Based on the popular anime series ‘NARUTO Spin-Off: Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals‘, NARUTO Powerful Shippuden for the 3DS combines ninja brawler with cutesy caricatures.  The anime series is notable for its portrayal of the main characters with their large, oversized heads and wacky expressions.  The game features two different adventure modes: one that follows Rock Lee and one that follows Naruto Uzumaki.

It may take a little bit for non-Naruto fans to learn the characters and get a handle on what your goal is in the game but it quickly becomes apparent after the first few missions–beat stuff up.  Like brawler games of the past, NARUTO Powerful Shippuden features numerous enemies that enter the screen from both sides and it’s your job to beat ’em up.  Sounds simple right?  Well, the first few levels are just that, very simple.  However, as you progress, it becomes more important to master your combos and support characters’ abilities.  When fighting hordes of enemies, the game allows for other characters in the game to assist you in times of need.  Just press their particular button combo and they’ll appear on screen to perform their move of choice.  The goal of most levels is to vanquish all of the enemies but some require moving to various goals in the stage and still others are good ole’ fashioned boss battles.  As you fight your way through each mission you’ll earn experience points that you can use to level up your characters abilities.  It is a necessity for the later missions to make sure you balance what abilities you upgrade.  Powerful moves are great but if your defense is low, you won’t last long enough to use those moves.

The gameplay is fun for the most part.  The combos are varied and the touch screen special attacks help with some of the more mundane encounters.  Later levels have more depth and enemies get harder, but the combat feels a little repetitive.  The game has several cutscenes with dialogue pertinent to each character.  If you choose the Rock Lee adventure, you’ll focus on his training and vise versa for Naruto’s adventure.  It makes for a fun adventure having twice the areas to explore but enemies are similar between the modes.  Boss battles, however, are unique to each adventure and offer a fun challenge compared to some of the more basic enemies.

The presentation of the game is very good.  The characters all look just like their anime counterparts in the Spin-off series and fighting animations are well done.  I found myself playing in 3D for the majority of the time as it added a lot of depth to battles.  There were several layers in the background that gave a more diverse feeling to the stages.

Overall, NARUTO Powerful Shippuden provides a fast-paced, fun fighting game on the go.  It’s not your run-of-the-mill fighting game either.  There’s a lot of depth to the leveling system and the combat gets more and more varied as the game progresses.  A multiplayer mode would have been a great addition but there’s a lot here regardless.  If you’re a fan of the anime, NARUTO Powerful Shippuden will provide hours of fun.