Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 was one of my favourite games of 2010. Despite not following the manga/anime exactly, it managed to capture the spirit that makes Naruto so entertaining, and couple it with a varied fighting system and gorgeous visuals. Needless to say when Naruto Shippuden 3D – The New Era was announced I was over the moon, but can the 3DS’ debut Naruto game live up to its console big brother?
The story behind NS3D is quite an intriguing one. During a training session on Mount Myoboku, Naruto receives an urgent summons back to the Hidden Leaf Village. It turns out the Kages from the Great Nations have severed all peaceful ties, and are instead strengthening their militaries, ready for war with each other. On his way back to the village Naruto runs into the Hidden Leaf’s Hokage, Tsunade, and she is acting weird indeed. After a hard battle Naruto uncovers that the Tsunade in front of him is just a puppet. What on earth is going on? Could the other Kages be puppets too?[drop] The story’s good, albeit with one major omission; a total lack of voice acting. Scenes just aren’t the same without Naruto’s incessant chatter, or Kakashi’s cool, calm tones. Even in battle where one might expect a “Rasengan!” during the special moves, there is only silence. What a pity. What is good, however, is the game’s musical score which varies depending on your situation. It’s lively, and in keeping with what you would expect of a Naruto game.
Another thing to be aware of is this game isn’t for Naruto beginners. You’re expected to know who Tsunade is, why she mistrusts Gaara, what Sage powers are; the list goes on. It’s great for fans because it means no unnecessary tutorials to wade through, but walking into this blind would be a mistake.
Graphically, NS3D is a mixed bag. The character models during the cutscenes are instantly recognisable, and nicely detailed, but in-game the level backgrounds are sparse. Continuing in the Naruto tradition, special moves are as over-the-top as ever, with huge explosions and pyrotechnics. The 3D is subtle, and doesn’t make a huge difference. Unfortunately the game can suffer from slowdown, whether the 3D is on or off.
Rather than follow on from previous console free roaming Naruto games, NS3D is a side scrolling platformer. Every level consists of you going from left to right (plus up and down) whilst fending off enemies. Jumping feels good, and Naruto has a nice feeling of weight behind him. He can also sprint, and wall jump.
To defend himself, Naruto has a number of attacks up his sleeve. First up are the basic punch/kick combos, which are ideal for close combat. If you need to take a step back you can also throw a Kunai, and if you really need to get away fast you can dodge backwards. You can also equip three assist characters at a time from the Naruto canon, and tag them in to perform a special attack and buy you some breathing space.
For those who like a bit of destruction Naruto is armed with a secret technique, which uses up part of your chakra meter, but delivers a powerful attack. This can be taken up a notch with a lethal technique, which is even stronger and comes with its own fancy cutscene. Finally, when you have built up enough energy you can enter Sage Mode, which makes you stronger for a limited time, as well as giving you access to new techniques.[drop2] Sounds great, right? Well unfortunately there are a number of problems. A lot of the enemies, most notably the bosses, don’t recoil when you hit them, meaning they will merrily continue hacking away whilst you try and perform powerful moves on them. The result is you normally end up taking more damage, thus negating the need to use them. Collision detection also becomes a problem, and sometimes up to four hits won’t register on an enemy before they happily flatten you.
Entering Sage Mode also presents its own problems. During the transformation process there is a period of a second or two where you are frozen to the spot. This wouldn’t be so bad if you were invincible for that time, but you aren’t and more than likely will end up taking damage. Essentially you’re given all these cool abilities, then penalised for trying to use them. A lot of them time I found myself just jumping over enemies and running off, rather than try and face them and risk having my health whittled down.
The biggest problem, though, comes with the gyro controls. At certain intervals you’ll get a little heads-up, which means a quick time event is incoming. Rather than pressing buttons, NS3D uses the 3DS’ gyro and you are asked to tilt and twist the console in various directions. Depending on how well you’ve done you’ll get a ‘pass’ or a ‘fail’. Unfortunately the on-screen instructions don’t actually match what you need to do to succeed.
What should have been an incredibly simple thing turned into something ridiculously frustrating, as time and again the console refused to recognise the movements. What made it worse was that boss battles won’t end unless you pass these QTEs, and every time you fail the boss regains some health which they use to kick your ass. Luckily, when on the verge of giving up, I had some help from a couple of jolly decent chaps who gave me a few tips. It seems the console will recognise your movements if you lay the 3DS almost flat and look down on it from above. Nothing like what the on-screen prompts look like, but it certainly transformed my experience for the better.
In terms of length, you’ll get about six hours out of the game, although a chunk of that will be restarts because my goodness this game gets difficult. I’m all up for a challenge, but some of the battles seem almost unfair and heavily in favour of the computer character. Prepare to die a lot. You can also replay all completed levels as a time trial, with a vastly reduced health bar for good measure. This turns something difficult into something reserved for those whose idea of a good night out is to go into the woods and forage for wolves.
- Interesting story.
- Replay value for those who are a bit mad.
- Detailed character models.
- Decent upgrade system.
- Assist characters add variety.
- Poor on-screen prompts for gyro controls.
- No voice acting.
- Poor collision detection.
- No enemy recoil.
I’m torn as to what score to give NS3D. Whilst there is a decent enough game lurking underneath, you get the feeling that this could have been so much more. If you’re a hardcore Naruto fan then you’ll get some enjoyment out of this, most certainly from the story. For all others, though, this is not the Naruto game for you.