Ross founded the UK Anime Network back in 1995, and following Andy Hanley's retirement has returned to the post of Editor-in-Chief in 2017. What an old man!
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes (PSP)
I'm not a major Naruto fan (although I've enjoyed everything I've seen so far) but I've always loved the character designs, and news of various Naruto beat-em-ups has long had me hankering after one. Well now I have the PSP version, and colour me impressed.
Ultimate Heroes is not so much a direct conversion of the Japanese release, Naruto: Narutimate Hero, more a highly modified remix.
I was lucky enough to try the Japanese version, and whilst the fighting sections were straightforward enough, the RPG style sections were a trial thanks to Japanese text and heavy narration. Well, those have been removed entirely. There's no mysterious floating castle or story mode to the English adaptation, instead there's a "Heroes Mode" where you pick a pre-arranged Ninja Team from the show and go through a series of challenges. Some of the mini games from the Japanese version are intact, but it is a little disappointing to see some of the game removed.
There's still a CPU vs mode, where you can go one on one against an opponent of your choice, with 8 characters to unlock as you progress.
The fighting element is identical to Japanese version. Square activates your weapons (which you can cycle through with the R button, X allows you to jump, with a double press boosting you across the screen, and Circle is your attack button, which will do various things depending on your movements with the control pad. That leaves L for blocking. Despite the simplicity of the controls, it works incredibly well once you get used to it, and you'll soon be jumping all over the screen in no time. There are some nice little touches from the anime, such as Substitution Jutsu, which allows you to escape attack, and you'll be needing this quite a bit!
The character roster is pretty good with 20 characters in all (12 available from the start and the aforementioned 8 hidden characters). Everyone has unique moves and some great special attacks - it'll take you a while to master them all. In CPU Vs Mode, you can select from 3 colours per character and even mess with their statistics, which gives a nice element of control.
The graphics are fantastic for a handheld - everything from the presentation screens to the in game graphics is colourful and well defined. All the characters are easily identifiable, and the fighting arenas are large and varied. You can jump onto platforms, ropes, trees, go underground - it all adds up to a lot of fun once you get the gist of it all!
Whilst it is a shame that we get a slightly cut-down version of the Japanese release (which had some nice story-mode graphics) it still remains an excellent fighting game and a must have for any PSP owning Naruto fan.
Not quite as rich as it's Japanese cousin, but an enjoyable and well executed Ninja slugfest.