For those who have never played the Naruto Clash of Ninja fighting game series, start with this one. It’s got 40 characters, a slick fighting system, tons of unlockables, and online combat for the first time. Longtime fans might be wary of the game, however, as this is the fifth game in the series in four years.
 
For the latest entry, Eighting retooled 15 characters and added 10 new fighters. The core single-player experience is the story mode, which follows a Shippuden storyline where all of the characters have aged forward a few years. Players who never watched the show will have no idea what the hell is going on, so cutscene skipping is a welcome feature. In following the anime plot, certain characters have to fight specific enemies with strict victory conditions. While it can be amusing to shoot for a team up finisher or beat down an enemy with an AI partner, some of the later challenges are so stacked against you that it’s more like beating your head against a wall than attempting a fun challenge. At least in most fighting games you can swap out characters and try a different approach, but here it would violate the Naruto canon so you’re screwed.

Fighting is simple on the surface, with just strong attack, weak attack, throw, and special on the four classic controller face buttons (do not play with the remote and nunchuk). Like Smash Bros., these attacks can be combined with directional movement for new moves and combos. Instead of relying on joystick half-circle movements, all specials use the same simple input, but are limited by a chakra bar. This makes impressive supers easy to pull off, and prevents spamming.

Online play worked well in our matches. Throughout the variety of one-on-one and team-play battles, I only experienced a slight framerate hiccup once. The largest hurdle to full enjoyment of online and local multiplayer, however, is that many characters are locked away in the shop. The game provides you with a nice starting pile of cash to buy a few characters and extra modes, but it will take even skilled players a while to earn enough to buy out the roster. Fortunately, you earn money for absolutely everything you do in the game, including losing in versus play.

Other modes include score attack, time attack, kumite, and survival. These options are nothing special, but they offer some variety in earning cash, and in survival’s case, you can really rake in the dough. Speaking of money, the game is smartly priced at $40 to presumably bring in curious Wii fighting fans. It’s certainly a solid way for genre fans to pass the winter months.