Over the years I've reviewed a dozen Naruto titles on PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS. From that experience, Naruto: Ninja Destiny proved to be one of my favourite titles, so I was fairly excited to see what Naruto's first 3DS outing would be like: a glorious 3D fighting game perhaps? If only. If only.
Naruto Shippuden 3D: The New Era's story is one of the more interesting as far as games from this franchise go. Tsunade has declared war on the sand ninja village for some reason - so Naruto sets out on a mission to find out why. Along the way he discovers that every village leader has been replaced by a puppet, so you'll spend the remainder of the game seeking out the original versions and defeating their replacements.
The levels are linear with around four different types of enemy and a boss fight. Fortunately they are pretty short, averaging at under five minutes - likely to accommodate the challenge mode. Said bosses usually stick with a pattern and can be dispatched fairly easily. Adding to the dullness of the linear levels, The New Era's AI is terrible - like something you might expect from a first-gen Nintendo DS title. In some cases you can run up and punch an enemy, back away and watch them take a swing at the air, and repeat - even projectile throwing enemies, in most cases, will wait for you. You'll be fighting two enemies at once at most; the rest just sit around waiting patiently - even when they're just meters away and can throw projectiles.
As short and repetitive as the levels are, The New Era's biggest flaws emerge from a visual standpoint - the 3D, to be precise.
You would be forgiven for thinking it was a massive 3D action game which makes great use of the feature. Dream on. The New Era is a side scrolling 2.5D platformer and its use of 3D is pointless. Although the platforms stick out in 3D, they are just as obvious without it. In some cases, 3D can even be a problem; in certain scenes - such as the end of boss battles - The New Era has you tilt the screen to the side, which distorts the 3D screen. It's very hard on the eyes. In addition, the 3DS motion sensor doesn't always respond - or works too late - allowing the boss to get a second wind and maybe finish you off.
Between missions you can visit the dojo. Here you can restock on supplies - such as medkits to restore your health, food pills for your chakra, and summoning scrolls to refill your Sage mode gauge. The latter is used to enhance your attacks and can be useful in a boss fight. In addition to restocking on supplies, you can upgrade your abilities and acquire new back-up characters.
The New Era features eight back-up characters, five of which are bought in the dojo - only three of which can be used in any one mission. When called upon, the character will perform one chakra move and disappear. Not only are they useful for the obvious battle support, there are also numerous secret locations that require one of your allies' abilities to access; for instance weak points in the ground can be opened up by Sakura's assist, while Sai can summon a bird for Naruto to ride to otherwise inaccessible locations.
Naruto Shippuden 3D: The New Era feels like an original DS game with texture filtering, poorly executed 3D, and game breaking motion sensor controls tacked on. The likes of Zelda Ocarina of Time and Dead or Alive Dimensions have set a high standard for Nintendo 3DS adventure and fighting games to come - Naruto fails to meet them. Naruto fans should hold out a little longer for their 3D fix.