The meat of the game is experienced by playing its Ultimate Mission Mode. Here you relive the early adventures of the Naruto series by playing story related arcs as missions, beginning with the formation of Team 7 and ending with Sasuke's defection from the Leaf Village. In order to unlock new story missions to play however, you need to complete sides-quests ranked from D to A and gather enough experience points to unlock further content. Playing story content isn't the only thing you can do in Ultimate Mission Mode; The entire Hidden Leaf Village is explorable and filled with puzzles to complete, collectibles to find, and platforming challenges to test your skill with.
Tropes exhibited by this game:
- Adaptation Distillation: Not everything or every major player from the pre-Time Skip era is playable. The Land of Waves arc, and by extension Zabuza and Haku, are the most noticeable of the absences.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: You can unlock Sasuke's second outfit, The Sand Trio's, and Shikamaru's Sasuke Retrieval arc outfits by completing the story missions related to them.
- Big Bad: Just like in Part I of the canon story, Orochimaru is the main villain threatening the Leaf and Sasuke in particular.
- Bouncing Battler: Well, it is a game about ninjas, but this game in particular is quite bad for it, any and all AI opponents who are not giant bosses can and will hop around like caffeine addicted monkeys, denying you a chance to get in for a hit, to almost hair-pulling degrees. Thankfully, the chakra charge move seems to mitigate this as you home and shoulder check them, stopping them in their tracks.
- Demoted to Extra:
- Kimimaro's other Sound Five members aren't fought in the story chapters, despite the fact they're actual playable characters. This causes him to be elevated to Ascended Extra because the entire Sasuke Retrieval arc involves fighting him most of the time. In fact, he appears way sooner than when he did in the manga.
- From this installment onward, Kurenai is reduced to a non-playable, assist-only character.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Playing this game can be quite jarring if you played the sequels first.
- Ultimate Jutsu retained the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja method of evading damage from them: defeat your opponent in a button mash race, and they waste their Ultimate. This mechanic was dropped in the later titles.
- Jutsu clashing was originally carried over from earlier Ultimate Ninja games as well. When certain moves such as Rasengan or Rotation collide, a brief button mash contest starts up. Later games dropped this mechanic.
- The way exploration is handled in general; You can run up walls and jump from rooftop to rooftop, and even fly through the air with the Naruto Cannon, though exploration is limited strictly to Konoha. None of this comes back in the sequels.
- Boss battles are only against giant opponents, meaning that only Gamabunta, Manda and Shukaku are bosses here. Someone who played the sequels first might be quite surprised to see that epic, plot critical fights like Naruto vs. Neji, Naruto vs. Sasuke, or Hiruzen vs. Orochimaru have nothing that made them harder or at least different than other less meaningful fights.
- Occasionally there were minigames sprinkled throughout story mode as well.
- Also, compared to other entries, there's very little dialogue and/or cutscenes, and the story progresses in a rather clumsy and abrupt way.
- Ultimates and Jutsus can be swapped out, and instead of needing alternate costumes to use different skills, you only need to swap the skills out.
- Naruto and Sasuke's Awakened forms (Nine-Tailed Fox and Curse Seal Level 2) could be selected as separate characters, would last for the whole fight and had their own Ultimate Jutsus. In later games they're strictly Awakening only.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The story mode will occasionally break up battles with one of two minigames in an otherwise straight fighting game.
- Updated Re-release: This and the other 2 of the first 3 main titles in the series got rereleased in 2017 for Xbox One and PS4 and PC and in 2018 for the Switch.