After a dozen and a half mediocre Naruto games, the Nintendo DS has finally gotten a much needed 3D fighter in Naruto: Ninja Destiny… or one would hope so with a tag line like “The realistic 3D fighting of Naruto… Now on Nintendo DS”. Although it’s a far cry from anyone else’s idea of realism, Naruto: Ninja Destiny is a step in the right direction for the franchise and Nintendo DS fighting games in general as it’s the first 3D fighter on the handheld.
Naruto games have always made small innovations that other fighting franchises hadn’t thought of, and Naruto: Ninja Destiny follows the trend. One of the more notable differences is in the story mode: where most fighting games have you pick a character and play through the story mode just using that person, in Naruto: Ninja Destiny it serves more as a demonstration mode for each character's moves and a means to unlocking more characters. It works well for what it’s meant for and if you get bored to tears with the ‘story’ – and you will – you can skip to the next fight by pushing start.
At first glance the battles are little more than button mashing affairs. However, Naruto: Ninja Destiny adds a tactical element to the action with chakra moves and items. In each fight you start of with six random items which can grant a variety of powers including temporary invincibility, generate health/chakra, and increase your attack power. They appear as icons on the touch screen to be executed with a touch of the screen in battle. It’s important to use these sparingly as you can’t obtain more mid-fight.
Another way in which Naruto: Ninja Destiny mixes things up is with the ‘teleportation-jutsu’ fighters, who can jump to the other side of their opponent using a small amount of chakra to take them by surprise. The drawback is that you have to build the chakra back before you can use your special move, and as you attack the opponent they accumulate chakra and could use their special move.
Winning a fight really comes down to picking the best tactic based on the items you have. If you get a few health items, use the chakra to do teleportation-jutsus, and if the opponent uses their finisher on you, quickly use a health item to recover and continue the assault. Alternatively, if you get a few chakra items you can block until the end of your opponent’s combo and use a chakra move on them. Then quickly restore your chakra with the item to strike a second time to finish the fight.
Each fighter has their own chakra move based on the anime. Most of the chakra moves are fairly balanced; the more damage dealt, the more chakra is used. Although most of the fighters have one move each, Naruto has two chakra moves, the second of which - ‘Rasengan’ - can be unlocked by beating the story mode. Said move is ridiculously overpowered, almost guaranteeing a win by knocking off seventy percent of the opponent’s health.
When the limbs stop flying and the dust settles, Naruto: Ninja Destiny is as close to what fans want in a Naruto fighter as they will get on the Nintendo DS: fast-paced fighting with a dash of touch screen support for item usage. That said, if you aren’t a Naruto fan and just want a 3D fighting game on your Nintendo DS you may want to wait for something better to come along.