I may have mentioned once or twice (a day) how much I loved Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. CyberConnect2 managed to recreate the beautiful Naruto universe for you to wander around in, as well as add in all the humour and emotion that makes the anime/manga so popular.
It was always going to be interesting to see where the developers would take the franchise when it announced Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. With such a big focus on the online mode, would the single player campaign be worth playing?
Well, the first big change you’ll notice is indeed in the story mode. Gone are the open environments and side-quests, replaced with a number of story arcs based on popular Naruto characters.
Initially only three story arcs are available to play through – Young Naruto, older Naruto, and Sasuke. Each arc plays like a “best of” episode; allowing you to play through some of the key battles, whilst filling in story elements via static cutscenes in between battles. This streamlining of information can be viewed as both a positive and negative.[drop]On the plus side, it’s never been easier for someone unfamiliar with Naruto to pick the game up and not be bombarded with franchise lore. The downside is that fitting hours’ worth of story into 30-40 minutes means a lot has been skipped over. Important events are often not even mentioned, which may irk fans.
Completing available arcs sees new ones unlock. Some, such as Gaara, are fairly predictable and you’ll know the story inside out, but others are much more interesting. I won’t spoil it for you, but the ability to play the story of certain characters made me grin like a loon.
In terms of the fighting system, it’s very much a case of evolution rather than revolution, although this is no bad thing. The first change is with the substitution system. In previous games, if you timed a block just right your character would teleport out of the way of the attack, opening up the chance to counter. It wasn’t a particularly easy thing to get right, especially in the heat of battle.
Generations is much more forgiving when it comes to timing, but to compensate you can only use substitution a limited number of times before having to wait for the meter to recharge. This means if you go crazy and run out at the start you may find the middle of the battle a bit tricky.
Substitution is both a cause for elation and frustration. Completely avoiding your opponent’s attack and then hitting them with a special move is the best feeling in the world. However, avoiding your opponent only to see them then teleport out of the way of your attack makes me want to hit pandas. Especially when your opponent capitalises with a 24 hit combo.
An Awakening mode has also been added as a kind of last ditch attempt to win a fight. When your health is low you can activate Awakening, which elevates your character’s power to a higher level, so for example Naruto will enter his tailed beast form. The time spent in Awakening isn’t infinite, so it’s down to you to make the most of the boost in power.
Apart from that it’s business as usual. Strong attacks revolve around using up chakra, which drains from a meter at the top of the screen. Combining chakra with normal attacks will see combos end in a flashy move, such as a Rasengan, whilst your ultimate attack can only be performed with a full chakra meter.
Items and teamwork are also still part of the fighting system. You can take a number of items with you into battle, which are assigned to the D-pad, and clever use of these can actually turn a battle. Explosive tags will knock back an opponent, whilst other items may make them weaker, or you stronger.
You can also call in up to two teams mates throughout a battle. Depending on who they are, they will perform a one shot attack or guard that’ll buy you some time if, for example, you’re trying to recharge chakra. Calling both in at a certain time will trigger a Support Drive, which is a powerful attack featuring all characters.[drop2]As someone who struggles with more conventional fighting games, I do like the system CyberConnect2 has created for its Naruto games. It’s more about strategy than memorising combos, and requires you to know the limits of your character’s attacks and time exactly when to use them.
My only complaint is that, as with the other Naruto games, you’ll often hit a random difficulty spike that doesn’t make sense. For example, in one of the story arcs I was playing as Kakashi who was up against young Naruto. Even with Kakashi’s power nerfed somewhat, it should have been a walk in the park. Instead it was one of the most bizarrely difficult fights I came across in the game.
To put it into perspective, the next fight was against the older, much more powerful version of Naruto. I won the fight in under a minute and was awarded an ‘S’ rank. These spikes in difficulty can get annoying.
As well as the story mode, there are a number of other modes to try such as training, tournaments and survival. Survival is a personal favourite, and it sees you take part in as many fights as you can with just a single health bar. Depending on what rank you get after each fight, your health bar will recharge a small amount.
With the single player campaign out of the way, you’ll then want to dive into the comprehensive online mode. With over 70 characters to unlock and play as, spanning various Naruto timelines, you certainly won’t be found wanting! Every player has their own card, which logs various stats such as wins/losses. You are able to edit these cards to give yourself a title and picture which you can either unlock, or buy from the shop using in-game currency. These cards can be exchanged with opponents when a battle has finished.
Despite being able to customise your match, be it ranked or not, to suit your level, I found the online mode incredibly tough. There are a lot of excellent players out there, and it’s incredible to see how they work in terms of using their character assists and special moves. Don’t expect an easy ride, as your ego will be smashed to pieces. Apart from constant humiliation, I found the online parts of the game easy enough to use.
It’s with the sound and visuals where Generations shines the brightest. Everything looks absolutely gorgeous, and razor sharp. Sometimes the biggest reward for pulling off a special move isn’t the damage it’ll do, but the way it lights up the screen. The start and end of every story arc is also animated, and these scenes are well worth watching.
Despite the mostly positive vibe of this review, there are a few negatives that crop up. If you’ve played through the Ultimate Ninja Storm games then large parts of the story mode will feel very familiar. These stories have been told so many times now they are starting to lose impact.
When playing online, certain characters also feel unbalanced in terms of strength. For example, it’s easy to win a match by simply spamming Pain’s “Almighty Push” move, which surrounds him in a barrier that will damage anyone who goes near it.
- Looks and sounds sublime.
- Great fighting system.
- Lots of content.
- Challenging online mode.
- Parts of the story mode have been done before.
- Difficulty spikes.
- Some unbalanced characters when playing online.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a great game, there’s no denying that. The tweaks and additions made to the fighting system are most welcome, and it looks as stunning as ever. My main concern is with recommending it to people who already own Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, as I really don’t know if enough has changed to warrant spending £40.
For those new to the franchise though, jump right in. There’s never been a better time to get acquainted with the self-appointed “next Hokage!”