You know, cell shading is greatly under appreciated. "Oh let's get the best graphics" or "WHERE ARE MY AWESOME GRAPHICS?!?!" seems to be the attitude of most developers (and some gamers) these days. Listen, the best graphics make the games run slow and lag constantly. Cell shading on the other hand, is a way to make the graphics look artistic as well as run smoother. That joke circulating the internet (Yes, but will it run Crysis?) is very true in some cases. When you come down to it, better graphics is not the way to go, especially in a fighting game. While it does look a bit bland at times, the choice to use cell shading is more of a boon than a bane.
Oh ya! The fights! This is perhaps the fastest, smoothest fighting game I've ever played. Fights can be easily run through a 99 count without even getting to single digits. Moves are fast, attacks are fast, so you need to be fast as well. The moves are incredibly responsive as well. The main attack is just as fast to use as one of my justu, which is just as fast as it takes to charge my chakra (In lay-men's terms: my attack is fast, my super attack is fast and the time it takes to charge said attack is just as fast). Not every character controls the same, even the past versions of some characters. Naruto's Sasuke handles much differently from anyone of the three different Sasuke's from the Shippuden series (Yes, three. We'll get to that later.)
Largest cast of characters to choose from is a bit of an understatement, but true. Boasting 88 characters, the majority of which control completely different from the last. At times I find it cheating that they have three different Sasuke's, three different Naruto's and two different Bee's (not an actual 'bee' but a character named 'Bee'). I guess technically you could say there are 80+ characters which is accurate to the box's description. They make up for this by having each character handle uniquely and according to how they would in the original anime. The small discrepancy of having one person just be slightly different from another is overshadowed by the fact that there are 80+ unique characters to choose from.
Battling in the story or in the versus mode allows you to get money. Only in story mode can you gain Legend and Hero levels. Gaining money is useful for buying new items like restoratives or ninja tools. It's nice to see the versus mode has a plus on the story mode. Apart from that, you can buy small collectibles, alternate super attacks as well as a different loot to your substitution skill (dodge/combo break skill).
There's a lot of ways to get more characters in the game. I got most of my characters from the versus mode rather than the story mode. I haven't even unlocked all the characters yet, about two thirds the way there.
I don't know if this is bad or not, but the main storyline is just bland. Admittedly this may be because I have watched the anime and know everything that is going to happen. The game starts off (where I presume the last one ended) with the destruction and rebuilding of the Leaf village, followed by Sasuke's betrayal of the Leaf and how Sakura and Naruto cope with their longtime friend (and love interest in Sakura's case) is now their mortal enemy. The first series touched on this, but this is where it is 100% true that he's evil. That may seem amazing to others, but for a guy who is a fan and who has seen it, I just feel like skipping through the cut scenes often. This is kind of taken away by the fact you can make small choices in the game. The Legend choice will make you fight much harder than you normally would (not a difficulty setting btw). In one case, I had the opportunity to take the Legend route and go through a crowded space of enemies to get to my target, or simply take the Hero route and go straight to the target. You'll receive faux xp points from this, going to a Legend and Hero portion of the game which defines what items you'll be able to use in combat. Legend prefers attacking items, while Hero has some recovery items and only one set (Hero or Legend) can be equipped per fight. You can buy new items as well, but there isn't much in the find on the ground department that most games have. Apart from that, you'll also be able to sort of change the story a bit. When The Fourth is fighting in the Prologue, the story is clearly laid out, however, you can see some option stuff via using certain attacks or keeping your health above "insert number here". I like how they did their best to understand this game is for fans, and by that the fans will already have seen these moments but it still is just there for the sake of progression and I can see it wouldn't have really worked either way. Glad they included it, but still.
Some certain sections of the game have you... not... fighting...? What that means is that you'll be controlling a character in a small area just walking around and I have to say this is the worst part of the game. You're mostly on a linear path due to the story mode. Taking detours is strictly prohibited when in a story portion. I've got to say, why not have an extra choice here? In the anime, Sakura is going to kill Sasuke to protect Naruto's feelings. This could have been a great way to show what would have happened if she chickened out. Or maybe have like a little cut scene where the character decides to continue on, rather than just have a little bubble pop up and say "I can't go that way" or "Maybe later". I don't know just my personal feelings. Apart from that, when you aren't on a story mission and walking around, the camera is placed far away from the player. While I see this as being intelligent so you can see, I find it a reminder that this is on rails pretty much. The size of The Hidden Leaf village is about the size of LA county (not really, but it is big). Even after it's been destroyed and rebuilt, it's a big place. Why is there so little to do here and walk around? There are people to talk to but not Skyrim level and more just "Oh hey, that is a person I can talk to because there is a thing on their head that says I can talk o them". There are 'side missions' and those are boring as well and broad. I would have loved to see something like a Bingo book (not actual bingo but a list of known characters and their powers as well as their rank in the ninja world) that you could fill up as you battle characters or be able to go on missions from the Hokage (village chief) outside the village to take down rouge ninjas or do some tiny little quests to earn money. This really just makes me want a Naruto RPG. So much potential.
There's a moment when I had to attack a bunch of enemies in a group and it didn't work out so well. The game doesn't have much of these fights from what I've seen (only met one). It didn't do it bad but I can see how it wouldn't work out. There's no real dodge mechanic other than substitution which is limited. They might not have many of these but it's notable.
There's an online mode but... meh. Don't really care about it. It might have some really badass and tough fights to deal with but as I've said before, I don't really care about online.
The menus are really small. I guess it's not bad considering that smaller is better and substance over quantity. That being said, there are three main things (Story, Battle and Online) to choose from at first glance and an options via button commands. Not bad but some may see it as bad.
The English voice acting is kind of... awful. Some of it is fine like the main character's voices but the side characters get really awful. It's hard to say but in the anime, Bee is a rapping black guy and sounds like one. English, he sounds like a character from a black-splotation film. I don't know if rapping just sounds better in Japanese but you're better off turning the settings to have the voice acting in Japanese rather than English.
Naruto has some pretty good games in it's line up. I've only played a few and they've all been pretty good and this one's no exception. Worth the 60 dollar price tag? Maybe. This is a game for the fans of the series and fighting games in general. It's a good game and not a bad buy.