If you've played any of the Ultimate Ninja series games on the PSP, then you know that developer CyberConnect2 take their Naruto very seriously. Each iteration has seen an extension in terms of content as well as new gameplay mechanics. With Ultimate Ninja Impact, it looks like CC2 are looking to take things even further, tossing out the familiar side-scrolling ninja action for a more action-oriented Warriors style of play.
The demo was pretty short, but it showed plenty. Impact is set during the most recent canon, kicking off with the Kazekage Rescue arc all the way through to the Fourth Great Ninja War. The demo itself is set during Pain's assault on the Hidden Leaf. As mentioned earlier, Impact is no longer played on a 2D plane as seen commonly in previous Ultimate Ninja games on the PSP. Instead, CC2 have opted for a full-on 3D battleground. Dynasty Warriors players may feel right at home here as it's pretty much a Warriors game set in the Naruto world.
However, the controls seem to be intact, so fans of previous Ultimate Ninja games don't have to worry about that. The Square button is used for throwing shurikens, the Triangle for Chakra and the Circle button for attacks. The X button is obviously used for jumping. Combining these will result in various combinations. Hitting Triangle, then X will have Naruto use Chakra to charge speedily towards a target, etc. The camera is controlled with Left and Right on the D-pad, while you can lock onto a target by holding down on the L button. The R button is used to block.
Those are just the basics, vets of the series should already know how the game works. The combo system is still relatively similar, you can mash the Circle button to your hearts content or actually perform a combo with a special attached to the end of it. Depending on how many times you hit the attack button prior to the Chakra button, you'll get different combos. Hit the Chakra button twice, followed by the attack button, and Naruto will perform an ultimate attack.
Like Koei's Warriors games, it's all just a lot of fun when it comes to the one-vs-hundred battles. There's a ton of enemies on-screen at once, although there isn't a whole lot of variation, at least not in the demo. Regardless, it's not so much about the beat 'em up mechanics as it is about clearing objectives. Fail to clear an objective and you're likely to fail the mission. Beating up hundred of enemies by your lonesome is just the icing on the cake.
What is noticeably different is that the difficulty seems to have been scaled down a lot. The boss fight with one of the six Pains was slightly underwhelming. Hopefully it's just because it's a demo, but the Ultimate Ninja games have always had a certain degree of challenge to them. It'll be disappointing if this one falls short, especially considering how different and the amount of potential it has to impress. Regardless, there is still a lot that wasn't shown in the demo, like the multiplayer component as well as the other playable characters, including plenty of fan favourites like Gaara, Hinata, Itachi and Pain.
Visually, it's a pretty sweet treat. Battlegrounds are relatively open and there are a large number of enemies on screen at one time. The graphics look clean and crisp and the combat feels really tight. The lock-on system comes in handy and unit leaders are usually prioritized over the regular shinobi, so you don't have to worry about a problematic camera that won't select a leading target.
PSP owners and Naruto fans should definitely look out for Ultimate Ninja Impact. The demo was pretty fun and the gameplay rather addictive. Dynasty Warriors fans, you might want to keep an eye on this game as well. CC2 looks to keep up the epic ninja battles with Ultimate Ninja Impact. The game is slated for release in Japan on October 27, meanwhile North America and Europe gets it September 27 and October 21 respectively.