Feeling the world needed yet another video game based on the ever-popular anime/manga series Naruto, Namco Bandai Games have unleashed Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3.
Unlike One Piece, I feel the Naruto series has a far larger appeal to general Western audiences, and as a result the pressure for the development team (CyberConnect2) to make a highly enjoyable and accessible game based on this endearing series is immense.
This pressure sees Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 come out as a reasonably polished game that doesn’t fail to entertain both long-term fans and those who perhaps aren’t familiar with the Naruto story, though fails to bring anything remarkable to the table as a video game.
Read on for the full review!
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 starts off with a bang. So much so that I, someone who’s taken a rather on-fence-approach to the anime/manga for almost a decade, was thoroughly gripped from the first opening moments.
The first half an hour to an hour of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 sees you witness a pivotal moment in the Naruto mythos – the Nine Tails Demon Fox’s attack on Leaf Village. You’re cast in the role of Naruto’s father as he attempts to defend the village from the great beast, only to find himself facing off against the mysterious masked figure behind the attack.
From there you jump back and forth between a fight with the masked man and the village’s attempt to put down the Demon beast – which is nothing short of spectacular. Huge, epic boss fights are Japanese animation’s bread and butter and it’s a treat to see this so excellently translated in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3.
Playing as the Third Hokage of Leaf Village, you leap from roof-top to roof-top, dodging attacks and moving in close to deliver a few choice hits during this boss encounter. The grand scale of not only this climatic fight but the far more intimate, though equally intense, two on two between a masked figure and Naruto’s father helps establish the tone for the rest of the game. It’s a bombastic series of events that does tend to falter a little under the weight of the sheer amount of content.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3‘s story mode carries players through the story of the forth great ninja war, and as such, goes to great length to recreate the experience of watching the anime or reading the manga as much as possible. Well, I assume it does since I’ve never watched any of it outside of the first few episodes.
For fans of the series this is great, and even for players who haven’t seen or read this tale will find plenty to enjoy as well. For all intents and purposes, it’s a fairly fun romp of a yarn. The issue I have is cut-scenes generally begin to run into Metal Gear Solid length, meaning the time between actual gameplay becomes longer and longer.
Which is a shame, since Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 packs in a nicely balanced, and incredibly fun combat system. The bulk of the experience is made up of ‘free battles’ which do well enough to make you ‘feel’ as if you’re controlling a fight between two characters directly from the anime. Face buttons have their own correlating command – charge/attack/jump – and the shoulder buttons/triggers allow you to do some cool things like defend or unleash powerful ninja attacks, or to use the substitute technique that allows you to quickly get out of danger.
Never having played a Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm game previously, I compare my time with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3‘s combat with my experience playing recent Dragon Ball Z games, and I’ve got to say Naruto has a leg up.
Aside from the combat flowing a lot more smoothly, it’s also easy to pick up and play. Accessibility is key with these type’s of games I feel, and while everyone just wants to pull off a Kamehameha in DBZ, a Naruto game will see you want to see all the cool things you can make these ninja’s do.
But it’s more than that. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 packs in a lot of different mechanics when it comes to combat. At various points you’re forced into “Ultimate Decision Mode” wherein you need to make a choice that will alter the outcome of certain events. Moreover, you have the choice of ‘legendary’ or ‘hero’ palettes that allow you to use a different array of in-combat items. This encourages players to go into each battle with a strategy, though since the game does have suffer from a ‘low difficulty’ setting you can largely ignore it.
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t plan and use the system as intended by cranking up the difficulty, it’s just you probably won’t need to since you can get by just fine by mashing some buttons together. Health items are something you’ll need to make use of, however, since the game’s CPU can be overly cheap when it wants to, seeing you locked in a never-ending barrage of enemy combos.
Outside of ‘free battles’ you’ve also got ‘mob battles’. They’re conducted not unlike their ‘free battle’ counterparts but are fused into Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3‘s free-roaming areas. These areas allow you to walk around, talk to people and collect side-quests and explore for hidden items. While a nice change of pace from the ever-increasing cut-scenes and battles, they almost appear to be a obligatory addition to further pad the game’s runtime – something that doesn’t need any padding whatsoever.
One aspect of game’s like these that are consistently impressive is the faithful recreation of the show’s likeness, and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is of course no exception. Using a soft cel-shaded look that presents vivid, bright colour on the TV screen whereas animations are equally as smooth and do well to recreate the ‘feel’ of the anime. Voice acting and audio is also top-teir – even if the actor playing Naruto did grate on my nerves a little.
As I expressed at the beginning of the review, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking when it comes to video games, especially when you consider its shortcomings in regards to pacing and unneeded free-roam sections.
What it does well is serve as high-quality fan service for the many Naruto fans out there. And even if you’re not, you’ll still find this game to be entertaining and enjoyable.