On March 25, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 leaps into North America with a Japanese language track. This option is a first for the series and I got a chance to ask Andrew Davis, Associate Localization Producer at Namco Bandai Games America, about the decision to add it in. The reason why previous games didn’t include original seiyuu may surprise you.
Other things discussed are Davis’ character choice and the fate of the bonus DVD included in the Japanese version. Read on Naruto fans!
This is the first time a game in the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series has dual language support. Why did Namco Bandai decide to keep the Japanese language track?
While there had been those of us at Namco Bandai pushing for this option for some time, by far the biggest factor was fan feedback! Japanese voice selection was consistently one of the top requests we got.
Was it a challenge to add the Japanese voices as an option?
The biggest challenge was actually just acquiring the rights to use the voices. Oftentimes, when voices and music are recorded for Japanese games, they’re produced under a contract that requires overseas licensing fees in order to be used. This is probably the single biggest reason some voice tracks and cool songs in games never make it out of Japan. In this case, high fan interest convinced us to do it.
There are two single player modes in the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 and the RPG mode has an all new story line. Can you tell us about it?
The centerpiece of the game is called Ultimate Contest. In this original storyline, Tsunade (leader of the Hidden Leaf Village) has decided to boost everyone’s spirits the only way ninja know how… by holding an all-out battle royale. It’s Naruto’s chance to shine, but only if he can defeat fellow ninja of every rank from genin to jonin.
The Japanese version came with a bonus DVD, which was like an extra episode of Naruto that introduced the original story. Is Namco Bandai packaging this as part of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3?
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to include this DVD with the game. The hidden crystals hinted at in the bonus anime are still in the game, though, and are there for the curious explorer to find.
Can you brief our readers on the story mode?
There are two main stories to play through in the game. In Hero’s History, you can play through the climactic events of the TV series, so when Itachi shows up, you step into Kakashi’s shoes and get to play the fight between the two of them. The other mode, Ultimate Contest, is where you get more freedom to explore the Hidden Leaf Village and build your characters.
How has the fighting system evolved from Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2?
New to the game is the ability to customize your characters with different Ultimate Jutsu, so you can set yourself up with the technique you think is the most punishing. Some of these Ultimate Jutsu can be used to summon giant creatures or otherwise trigger major changes in the fight.
Tell us about your favorite character and your "ultimate strategy" against another player.
I admit I’m partial to Rock Lee, just because of his sheer martial-arts speed and off-the-wall personality. One of the new abilities in the game is an Ultimate Jutsu called Loopy Fist that completely changes his fighting style. The name’s been camouflaged a little to match the TV broadcast standards, but… let’s just say he’ll be lucky to remember the fight in the morning.
Customization is one of my favorite parts about the Ultimate Ninja games. What are some of your favorite jutsu/character combinations?
I like to give characters the unlikely jutsu… Things like Kimimaro with Might Guy’s Dynamic Entry or Naruto with a certain Hokage’s Water Style: Water Wall.
What kind of mini games are included in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3?
The tree-climbing game is back! This time you can play it with a friend and try to knock them off the tree with giant boulder power-ups. Other games include exercises with Might Guy and shuriken target practice with everyone’s favorite weapons expert, Tenten.
Is Namco Bandai adding any new events to the story mode or tweaks not found in the Japanese version?
No, the North American release doesn’t have any significant changes from the Japanese version. But the good news is, the North American release doesn’t have any significant changes from the Japanese version!
What's next for Namco Bandai and the Naruto license? Are there plans to release the Accel post time skip fighting games on the PS2? A PlayStation 3 or PSP game? A PSP adaptation of one of the Accel games would be a fantastic compromise if the anime doesn’t catch up in time to release Accel.
There’s a sequel to Ultimate Ninja Heroes on the PSP coming in summer 2008, featuring an original story of its own. Beyond that… well, the most I’m allowed to say at this point is that we’re planning to stay friends with the orange-jumpsuited kid for quite some time!