I’m a huge fan of how CyberConnect 2 has handled the Naruto licence, so I was thrilled to bits when Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 was announced. Having experimented with a different formula for their “Generations” game, it seemed that things were back to normal with a much more story driven affair.
The area where you’ll spend a large chunk of your time is the single player Adventure mode, which takes you into the 4th Great Ninja War. Adventure mode has you play through a number of key battles, with the rest of the story being filled in via cutscenes.
Straight away the dial is turned up to eleven as you’re thrown into a flashback of when the Nine Tailed Fox attacked the Hidden Leaf Village. It’s quite a set piece; visually stunning and a statement from CyberConnect 2 that they know what fans want from a Naruto game.[drop]After that, though, things become a bit more divisive. This is because of the sheer number and length of the cutscenes. There are times where the game makes you sit through a 10 minute+ long cutscene, have a quick battle, then go back to another, similar length cutscene. While many may have no issue with this, being keen to soak up every drop of the story, others may get a bit tetchy as it can begin to feel more like the anime than a game.
Yes, you can skip these cutscenes, but then you lose out on a heck of a lot of information, character development and motivation.
In terms of the fights themselves, what initially seems like quite a shallow system actually terms out to be rather robust. Every character has a basic punch/kick type combo, as well as the ability to dash and jump. You can also chuck a kunai (bladed weapon) at your opponent, although that’s really only useful as a diversionary tactic.
What makes things interesting is how you manage your chakra. Chakra acts as your energy, and when activated allows you to boost the power of normal attacks or, if you have enough, perform a ninjitsu or ultimate ninjitsu attack. Performing such attacks, or being hit particularly hard, drains your chakra and to build it back up again you need to hold down the required button for a short amount of time.
You can also bring a number of items into battle, which can prove invaluable. There are times when a well-placed explosive tag has turned the battle in my favour.
Then there’s the substitution system. Tapping the shoulder button just before an opponent lands an attack will see you instantly teleport behind them. You can only ever do this four times in a row, as substitution is governed by a bar at the top of the screen that gradually refills. Of course, if you successfully pull this off you don’t have time to celebrate as a skilled opponent can quite easily counter your counter and end up right behind you!
Not content with that? Well there’s also Awakened states, where certain players can transform into beasts, such as the Nine Tails. The downside to that is that once you drop out of that state you’ll be weakened for a while. Certain fights will also allow you to call team mates in for a one-shot attack or defensive move. Knowing the best way to utilise this comes in very handy.
Basically, if you’ve played one of the Naruto games before you pretty much know what to expect by now and you’ll be able to jump in without a problem. If you haven’t then I’d urge you to hit the tutorials just to get the hang of things because it can feel a bit overwhelming.
New to the series are the “Ultimate Decision” moments. I’ll give you an example of one: at the beginning of the game the Nine Tails attacks. The 4th Hokage appears with the intention of fighting, but is teleported away by Madara. You are then given the choice; battle Madara (which is a harder ranked fight) or switch control to the 3rd Hokage and fight the Nine Tails (which is labelled as easier). Taking on the harder fight will give you more legend points, whilst the easier route will give you hero points, both of which are put towards levelling up and unlocking more item slots.
There are also certain areas that turn into a free-roaming beat ‘em up, with you smashing through dozens of grunts and the occasional bigger enemy that’s tossed in for good measure. “Inoffensive” would be the best way to describe these points, although they’re not a patch on the proper battles.
Whilst the fighting system is extremely enjoyable, it’s the presentation that steals the show here. The game looks and sounds fantastic, and captures everything that makes Naruto great. Normally I dislike quick time events, but the ones used in this game against the bigger enemies are simply insane and chocked to the brim with style and energy. There are also beautiful touches such as battles dipping into flashbacks as the characters remember big moments in their lives. It reminds me just how much I love the Naruto universe.[drop2]Still, this is a review, not a love letter, so there are a few issues that need to be raised. First of all, the game seems extraordinarily easy. Ultimate Ninja 2 had some pad-bendingly frustrating moments, but I only died a handful of times during 3. CyberConnect 2 has turned the difficulty meter down a bit too far! There are also sections that feel a bit pointless, where you’ll take control of your character after a cutscene, walk for ten paces, hit a loading screen and then be plunged right into another cutscene.
After the lengthy (15 hours or so) Adventure mode there’s an online mode to play through, featuring around 80 characters, providing you’ve unlocked them. You can play ranked or unranked head to head or tournament matches, although in my experience it can be a right hassle getting into any match at all with the “session full” warning flashing up far too many times. On top of that, the online does seem encounter lag from time to time, although it’s not pervasive.
The biggest issue, in my opinion anyway, is that the online section can become pretty boring. A lot of the time you’ll come up against someone spamming the same couple of powerful moves, which always seem to connect. Hardly the game’s fault, but it’s the same experience I had with Generations when that was released.
- Sublime presentation.
- Brilliant story.
- A lengthy single player campaign.
- An interesting fighting system.
- The online fights feel flat.
- Some pointless sections of the game.
- Far too easy, for the most part.
Simply put, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is the best Naruto game yet. Whilst the length of the cutscenes may put some off, the presentation, story and fighting is top notch and the game is heartily recommend to all Naruto fans. Yes, it has some niggles, but the positives more than outweigh the negatives.