Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform: Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: September 11, 2014
Price: $49.99 USD – Available Here / $79.95 AUD – Available Here (Also on PSN, Xbox Live and Steam)
The fifth entry in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution draws its audience in once again with the offer of fast paced, off the wall, crazy ninja battles. With the promise of unique stories to be told and the most refined fighting system to date, is this really a Revolution for the series, or does this latest title fail to do enough differently from its predecessors to warrant a purchase? Read on for our full review.
Not being a numbered entry in the series, Storm Revolution opts to tell four unique stories rather than continue the games telling of the original story from the anime. The games main story mode is called The Ninja World Tournament and involves you picking from any of the unlocked ninja to enter this tournament with. The aim of this mode is to make your way to the final battle of the tournament where you will then be crowned the greatest ninja ever. For lack of a better word, this mode feels rushed and has a number of problems with it. The mode is very repetitive, with you basically repeating the same steps to advance through the tournament each time. Areas are blocked off with an outdated energy barrier mechanic, with my path also being blocked by some rocks I could have easily cleared with my standard jump but couldn’t just so I could take the linear path the game had laid out for me.
After you beat Ninja World Tournament mode once you then unlock a separate story revolving around the game specific character Mecha Naruto, designed by series creator Kishimoto. This story has much more heart to it and contains some very interesting, touching and at times weird scenes (there is one scene where Mecha Naruto freaks out because everyone is judging him and it’s pretty creepy). This mode features some terrifically animated cutscenes like the previous Storm games and the final boss is epic and challenging.
Outside of the rather disappointing Ninja World Tournament, the game tells three unique stories through the Ninja Escapades mode. These stories are told through animated cutscenes that are produced by the same company that create the anime and two out of the three stories feature battles in between when appropriate. The first story revolves around the creation of the evil super group The Akatsuki, showing how a number of members came to join and why The Akatsuki was formed in the first place. This story fails to deliver any type of revelations regarding character back story or the reason as to why each member joined the group, with most of them joining simply because they lost a battle where you controlled the character who beat them. You probably won’t play through this story more than once unless it’s to acquire S rank on the battles.
The second story is much more engaging and focuses on Shisui Uchiha as he tries to save his village from being wiped out by the Hidden Leaf. You get some new takes on the story you know from the anime and manga as well as some more insight into the back story of Itachi and Shisui and the whole destruction of the Uchiha clan storyline. Character’s have unique motivations for their actions and you get to see a side of Itachi not shown very often as well as why he became the person that he was. The last story doesn’t feature any battles and focuses on Kushina (Naruto’s mother) and her bond with Minato’ students, mostly Obito. This story contains a big spoiler for the anime so those invested in the show might want to turn away at the end. This is a short film at about 5 minutes, but gives a little more insight into Kushina’s wish to be a mother and Obito’s personality.
To complete all unique story based modes took about 5 hours, which would have been shortened by perhaps one or two hours had I skipped all the cutscenes. That being said, the game isn’t lacking in single player modes with free battle featuring a lot of unique gameplay modes to keep you occupied including practice, survival, tournaments and the new league mode. Some modes place a random set of rules before each match which is fun and can really change how you fight in a match. Then there is the online mode which has been revamped for the better apart from the removal of the spectator feature from online tournaments. I found matches quickly and they contained no lag as well despite my less than stellar connection.
While the story telling may not be up to par with the greatness of Storm 3, the fighting system here is greatly refined and goes a long way to creating a more competitive fighter. Many glitches and overpowered strategies have been fixed to create a balanced fighter and is that a remarkable feat given the variety present in this game. There are 100 unique characters all with their own combos, tilts, grabs, Jutsu and Ultimate Jutsu. If you include all the unique awakenings that often have completely different move sets and that you can bring up to two support characters to aid you in each battle, there are perhaps thousands of different combinations for you to try out, and that’s not even factoring in the three battle modes that you have to choose from before each battle which I will discuss later.
Fights are fun, fast and full of strategy and skill. With the addition of the counter attack, which puts you in a vulnerable stance but will leave your opponent stunned if they attack or dash into you, mindlessly mashing the attack and chakra dash button is no longer a way to guarantee victory unless you have worn down your opponents chakra first. Another option in battle that has been added is a charge attack that can only be used twice a match and is rather difficult to land, however if you can successfully pull it of it too will leave your opponent in a dazed state allowing you to follow up with any attack you wish. Using items and your supports at the correct time is another crucial element of the battle system and is another element the player has to juggle while performing their offensive and defensive maneuvers while also monitoring their chakra and substitution gauge.
One of the biggest changes the game has made is making you choose your battle mode before each fight. These modes are Ultimate, Awakening and Drive, each with unique characteristics that limit your options in battle but enhance others. Personally I am not a fan of this change as it limits your options in battle where as previous games let you access all these abilities at once. While it does provide some element of strategy as you must choose what fits your play style best and has obviously played a role in the games balancing, taking away the variety of actions you can perform in a fight is a hard choice to praise.
The new four player (offline only) battle orb format which you will be spending most of your time in within Ninja World Tournament mode is fun to begin with, but you will soon discover which attacks are most effective for acquiring the battle orbs that lead to your victory so this style of fighting quickly becomes repetitive. The addition of new traps and rails that you can grind on and perform unique attacks help breath some new life into the mode as you progress but they too become mundane after a few battles. Despite this being a four player mode, rarely did it feel I was taking on another three ninja at once with me and my opponent often being the only ones on screen while the other two battled it out in a similar one on one scenario.
A big problem that the Ninja World Tournament modes have is the tedious and unnecessary free roam aspect. Running around slowly in this pretty lifeless world serves no purpose except to trigger the next event or partake in missions that are plain boring for the most part. Many end in a simple battle or involve you running around the map trying to find someone or get to certain places before a time limit (which makes no sense as there is no skill involved in running around the map). One mission even had me run all the way across the map to get a calculator than run all the way back to the other side of the map to continue the mission. This aspect was the worst part of the game for me and I was all too happy when the next cut scene would start to get me out of these segments.
A cool feature CyberConenct2 have added to this game is the Network Clone. This is essentially an A.I. character that you build, choosing the character, their supports and battle mode. You can then customise that character with 5 equipment slots that will affect the way they fight, with many of the stronger items being unlocked as your progress through the game. You then send them off to appear in other peoples games in the free roam section of the Ninja World Tournament but you can also be randomly challenged by these creations while you are fighting online. After a day or so they will come back with experience to level up and get stronger while also giving you a reward (typically a rare item) they have found on their travels. It’s a neat, well implemented idea reminiscent of the old Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 games AI code system, and serves as a break if you’re brunt out on all the fighting.
Graphically this series has essentially gone unchanged since the first Storm title back in 2008, but surprisingly this is not a bad thing. The series is often praised for its ability to look like the show and is touted as some of the best use of cel-shading of the PS3/Xbox generation. While it is a shame not to see the series move on to next gen just to see what CyberConnect2 can do with the power of the new consoles, the presentation of this game is still stunning. Characters look spot on to their anime counterparts and stages look just as good, despite their being little to no sense of interaction within them. Characters are animated extremely well and their attacks all look graceful and fluent while also appearing damaging at the same time.
CyberConnect2 are also known for their devotion to creating spectacular Ultimate Attacks and they don’t let down their audience with Revolution. Giant energy bombs, whirlwinds, massive summonings, attacks cutting mountains in half. These ultimate sequences look fantastic and never get old no how many times you land a Tailed Beast Bomb. CC2 have even raised the bar this game, giving the option to use Combination Ultimate Attacks if the correct members are present on your team.
Those who are a fan of customisation will be more than pleased here, as for the first time in the series the game lets you equip gear to certain parts of your body with items ranging from giant battle axes, to masks, to scrolls and more. You can also customise your gamer card with unique skins, images and titles to further distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Menus retain that classic Japanese/Storm series feel they have for the last few titles and easy to understand and navigate. Apart from a small issue with pop in within the Ninja World Tournament free roam mode (which further adds to the notion that section of the game was rushed), the presentation of this game is near perfect and fits the Naruto universe incredibly well.
Like the graphics, the sound in the Storm series is often presented to a high standard. In regards to Revolution this holds true apart from a few minor sound problems I came across, most in regards to inappropriate volume levels. Sometimes characters speak very quietly in cutscenes within the Ninja Escapades mode which makes them hard to hear and my opponents supports sounded much too loud in one battle I had in the World Tournament mode. Lack of spoken dialogue for most of The Ninja World Tournament mode was an issue, with characters only giving one word prompts such as “Huh” or “Woah” to sum up an entire sentence which wasn’t always appropriate. Character spoken taunts can also become a bit insipid when they continuously repeat phrases like “leave it to me” during battle.
As expected in major anime game releases these days, both the English and Japanese voice cast are present so fans can have their pick. Characters all seem to be played by their original English voice actors and do a great job delivering their lines with the correct emotion sans a few awkwardly spoken lines here and there. Dialogue during story fights return and is a nice touch. There is even commentary during some matches in the World Tournament mode but unfortunately it only takes two battles before you are hearing the same lines spoken repeatedly. The soundtrack, while not as impressive as past installments, still delivers, with epic background music during fights and soothing melodies to help you relax between all the mayhem. The music playing during the animated sequences sounded surprisingly similar to the show which was another highlight of the audio.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a must buy for the hardcore Naruto fan and a great buy for those who don’t follow the series closely or at all. CyberConnect2 have done a great job refining the battle system to make it a much more polished product than we have seen in previous installments, being both inviting to newcomers and hard to master for hardcore fighting fans while really delivering in the fan service category with 100 playable characters and heaps of nods to the series with their awakenings and abilities.
While the story content can be completed within a few hours and The World Tournament mode is underwhelming, the amount of game modes both on and offline add enough re-playability centered around the amazing combat to keep players coming back. The game looks vibrant and the battles are a spectacle to watch with a great soundtrack and voice acting supporting the action. If you are looking for a Naruto game that covers the original story in detail, than I would recommend Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 before giving this a look. However if you are more focused on gameplay and are looking for the best Naruto fighter currently on offer, look no further than Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution.