Naruto: Shinobi Retsuden

Japan Import: Ninjas haven't been good since Big Trouble In Little China

Those crazy ninja adventurers are back from their foray into RPGs, and have returned to Street Fighter-esque beat-'em-ups once more. It's one of the very, very few one-on-one fighting games available for the DS, but sadly it's not filling any needs.

If you're unlucky enough to speak to a Virtua Fighter aficionado, you'll hear them talk about how they mastered the back-back-forward-up-down-A-A-up-pick-your-nose-A-down-up-left combo to perfection. Naruto: SR asks that you press A. It's not quite the same. There are some combos to find, but they're generally like "AAAAB", or similarly uninspired.

Ninja cringer
The game's Story Mode is a shockingly short seven fights, easily won the first time through without worrying a single 'Continue'. This unlocks a couple more of the 14 total characters available for the Single Battle or Arcade Mode. It's here that you can at least play through with each ninja without the boring Japanese-text story. However, the variation between fighters is so minimal that it doesn't add a great deal.

It's in 3D, which hasn't been put to brilliant use. You can rotate around your opponent, but the game AI's psychic powers make this rather ineffective. This is even worse with the Kawarimi move - warping over to the other side of your foe - because the DS character has already turned around to face you before you've reappeared. Cheater!

For any experienced fighter, even on Hard this won't offer enough of a challenge. The touch screen is only used to activate the six bonus items you have for each battle, which boost your health or chakra (the power behind the special moves on the A button), and most fights can be won with just Y and A.

Far too small and over-simplified, it's about 15 minutes' fun, and not that fun either.

The verdict

Dull dull dull. Surely someone can make a decent beat-'em-up for the DS? It can't be that hard. Don't make us do it - we're busy eating biscuits.

Nintendo DS
Beat 'em Up