One of the major problems with license anime games is the simple fact that they have to answer to the company who owns the rights to the series. Because this is the case, one of the major issues facing developers and publishers who have the license is setting the game up to be able to synch up with the TV series in terms of the story. For some anime games, this isn’t a problem, as the game has a separate story from its series, and doesn‘t have to worry about spoilers and other issues. Other games are just plain based on a short anime series, so months after its release, they’re free to do whatever they want. Some games, however, like Naruto: Ninja Council 3, are part of another group. A group of games taken from Japan, and tweaked just enough to not reveal what will happen in the show three, four, six, twelve months from the game’s release. For some games, this ends up being beneficial. Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 (Nintendo Gamecube), for example, had four-player battles added to it, a feature unseen in Japan until the fourth installment in the series. But sometimes, everything just gets thrown out the window, which is the case with Ninja Council 3.
The game plays with fairly standard action/beat ‘em up controls. The control pad moves, the X and Y buttons do attacks, holding B makes the characters dash and A jumps. Jutsus, or super attacks, are done on the touch screen. Before a mission starts, a character is chosen. There are four slots that a jutsu can be stored in. Characters have between one and three jutsus, but you can place another character’s jutsu in the slot, allowing them to be summoned in-battle, much like in the Spider-Man games from the SNES. There are four buttons on the touch screen, each with one of the jutsus. When you store enough chakra, which you gain steadily with time, you can use a jutsu. Once a jutsu is started, a little “confirmation” thing happens, where you must either spin something on the touch screen, find and touch three symbols or blow into the mic. Generally, these aren’t difficult, but can become quite annoying if there is a harsh time limit on a mission, and the jutsu fails.
The main problem that spans to all aspects of the game is the simple fact that there is no cohesive story…in any way. The entire game takes place in dozens of one-shot missions, all of which take place in one of a handful of small levels. The objective for every stage is either to kill a certain number of enemies, kill a certain boss, collect items or keep somebody else from dying (while killing a certain number of enemies). There is no explanation as to why all these missions must be completed. There is no middle-man assigning or managing your missions. There is no choice in completing the missions. The entire game is just a series of annoying, frustrating, repetitive missions which, for some reason, grow easier over time. Missions. Missions. More missions. These annoying, frustrating, repetitive stages are all ranked, as either D, C, B, A or S-rank missions. You must complete all D-rank missions before you can play the C-rank missions, all C-rank before B-Rank and so on. There are no side-quests or anything to allow you to bypass completing the numerous near-impossible missions you will come across frequently, or even distract yourself with. That is the entire game. One more time…missions. And to top it all off, if you have the angelic level of patience the game calls for, it will only last about six hours.
There are over twenty playable characters, which would normally work in the game’s favor. However, even that isn’t executed to its potential. Rather than thoroughly crafting formerly summon-only characters into unique battlers with their own move-sets, they just took the summon-only characters who initially had only one attack, gave them some mediocre animations, and then left them with the solitary jutsu they had in the various past installments in the game. Because of that, there is a notable graphical and balance disparity between who was included in the series before NC3, and who was made playable for this game.
Graphically, the game is about as good as its GBA predecessors, outside some well-detailed levels. The music is upgraded from before, with a fair degree of quality in the music, though this is trumped by the shoddy voice acting each character has for their attacks. As a whole, the game is graphically pretty mediocre, but it does get credit for still having some solid 2d graphics rather than cheap 3d renders.
The game really holds no value for anybody outside of a Naruto fan, and even then, this game is simply not worth the money and frustration required for it. The game could’ve been decent if it had some kind of story included in some way, but that simply was not the case, and we have little more than a bare-bones beat ‘em up.