I recently picked up this title (as in, yesterday, when it was released on Steam) partially for my significant other, who is a Naruto fan, and partially for myself, as a fan of the games. For the record, let me start off by saying that I feel the manga is only so-so, and that I hate the anime. Let that generate whatever feelings you want going into this, because I have always been a fan of the games.
Namco Bandai and Cyber Connect 2 teamed up to bring a part of the Naruto Shippuden world in this action/adventure title. The game sort of feels like playing any one of the Tales games, but has a few unique elements to it that set it apart. The combat system is very simplified, clearly intended for children to be able to pick up and button mash to be able to make it through the beginning parts of the game and develop the skill of pushing buttons with purpose as they play through it. This works out for adults too because the game has no real tutorial mode, not for how to fight at any rate, and the moves list is very rudimentary.
Combats are smooth, however, due to this lack of complication. You can get out of combos with the substitution technique, which many newer arcade fighters could benefit from some way to get out of a stun lock, but the characters get stuck in combos easily once you start them, so the only way to protect yourself in some situations is that technique. Buttons aren't particularly hard to reach or remember, though it is a little awkward at first. Notably, I have not tried the keyboard controls for the game at this point, only the xbox360 controller I use on my pc. Local multiplayer, of course, is a nice feature. The game appears to support up to 8 controllers, from what I can tell, but I'm not entirely certain on that. I know for certain that it does four controllers, which is useful for the built in tournament system put in the game.
As for the story mode, Bandai delivers, much like they do with the Tales series. If I did have any complaint on this part of the game, it would be that you don't have enough influence over the events like you do in a true rpg. You'll be spending up to a half an hour through some cut-scene sequences, but the scenes are beautifully done and give a lot of consolidated insight into the events that take place throughout the animation series in a much more concise manner. For those of you not wanting to sit through dozens of filler episodes with the characters monologuing or screaming an entire episode as they power up their ultimate attack that will actually go off two or three episodes later, then this is the way you want to experience the Naruto story and world. For the rest of you, I'm sure you have no trouble tracking down the anime episodes to watch through at your leisure.
The ability to explore the world would be more interesting with more to do in the world, but I won't say that the game is bad by the lack of stuff to do. It is, at its core, the same thing that the Naruto anime is...a fight show, and it does it far better than the anime does. While I tend to avoid games from other media like movies and whatnot, this game stands out with masterfully rendered cutscenes that look like they were taken straight out of the animation, but are actually simply redone with the 3D models of the characters in the game. The voice acting for the English side is the same as the US releases, so the performances are at least consistent. If you like that, there you go. For those of you that prefer the Japanese voices, Bandai was awesome enough to leave the original Japanese voice sets in the game, so you can experience it with the higher quality performance of the original voice actors from Japan.
At $40 on steam, the game is pricy, but less expensive than other arcade battlers and comes with a robust cast of characters, costumes, and hours of gameplay. I highly recommend this title to not only fans of the anime, but people who aren't fans of the the series, but like a good fight game. It is well done, and offers a lot that many other games could learn from.
Update: I just tried playing the game online for the first time and had severe problems with being disconnected over and over again. This is something that will need to be fixed, as the game is just about unplayable online right now.