sonic have different paths through the game at a certain point too. But throw Sonic 3 into the mix, and this becomes without a doubt the best Sonic game ever. It's really long, really hard and there is so much to do. It also has the added challenge of getting 14 chaos emeralds, to become Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles, or Super Tails. Still once its all done, its all done. S&K on its own is just the same as any other Sonic, except with longer levels. For once, there is some difference between each player’s quest. S3&K is long, and then you throw the chaos emeralds into the mix. But the main complaint is that we were forking out extra money for the other half of something we got 6 months earlier. With Sonic 3 in together, its probably the best game on the system, period.

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Sonic Can Jump Sharks Too

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 18 August 2010 09:49 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 3)

Having completely missed this title at the time, (I was busy playing my Super Nintendo), this Genesis (or Megadrive, as it was called in my region) title has a great reputation, and was surely worth investigating for my Wii Virtual Console. I must be in the vast minority, but I've always believed that the original Sonic was and is the best hedgehog-themed game out there, and that each sequel represents a kind of step aside from Sonics initial adventure.

I have a soft-spot for 16-bit platform-games, and so it was fairly inevitable that I would be downloading at least one of these colourful titles by the Sonic Team. Reviews and the like give Sonic 3 nothing but praise, so it seemed logical that this game, full of “various little improvements” was bound to be the height of the blue mascot's quests. But, after playing through this title twice now, I'm still struggling to see these improvements. But more on that later…

The title screen, introduced by a quick 3D animation of Sonic himself (surely consuming half of the cartridges ROM!) is played – this hints at an all new take on the Sonic series, as if some sort of new technology or game-play has been busted out for the third in the series. Sadly, this is not how it turned out. Sonic 3 is (at best) a “lite” edition of Sonic 2, it's a less convincing attempt at continuing the series.

One true improvement that was made for this sequel was the inclusion of a save system. Yes, this means that for those players who like to complete games fully, there is now hope for attaining every Chaos Emerald without having to perform the ungodly task of a flawless play through. And, switching off your Megadrive would have no longer had the heart-breaking implications that it once had.

So, after beginning the game, you notice that the graphics themselves are not dissimilar to either of the previous entries – the landscapes and robots themselves all look pretty familiar. Sure, Angel Island may be the first act, but it's not that different to Green Hills. You could certainly argue that the levels themselves are denser with obstacles, ramps, platforms and loops – if this is what you like about the series then Sonic 3 will surely be impressive to you, (at least initially).

You see, my problem with this game is in two main areas: the level-design, and the game length. Firstly, the level-design itself is at odds with Sonics abilities. What do I mean? Well, throughout the series, we were constantly encouraged to speed through levels, rolling and jumping at crucial moments either to gather rings or avoid traps. In Sonic 3 however, you can gather rings as in any other Sonic game, but you're constantly booby-trapped and ambushed by the increasingly frustrating and hostile environment. I feel like the level-designer(s) had a mean-streak, and must have felt that the series needed some tweaking with the various level-structures to add a new facet of game play. However, this fails the spirit of the previous games, where a nice mix of beneficial and treacherous roller-coaster-like rides alike were available, and sometimes even selectable!

Add to this problem the shameful length of the game, (since when does a sequel provide less content?), and you have an almost reprehensible mix of qualities. All of this may be forgivable for hard-core Sonic enthusiasts, but for curious Wii Virtual Console shoppers, it's bound to come off as an affront to a modern gamers taste. Also, the inclusion of countless mini-boss battles (that are not and never were the highlight of any Sonic title) and the several long self-scrolling story moments (running under a gunship, watching Knuckles mess around etc.) only decrease the limited enjoyment. And, to my distaste, what I consider a cardinal sin and the pinnacle of laziness in video-game design, this game features sections where the levels repeat indefinitely. Miss that jump? Well, repeat the last ten or so screen-lengths until you get it just right. Ugh. It's the Mobius strip of level-design.

Fans surely regard Knuckles as a worthy inclusion, but I find that the more they include this character, the less personality Sonic himself seems to have. It's almost like it varies inversely: add Knuckles to Sonics detriment. Remember when Poochy visited Itchy & Scratchy? I was hoping for a suitable role in this game for Tails, but he has been downgraded to mere cameo appearances between levels. It's kind of sad.

So in the end, Sonic makes a little bit of sense as a third game in a series, but makes you feel a little foolish if played in isolation. And, thanks to inflated ratings and poor referrals, those who download it separately may secretly pine for Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Essentially, this game took what Sonic 2 established cosmetically, but ignored what it proved in terms of clever, fluid game play.

Review by so_hai from [Link removed - login to see]

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Great game; terrible port

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 18 August 2010 09:30 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 3)

The original Sonic games were some of the first video-games I ever played in my whole life. While most people grew up on Super Mario, I grew up on Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic 3 was one of my favourite of the originals right along with Sonic and Knuckles, and believe you me I've gone back to replay those games more times than I can count. The last time I played Sonic 3 before picking up the XBLA version was when the Sonic Mega Collection came out for the Gamecube. When I saw one of my all-time favourite child-hood games available (for ACHIEVEMENTS, no less), I had to download the XBLA version of this (and Sonic & Knuckles) immediately.

The same basic game is still there:

You are Sonic: a blue hedgehog who, apparently, is the fastest thing alive. You spend the game running and jumping through one level to the next, avoiding traps and stomping on enemies while tracking down your mortal enemy. Sounds familiar? This game actually managed to really set itself apart from Super Mario by being much more fast-paced. Sonic moves a lot faster than Super Mario ever could, and he can even charge up a spin-dash for an offensive burst of speed. Each level is all about running and spinning through loops and hoops, across pits and platforms, over spikes and lava, and through enemies and projectiles. These days it really is pretty standard-fare platforming, but with a small shot of adrenaline tossed into the mix. Sonic collects rings and power-ups to keep himself alive: getting wacked by most enemies and traps cause Sonic to lose any rings he's carrying. If Sonic isn't carrying any rings, he dies. If you lose your rings they go flying everywhere and you have a brief moment of invincibilty to try and pick up a couple before they fade away. Collecting 100 rings gets you a 1-up. There are also various power-ups you can get by smashing what seem to be PC monitors scattered throughout the level liberally. The power-ups are fun and useful to use, and come in the form of protective elemental shields that serve their own function:

The bubble shield allows Sonic to breathe underwater (Sonic has tiny freaking lungs and is apparently totally immune to buoyancy since he can't swim; he runs and jumps at the bottom of any body of water) and also allows him to bounce off the ground repeatedly.

The electro-shield attracts nearby rings to Sonic, making 1-ups a whole lot easier to get. They also allow him to do a vertical double-jump for an extra boost. It also protects him against certain projectiles (though very few).

The flame shield also protects Sonic from different types of projectiles and fire-based obstacles/attacks, and also allows him to perform an offensive air-dash to get a speed boost and smite his foes.

Each level is made up of 2 acts. Each act ends in a boss fight. Every second act ends in a boss battle against Sonic's mortal enemy: Doctor Robotnik (or "Eggman" as the kids call him these days), while every mid-level boss fight is against one of his more impressive crazy robotic contraptions. In case you didn't know: Eggman's an evil genius who turns cute fluffy animals into murderous killer robots.

The levels are also littered with check-points and special stages. If you hit a check-point with enough rings, you can enter a bonus stage to get extra rings and power-ups in one of the various "mini-games". Special stages are usually hidden out of sight (although not very well since they're ridiculously easy to find). You enter them by jumping into giant floating rotating rings. Special stages are in glorious 3D (shut up... I know it looks like total crap now, but back then it was GLORIOUS), and the point of them is rather simple: collect all the blue spheres while avoiding all the red spheres. Touching a red sphere immediately kicks you out of the bonus stage. It's not as easy as it sounds: Sonic constantly moves forward automatically and keeps moving faster the more time you spend in the level. The stages are practically mazes of spheres. Red spheres are EVERYWHERE and blue spheres are usually dangerously close to them. However, collecting all the blue spheres nets you a chaos emerald. If you can beat all 7 special stages and get all the emeralds, you are rewarded with the ability to go Super Sonic: with the power of the emeralds, Sonic pretty much goes all Super Sayain in this game by sprouting yellow spikey hair and gaining the abilities of super-speed (as in: even speedier than usual) and near-invincibility. I say "near-invincibility" because falling into a bottomless pit or getting crushed by a wall or ceiling will still kill you. Other than that though, you can run straight through enemies, ignore projectiles, and even walk on spikes. It's actually quite satisfying if the looping music doesn't drive you nuts.

I think I may have just about covered the basics.

Anyhoo, you're probably wondering why I gave a "fair" score to a game I consider to be great. Simply put: whoever was in charge of this port did a crappy job.

One of the main things about the original game was that it had a file select feature. You could choose from one of MULTIPLE slots in order to save your progress. Then, once you finished the game, you could pick any previously-played levels with all your 1-ups, stats, and even chaos emeralds. That meant you could play through the whole game as Super Sonic if you wanted to. Hell, it meant you could re-visit ANY of your favourite level. Unfortunately though, they totally botched it up in the XBLA version. Apparently they thought the original title and menu system would be too dated or something, so they totally replaced it with a more "modern" menu system that actually manages to be inferior to that of the original game. Rather than having however many save slots the original game had (I can't remember, but it was well over five), we get 3, which you have to manually save yourself. Furthermore, beating the game does NOT get you a level select feature at all. If you want to replay any levels you have to start the game all over again without any of your 1-ups or emeralds. This takes a huge chunk out of the game's replay value, honestly. I don't want to have to collect all 7 emeralds EVERY TIME I want to start a new game just to get the most out of it.

Another issue I have is in regards to the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on. Indeed, you can play the "complete" Sonic 3 experience (both games are basically two parts of an overall package). However, 1) the save system, as I previously mentioned, is too botched to get the most of of this. And 2) You can't get any achievements this way.... which is total crap.

Okay, maybe that last point is more of a minor gripe, but come on. The two games are meant to be played as one. Unfortunately if you're an achievement junky like me, the game is practically forcing you to play the two games separately. It's not game-breaking, but you miss out on a lot of stuff like Hyper Sonic, Super Tails, or being able to play through Sonic 3 as knuckles. Of course you can still do all that, but it won't count towards your achievements. That really is crap because it seems like it would've been a really easy move to make the exact same achievement points for the separate games available in this version. Even if they just had ONE achievement for beating the combined games I'd be happier. It's not that achievement points are the most important things in the world, but it would've been SO EASY, and that's just annoying.

Unfortunately, the botched save system causes me to remove a whole point for this port. I mean... they took a game that's over fifteen years old and managed to actually make it inferior on a console that makes the Genesis look like a God-damn plastic box.

I also have to take a whole point off for the fact that this is an absolutely lazy, mal-treated port. The people porting this game must've spent like ten minutes bringing it to XBLA: five minutes to make it playable on the x-box 360 and about five more minutes to come up with that horrendous new menu and save system.

Finally, I deduct another point for the fact that just about any other version of this game you can find will be superior. It really sucks how the most recent iteration of a classic game also manages to be the sloppiest. With all the technological power of the x-box 360 you'd think we'd actually start seeing improvements rather than deprecations.

The game itself is great, but the treatment it received during the port to XBLA makes it an ugly reflection of its true former glory.

Review by Mister_Rabbit from [Link removed - login to see]

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Pretty Mediocre

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 18 August 2010 04:55 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 3)

When in need of a best-seller, always slice a game in half and release it as a full one. Always the best solution, right? Not this time. This is a pretty mediocre game. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was set to be released as a huge 34 meg Sonic adventure, which makes it a second to Sonic CD. That is, until a strict deadline and a dirty marketing scheme Sega had. The result was Sega slicing up the game in two halves, and this is the one you don't want to get, unless you have Sonic & Knuckles, the second half. Why? Because, since it was cut in half, it turned out to be the most glitchiest and smallest Sonic Genesis game ever. It shines with the graphics they are perfect, and almost of Sonic CD, the sharpest of the series. It's just perfect, and Sonic, Tails, and Eggman have been remodified to look their snazziest for this Genesis release. Knuckles, the new character, also looks great. But Super Sonic, from Sonic 2, has been upgraded to look "better". It also shines with it's music. In it's highest quality, considering the sound systems used were probably of higher potential in 1994, and being a Genesis game, it's not half-bad. Only downfall here is the Super Sonic/ Invincibility/ Title Screen music. You see, Sega nor Sonic Team had the rights toward the original Sonic theme, used in Sonic 1 & 2 and the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon. That meant they had to replace anything that even sounded similiar to the original score. Why didn't they have the rights, you ask? Because they didn't write it. Instead a Japanese band, Dreams Come True, wrote it. The storyline is another deeper-toned Sonic game. Continuing off of Sonic 2, Eggman's super Death-Egg has crashed on Angel Island, and he's been introduced to Knuckles the Echidna, the guardian. You see, he's the last descendant of the Echidna Tribe (alot of plotholes were explained in Sonic Adventure), and he has to guard the Master Emerald, which lets the island float. Although the Master Emerald isn't present in this game, it'll be in Sonic & Knuckles. The weird part about this is that, instead of actually going into the Death-Egg and blowing it up there, you don't even need to touch it. Sonic and Tails arrive, and apparently, Knuckles was tricked by Eggman into thinking that Sonic & Tails are the villians. The gameplay was pretty bad so much detracts from the gameplay. The thing that detracts from the gameplay is that there are too many secrets left unanswered, too many levels gone missing, and the detraction of Knuckles. The game ending was cut short, and it got a mock-up of the Death Egg blasting into pieces. The gameplay is horrible, the game is short, and the Save Feature is not needed at all, at least until after you get past the barrel in Carnival Night Zone Act 2. You won't want to play this, unless you plan on having Sonic & Knuckles to play next.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 17 August 2010 04:58 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2)

If you want a review then check out my review on Sonic the Hedgehog(16-Bit) because this would just be a repeat and sound redundant.

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Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 17 August 2010 04:48 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 )

Sonic 2 has been known far and wide as the best Sonic game released so far. But please, let me tell you something: this is the Genesis version that we're talking about. So, you may be thinking, Sonic 2 for Genesis was AWESOME! I bet Sonic 2 for Game Gear is just as good. Let me warn you before you even go thinking this that you're terribly wrong. In fact, Sonic 2 for Game Gear can be considered as Sonic 2 Genesis's EXTREMELY evil twin. What the Genesis version has, the Game Gear version doesn't. What the Game Gear version has, the Genesis version doesn't. Is it me, or are there two storylines floating about at the same time? In the manual, Sonic is chillin' at his home in South Island when he receives a letter from Tails, saying that Eggman has kidnapped him and demands the Chaos Emeralds to get him back. However, in the opening sequence, Sonic watches Tails' kidnapping happen! Wha? Something isn't right here... The first thing you'll probably notice about Sonic 2 GG is the EXTREMELY CRAPPY picture resolution. Granted, it is Game Gear, but this is just plain wrong. Because of this, you'll most likely find yourself throwing yourself gung-ho into the abyss and landing into lava, spikes, a pit, or any other type of lethal hazard. The Badniks are exceptionally cruddy, as the vast majority of them are simply red, blue, and grey shapes with a black outline. Not to mention that the game is blurry far too often, everything looks misshapen, and all the levels (barring Scrambled Egg, mind you) look like a 5-year-old constructed them out of 10-year-old Legos. Plus, the game slows down to about 1/4 its intended speed whenever Sonic gets hit. Sound is probably the only good quality Sonic 2 has to offer. Most of the music sounds rather good (A Sonic CD tune was based off of Green Hills, so it has to be good) but there are the downfalls, like Sky High (much too boring), Gimmick MT. (just plain annoying), Scrambled Egg (ditto), and Crystal Egg (it sounds to me like a bunch of random sound effects garbled together). The sound effects are pretty normal, but why did they change the ring chime??? The first thing you'll probably say to yourself is "Where's the Spin Dash? I know the Genesis version had it, so it's gotta be around here somewhere!!" Truth is, there isn't one, although why this is so is beyond me. The Chaos Emeralds are impossible to get without an FAQ, as they are in places you wouldn't even think twice to look in. Most of the zones are insanely difficult, yet straightforward. However, there is one zone I would like to bash, and not stop bashing, and that's the Scrambled Egg Zone. You navigate the level through a series of pipes, and you must choose your path by using the D-Pad. However, one wrong turn sends you to your doom. So, I take it SEGA expects everybody to be psychics and automatically know where they're going? Like the emeralds, this level is impossible to complete without an FAQ. So, in short, this game leaves too much to be desired. There is no replayability simple as that. In fact, you shouldn't even be able to replay your Game Gear after you're through with this game, as it'll most likely be in pieces that are scattered close to the nearest wall. I'm a die-hard Sonic fan, and it crushes me to have to give a Sonic game this bad a review. But, it's what it deserves. It's so nice to know that SEGA learned from their mistakes and never made so much of a crappy game again. That's right. I'm saying this is the worst Sonic game EVER.

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Not a great way to relive your childhood.

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 17 August 2010 03:54 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2)

If you loved Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in its original format you'll still enjoy most of it here. Sonic is still fast, the gameplay is still solid, the level design is still engaging, and Tails is still there - none of that has changed, but you may be disappointed in their porting decisions. It doesn't seem like too big of a deal, only those in charge really went out of their way to limit the game so badly that it's much less worth replaying. I have little to say about the gameplay, because the game has always been mah' favorite and anything I write would be redundant: it's a good time! The good part about the menu it's definitely nice being able to save your state for later if you need to turn the game off...more obviously, to save the game before all the hard parts. A welcome feature. The bad part is the game's menu is replaced by the generic Sega Port menu, so gone are the sound tests and level select options. I suppose they did this to keep people from cheating to get achievements, but would it have been too difficult to block achievements if cheats were used? The other bad news is that there's no soft reset: if you beat the the game with all the emeralds, when selecting a new game again you have nothing. I always thought it was a cool "new game plus"-ish feature, and debug mode was another whole experience, but again this port takes away such re-playability. The good thing about the achievements for the most part these are fine - "beat this level in this number of seconds," etc. It got me to try things I hadn't before, namely the speed runs, and getting players to do different things is what I like about achievements. The bad is the biggest achievements involve being able to turn into Super Sonic, and there's nothing there that encourages the use of Tails. Understandable since he was a limited character, but it leads back to the port having little reason to replay it. The versus mode is just the same as it ever was. The port does nothing new, but nothing is lost in this mode, and it's fun. The regular game-mode is largely inconvenient. Don't expect the game to let your friend jump in as Tails unless you thought to start the game in a 2-player mode in the first place. You can't just switch to 2 players in the middle of the game, even if you've had Tails trailing behind you all along! I give Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Xbox Live Arcade a poor score, but not because I would say the game is bad, but because of the lack of effort by Sega, or rather the effort put in to limit the game's original content.

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Was better on the Genesis.

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 17 August 2010 03:26 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2)

Playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Sega Master System is like watching porno with everything blurred out. You're not totally wasting your time, but your time would be better spent playing/watching the superior versions. Sonic 2 for Sega Master System is a perfectly acceptable game that sadly suffers from one major flaw: It just ain't good enough. The Genesis version totally destroys it, with better graphics, music, sound, and an awesome 2 player mode. Not a terrible looking game or anything like that, but I've seen better. For a Master System game, it looks fine. The backgrounds are pretty well designed and colorful, and the enemy designs are pretty unique. Everything looks smaller in this one when compared to the superior Genesis version, but the small sprites are not a bad thing, as this leads to more detail in them. However, slowdown is an issue, much more so than in the superior Genesis version, and this leads to problems in some of the tougher levels. Gotta love the classic Sonic songs. Sonic 2 has a bunch of them, but the Master System version makes them sound just a little tinny and monotonous. They still sound fine but could have been much, much better. The sound effects aren't even that wonderful, either, although again, they could have been worse. Controls and gameplay is when the game starts to suffer. The controller of the master System is not really suitable for such a high speed game. The lack of a 2-player mode is the big problem, however. Sonic 2 was famous simply for this wonderful addition (you could even race through levels against someone else), but the Master System version didn't even bother to include this feature. The level designs are classic Sonic though, and the game is pretty much the same as Sonic 2 for the superior Genesis. Sonic 2 is a classic game, when done for the proper system. The Master System version seems like a half-assed attempt to collect some money for the six people that still played the console. The lack of a 2-player mode is completely unforgiven. Avoid playing this version of the game.

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Best Sonic Game Ever!

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 17 August 2010 03:15 (A review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 )

This is the best 2D Sonic game. It's faster than the original and not as dull as the third. Essential for all Sonic fans and Genesis owners. The game's graphics boasts better than the original. Although they look weak compared to the seventh generation, you've got to remember this is 16-bit technology. Not the best on the Mega Drive/Genesis, but they're still great. Wonderful sound. The music varies from each stage, but is lovely and actually something you can listen to. Seriously, if you've been too busy speeding along to listen to the music, just open up a level and sit there, listening. Multiplayer is basically one player as Sonic and the other as Tails. However, instead of the playing the main adventure, you're actually competing against the other player, trying to get to the goal first, collecting the most rings and defeating the most enemies. Kinda like a Co-Op Versus multiplayer mode.

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Naruto: Ninja Council 3 review

Posted : 13 years, 9 months ago on 15 August 2010 02:23 (A review of Naruto: Ninja Council 3)

Naruto: Ninja Council 3 is a shallow fighting game with a lame single-player mode but an awesome multiplayer mode.

The Good
You'll be jumping skyward and dishing out Jutsu attacks in no time * attack cutaways and vocal cries provide plenty of fan service * includes 28 characters from the Naruto universe * the multiplayer party mode is crazy fun.
The Bad
Not as deep as most fighting games * using the touch screen to perform supers feels clumsy * mission mode gets old quickly * multiplayer is only way to have a regular match with fair rules.

Naruto: Ninja Council 3 for the Nintendo DS is a fighting game where as many as four people can duke it out as Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, or any of 25 other characters from the Naruto universe. The game offers plenty of visual and vocal fan service for followers of the Naruto comic books and animated series. Thanks to its easygoing controls and multitiered arenas, it also bears a striking resemblance to the Super Smash Bros. games that Nintendo has produced for the Nintendo 64 and GameCube. However, Ninja Council 3 doesn't yield the same depth as a typical Super Smash Bros. game, which means that the game is ultimately best suited for diehard Naruto nuts and people who don't take fighting games too seriously.

Because this is a fighting game, the main idea here is to beat your opponents senseless and drain their life meters until you're the last one left standing. This is a 2D fighter, but the arenas are as tall as they are wide, and they have multiple tiers from which you can easily jump up and down. You can smash boxes or rocks to uncover health items and weapons that you can throw at your opponents. Some arenas also play host to booby traps, pits, and flying debris that will chip away some of your health when you come into contact with them. If you've ever played one of the Super Smash Bros. games, this should all seem very familiar to you.

The character sprites and animations have mostly been recycled from the previous Ninja Council games (which were made for the Game Boy Advance). But all of the backgrounds and attack cutaways are brand new. The 2D characters looked like tiny renditions of their TV counterparts, and they look fine on the DS as well. The backgrounds are nothing special compared to other DS games, but they're twice as large as the backdrops in the GBA's Ninja Council games. They're also more colorful and flaunt a better variety of cute details, such as flying birds or crumbling walkways. The action largely takes place on the top screen while the bottom screen serves as a radar and a collection of "buttons" for initiating special Jutsu techniques. When you perform a Jutsu technique, a dramatic cutaway put together with the game's characters and hand-drawn artwork will temporarily fill both screens. Fans of the Naruto animated series will really appreciate these flashy attack sequences particularly because they employ the voices of the show's actual voice cast. The music and sound effects that make up the rest of the audio are fine, but they're also generic and forgettable.

Jumping around the multitiered environments and trading blows with other people is fun, though Ninja Council 3 does suffer from a lack of depth. The D pad moves your chosen character around, and the system's six buttons matter-of-factly allow you to run, jump, guard, teleport, perform a throw, or perform a single attack. Defensively, you can roll out of a throw or grab on to walls to propel yourself higher. Offensively, you can press the attack button a couple of times to dish out a combo, or you can tap one of the four designated spots on the touch screen to initiate one of your character's special Jutsu techniques. Jutsu techniques are the same as the special attacks you've seen in other fighting games, except that you have to complete a brief minigame on the touch screen for them to work. Most minigames involve scribbling or tapping symbols, but a few require an additional quick scrawl of the stylus or a puff into the microphone. While the inputs aren't all that time-consuming, fumbling with the touch screen just to perform a special attack feels counterintuitive when you otherwise spend the rest of the time using the buttons to control your character. It's easy to get the hang of Ninja Council 3, which may be good or bad, depending on what you look for in fighting games.

Besides making use of the touch screen, the other thing this new game does differently from the GBA's Ninja Council games is that it allows you to assign any of the Jutsu techniques of the other characters to your own character. For instance, you can mix and match Naruto's wind and toad magic with Orochimaru's snake magic. This feature doesn't really inject any additional strategy into the game because all Jutsu attacks fall into the same two categories with respect to recharge period and damage output. However, it is useful if you pick a character that doesn't already have a full set of four Jutsu techniques. It's also useful if that character normally only has a couple of first-level Jutsu techniques but none of the stronger second-level techniques.

Incredibly, the game doesn't offer a traditional single-player battle mode. The only way to play against CPU opponents is to do so in the mission mode. Unfortunately, out of 62 different missions, just a few provide a level playing field and a fair set of rules. Most missions involve defeating a certain number of respawning enemies, using a specific Jutsu technique to finish off another character in a short amount of time or beating an opponent in an arena loaded with hungry animals and painful hazards. You have to play through the mission mode to unlock characters besides Naruto, but that is literally the mode's sole redeeming aspect. You'll see the same mission goals constantly, there's no story to speak of, and the CPU falls into the same patterns all the time. If you want to enjoy some fair competition and truly see the game's best qualities, you have to do so in the multiplayer party mode. The party mode lets as many as four players link their systems together to participate in treasure hunt and battle royal matches. Unlike the battles setup in the mission mode, matches played against human beings are crazy and fun, especially if you can link up with two or three other people. The problem with the party mode is that everyone has to have their own copy of the game, but this probably isn't the sort of game that your friends are going to buy without major prodding on your part.

You won't like Naruto: Ninja Council 3 if you prefer your fighting games to be finely balanced and packed with depth. However, if you're freaky for Naruto and simply want to make some mischief with your favorite characters, then you should be able to enjoy the frenzy of fists and fan service that this game dishes out. Just make sure you can convince at least one of your friends to buy the game so you can take advantage of the multiplayer party mode and see the game at its best.

Review by Frank Provo from [Link removed - login to see]

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