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Video Game / Naruto: Ultimate Ninja

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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja (Naruto: Narutimate Hero in Japan) is a Fighting Game developed by CyberConnect2 for the Naruto franchise exclusive to the PlayStation 2. It is the first installment of the long-running Ultimate Ninja series. It was released in 2003 in Japan and 2006 in the West.

The game is a mostly straightforward 2D fighter taking over the course of the beginning of the manga to the Destruction of the Hidden Leaf arc. The main mode of this installment is a Chronicles mode in which you take the helm of one of the playable characters and go through a series of battles loosely chronicling their contributions to the overarching story of the manga from their perspective. The other mode of importance is the Mission mode, where you can freely select a character and do a number of battles with certain criteria attached, ascending through the ranks to become the best.

The game received a grand total of fourteen sequels. Four are direct sequels of this game for the PS2: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 in 2004, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 in 2005, and both Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 5 in 2007. Three are parallel installments for the PlayStation Portable: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress in 2006, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 in 2007, and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact in 2011. Finally, the remaining six are for the so-called Storm series and have their own pages (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Until Heroes 3, Western markets usually saw localizations 2-3 years after the original Japanese releases (the sole exception is the first Storm, which was released overseas two months before Japan) and it's not until Storm 2 that the games were released day and date in all markets.

Regarding that skipped number in the Heroes series, this is because the West received a watered down version of Heroes 2 before its official release called Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes (Japan went straight to Heroes 2, which originally had no number).

Tropes exhibited by this game:

  • Adaptational Badass: Some characters are much more potent here than they are in canon.
    • Sakura, she's been given the abilities of Genjutsu as well as better combat skills than she has demonstrated in the Manga, putting her on par with Naruto and Sasuke.
    • Hinata, while she was certainly a competent fighter once she became determined, she didn't have any of the Hyuga secret techniques. Here she demonstrates the very moves Neji used to incapacitate Naruto during their battle in the Chunin Exam Finals, including her own equivalent of the Eight Trigrams 64 Palms.
    • A minor case with Neji and Shikamaru, they both have a technique that they wouldn't learn until the last arc of Part I, (Eight Trigrams 128 Palms and Shadow Strangle Jutsu respectfully) otherwise they are as strong as they are around the series timeframe.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The main story mode runs afoul with this, as it only goes by the perspective of the characters playable.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Rather than the purely rock opening of the original version, the English version uses the same theme song that played during the early dubbed episodes, "Rise".
  • Assist Character: Whoever you select will have a "partner" that will drop items and can be called upon if you use a special item. Many of the characters who aren't in the playable roster make appearances through this method, assisting the character their attached to.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In Zabuza, Haku, and Orochimaru's endings.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Rock Lee as expected, he's much more noticeably athletic than many of the others.
  • BFS: Zabuza's unique playstyle is based off of his enormous sword and how he adapts to slice his foes in half.
  • Big Bad: Orochimaru. Even Zabuza, the other playable main villain shows fear towards him in his unique Make-Out Paradise dual portrait.
  • Bowdlerise: The western versions censored Asuma's cigarette. It is particularly notable in Shikamaru's Level 3 Ultimate Jutsu, which ends with a shot of Asuma throwing his cigarette.
  • Decomposite Character: In the Japanese version, Naruto and Sasuke have permanent awakening forms that stay intact until the battle's end. The former activates the Nine Tails Mode by performing at least one part of his Level 3 Ultimate Jutsu, while Sasuke activates the Curse Marked Mode by performing either the fourth part of his Level 2 or third part of his Level 3 Ultimate Jutsu. In the West, both forms were detached into two separate unlockable characters, who inherited the Ultimate Jutsu that activate them in the Japanese release. As a result, the original Naruto's four-part Level 2 Ultimate Jutsu was divided into two to fill the spare Level 3, while Sasuke outright lost the parts that could activate the Curse Marked form.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: There are a number of odd quirks about this game that are generally fixed with the sequels.
    • There is no exploration mode. The Scenario Mode entirely consists of cutscenes and battles spread over 12 "sagas" corresponding to the playable characters in the game. The sagas overlap and there are some that blatantly contradict the canon (hence the aversion of No Campaign for the Wicked).
    • Related to the above, since exploration mode doesn't exist, missions are directly accessed from the main menu.
    • The Shop system is extremely clunky compared to the sequels. You choose between three capsule machines and can buy a capsule ranging from 100 to 3000 ryo, which contains an item. You can't choose the specific item you want to buy or even guess which one it is, since the order you get is random, although the machine's items themselves are fixed. Unless you pick the most expensive price for each machine, you may get useless items instead, which are necessary for a single S-rank mission but are otherwise, well, useless.
    • Each character's two jutsu are activated differently: one requires chaining a combo first, while the other does not. In other games, the jutsu always have dedicated inputs and do not have to be chained from a combo.
    • Since the game only follows the canon up to chapter 138, Naruto notably does not have his Signature Move, Rasengan, which definitely feels weird for longtime fans. While this is also the case for other early Naruto videogame tie-ins, it is the only one in the Ultimate Ninja series.
    • Both this game and Ultimate Ninja 2 are the only ones to have the assist characters only provide items, in fact in order for them to do any amount of combat they require a special item that calls upon them to send a special jutsu.
    • The dubbing of the game has a number of odd inconsistencies such as referring to Konoha as both it's original name and it's dubbed equivalent, as well as a number of other attack names that would be later changed in the dub.
  • Filler: As of chapter 138, there are only a couple of fights involving only the 12 characters in the game, yet each character has to have 4-6 story fights, resulting in a lot of fillers to make it up. Hinata probably has it worst, since her single canon fight by that point is against Neji. The rest of her story has her face off against random genin of her generation, including Sasuke, whom she has never even talked to in the manga.
  • Flash Step: Using the Scroll of Instant Body teleports the character behind their opponent.
  • Ghibli Hills: No. 44 Exercise Ground: The Forest of Death.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The secret scrolls are a downplayed example, they have a hint system that clues in their location, but some of them can be pretty obnoxious to find, especially with your opponent breathing down your throat.
    • To clear some of the mission requirements, the game will want the player to perform additional attacks, but the game manual doesn't mention how to perform said attacks, so you're left to searching around or practicing to learn how to perform them.
  • Joke Character:
    • None other than Naruto gets this. Since he didn't have too much of a repertoire by this point of the series, his regular combat ninjutsu are his Sexy Jutsu and his infamous fart. His ultimates at the very least give him some of his better moments.
    • Sakura as well, since she doesn't have a distinct ninja persona until Part II/Shippuden. Her only serious moves are taijutsu and booby traps; all others are either jokes (Inner Sakura) or made up (tree genjutsu, which belongs to Kurenai). She continues to be this in the next two games.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Occasionally the story will result in a battle that amounts to this. Hinata has it the worst, she gets pulled to fight characters such as Sasuke of all people for fairly poor reasons.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Haku utilizes his speed to be just as strong as a regular punch or kick while still being about as durable as everyone else.
  • Limit Break: The multi-part, cinematic Ultimate Jutsu, which consumes either one, two or three chakra bars. The performer must register the buttons shown to ensure that the jutsu moves forward, while the afflicted can register the same buttons to reduce the damage taken. Most characters have three Ultimate Jutsu, while Nine Tailed Naruto and Curse Marked Sasuke each have a single Level 3 Ultimate Jutsu.
  • Mana Burn:
    • Standing on water bodies will sap your chakra overtime.
    • There is also Hinata and Neji's Byakugan awakening form, which drains their opponent's chakra every time they hit them.
  • Master of Illusion: In a huge departure from the main canon, Sakura is this, using both Kurenai's genjutsu, and genjutsu exclusive to her that makes the victim see her grow huge and trample them, or in her high level ultimate, bring out Inner Sakura and have her beat the opponent down and break their spine.
  • Multi-Slot Character: In the Japanese version, Naruto and Sasuke have permanent awakening forms that stay intact until the battle's end. The former activates the Nine Tails Mode by performing at least one part of his Level 3 Ultimate Jutsu, while Sasuke activates the Curse Marked Mode by performing either the fourth part of his Level 2 or third part of his Level 3 Ultimate Jutsu. In the West, both forms were detached into two separate unlockable characters, who inherited the Ultimate Jutsu that activate them in the Japanese release. As a result, the original Naruto's four-part Level 2 Ultimate Jutsu was divided into two to fill the spare Level 3, while Sasuke outright lost the parts that could activate the Curse Marked form.
  • Mythology Gag: The game is ripe with them. At times it almost even feels like the game is a playable version of the Manga. The ultimates in particular replicate many of the characters most iconic scenes from this time period.
  • Ninja Log: Substitution Jutsu is featured and is an integral part of the battle system. Pressing L2 or R2 when hit by the enemy will cause the character to teleport behind them, with a visual replacing their previous position (water for Haku and Zabuza, sand for Gaara, log for everyone else). To prevent one from abusing it constantly, the technique consumes a bit of the character's chakra. Getting the Kakashi Figure makes one automatically do the technique upon contact at no chakra cost.
  • Nintendo Hard: A few of the mission requirements are close to impossible to clear unless one is really good. One notable example from the first game is a mission where you have to defeat an opponent in 30 counts while also dealing three additional attacks, something that is very challenging to pull off with certain characters. It gets cranked up in the mission after it where it's mostly the same, but this time you have to deal six additional attacks instead.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted. You can play as Haku, Zabuza, and Orochimaru in the Scenario Mode and their stories end with them winning against the heroes.
  • Power at a Price: Entering Sasuke's Curse Marked Mode greatly increases his overall stats, but also drains his HP rather fast. Essentially, you're left with the choice to end the fight as early as you can, since the form is permanent.
  • Power Copying: If Sasuke and Kakashi activate their Sharingan mode, they'll become an exact copy of their opponent complete with copying their non-ultimate justu. The only case where this is a bad thing is if your up against Gaara, as while they copy his movements, they don't copy his sand that is exclusively his.
  • Randomly Generated Loot: The shop's capsule machines all have a fixed amount of items (614, 762, and 865 items for Beginner, Collector, and Maniac, respectively), but the order you get them is random. Also, the only way to guarantee that an item is bought is by paying the most expensive price for each machine; paying less means there is always a chance for you to get useless items.
  • Ring Out: Downplayed. Ring outs merely deal small damage on a character and they are subsequently brought back to the arena. There are three means to ring out: move off of a stage, fall on water, or attempt to stand on water without chakra.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: While many locations have a rooftop section, Lookout Tower and Kikyo Castle: Castle Keep are wholly set on top of buildings.
  • Secret Character: Gaara, Haku, Hinata, Neji, Orochimaru, and Zabuza are unlocked by clearing their sagas in Scenario Mode. In the western versions, Curse Marked Sasuke and Nine Tailed Naruto are also secret characters unlocked in Mission Mode.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Sunagimo Estate: Buddha Statue.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The snakes in the background of Forest of Death and Lookout Tower are capable of harming you. When the former reaches the log in the background, it will thrust any character who stands on the log. Meanwhile, the latter will occasionally engulf the rooftop in the foregroung with fire.
  • Special Attack: Characters can use chakra-consuming jutsu by either chaining a combo or pressing Down+Down+O.
  • Status Buff: Some items buff up a character for a certain amount of time.
    • Food Pills increase a character's attack power.
    • Shoes of Jonin increase a character's speed.
    • Kakashi Figure automatically prompts a character to substitute when hit by the enemy at no chakra cost. They are still vulnerable to projectiles.
    • Scroll of Hidden Cloud makes a character invisible, rendering all projectiles useless against them. Put this hand in hand with Kakashi Figure and the character becomes briefly invincible.
  • Status Effects: Some items can inflict harmful statuses on a character:
    • Hitting a character with the Weight of Gut decreases their speed for a while.
    • By using his Support Item, Orochimaru can summon Kabuto, who performs the Temple of Nirvana Jutsu that puts an enemy to sleep and makes them unable to act for a short time. The same effect happens if you stand on the area of attack of the Anbunote  who stands in the foreground of the Chunin Exams Stadium.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The Great Naruto Bridge.