"NARUTO ULTIMATE NINJA 3," by Bandai Namco Games, for the PlayStation 2, rated T for teen, reviewer's rating 8 (out of 10)

Japanese anime's favorite rowdy young ninja is back to prove his worth and annoy his ninja elders.

The latest installment of the video-game companion to the popular cartoon series comes packed with countless characters, minigames and options. The overall premise of the game sees Naruto getting caught up in the Ultimate Ninja showdown between his ninja clan and a rival clan. This time it's every ninja for himself as fighters put their allegiances aside to prove who is the top fighter.

Players can train various characters and pick up new abilities and "jutsu" spells to put them on top. The game also comes with a variety of minigames, many of which can be played with a second player.

One slight problem with the game is that with so much content, the player is left with little direction, and it's easy to get stuck trying to figure out what to do next. With that said, this game proves to be one of the most entertaining titles on an ever-underappreciated platform. Who says you still can't have a blast on the PlayStation 2?

Graphics: Honestly, this game has some of the slickest graphics I've ever seen on the PlayStation 2. The cell-shaded graphics of the characters makes the game look as if it jumped directly out of the "Naruto" animated series. Ninjas vanish in puffs of smoke, grass sways in the wind and magic effects during fight matches are fast-paced and dazzling.

Audio: It appears the actors who do the English version of the television series have lent their talents to the game. The voice acting really puts the gamer into Naruto's world — quirky Japanese humor included.

Parent's take: While most of the game is not terribly violent, the game gets its "Teen" rating for references to alcohol and gambling.

Final word: "Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3" has so much to do, it's easy to get a bit lost. In all, it is one of the best PlayStation 2 games to come out in quite a while.


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