Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Chris Ramirez, Editor
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review
Developer: CyberConnect2 Co. Ltd
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed] and PlayStation 3
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
There have been countless games based on anime shows. While most anime games typically stick to one gaming genre, the Naruto series has released as multiple different types. Naruto: Ninja Storm was developed for those fans looking to relive some of their favorite battles on the PlayStation 3, and eventually found its way to the Xbox 360.
As the show continues to air in Japan, and stream online for US fans, the Ninja Storm series quickly became the game of choice for fighting fans.
For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, Naruto is a story of a young orphan who has a deadly demon, the Nine-Tailed Fox, sealed within him. He is a misfit, jokester, and will do anything to save his friends and village. As an orphan, Naruto considers his teammates, teachers and mentors as his family. When one of his teammates, Sasuke Uchiha, goes rogue to seek revenge against his own brother for killing his entire family and clan, it becomes Naruto’s mission to help Sasuke return to the village.
A typical characteristic for games based on anime manga/shows is the outdated storylines. These games will follow a specific story arch that the show or manga has already finished airing. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 does not follow this norm. The in-game story is in line with the story arch that is currently running in Japan and streaming online for those of us in the ‘States, which is the rise of The Fourth Great Ninja War.
The fighting of the game does follow a typical fighter rubric. However, there isn’t much to the fighting. Spam the ‘A’ button to dodge until you have an opening, then spam ‘B’ button, hold ‘Y’ to charge chakra and press ‘B’ to perform designated Jutsu chosen on the character select screen. Pushing ‘X’ allows you to throw Kunai’s for ranged attacks. In terms of strategy, there really isn’t one. Your position determines what button to press. Blocking is done with the ‘LB’ and you get caught in a combo and have chakra, hit button again to perform a Substitution Jutsu. This counter replaces you with a log and your character appears behind your opponent giving you the advantage.
To avoid any spoilers, rumors had spread of Sasuke joining the extremely dangerous criminal ninja group, the Akatsuki, to get him closer to gaining the necessary power to defeat his brother. The Akatsuki’s goal is to collect the entire tailed beast to help them achieve world domination. Upon hearing the news the leaders of the five nations got together, in the Five Kage Summit, and was decided to it is in the best interest for the five great nations to kill Sasuke. Naruto now must convince the council to spare his friend, and must also to coerce Sasuke to come back to the village.
For a franchise known for its fighting game prowess, its newest entry seems to be having an identity crisis. The fighting elements take a back seat as the game focuses on its single player campaign, or Ultimate Adventure as it’s referred to.
Unlike traditional fighting games, the single player campaign isn’t just a series of fights. There is emphasis on the story however, it’s almost too much. You will spend most of the time watching cut scenes and reading dialogue (most fans will change the character language to native Japanese). You will sit through 15 minutes or more before an actual fight. Realizing this, Cyber Connect2 introduces a free roaming element to the game. It’s literally called Free Roaming, but in reality–it isn’t.
The roaming sections of the game are set up like a Japanese hack’n’slash with little or no enemies. The environment is broken up into sections instead of a vast open world (see image below and map in upper right corner). These sections are limited as to where you could actually go. Free roaming gives players a chance to control a character to further along the story. There are occasions where you enter battle against multiple enemies, but the enemies have such a low health level which makes the battles uneventful.
The Ultimate Adventure mode has 10 chapters in total. Each chapter spans approximately one hour, so the campaign will wrap up in about 11 hours. Actual gameplay accounts for about half of that time.
One of the greatest characteristics about the Ninja Storm franchise has been its graphics. This game is no exception. Using a cel-shaded style, the game continues to look fantastic. Players will find similarities in looks and feel, almost as if they were watching the anime. However, characters are extremely stiff. Clothing has more animation than characters themselves. Characters seem to only move for signature poses. This would not be an issue if there weren’t so many cut-scenes smothered with dialogue. When you don’t see the characters move but have their clothing and the scene moving according, it leaves the game to have an unfinished feeling.
Graphical hiccups also occur during the free roaming portions of the game by not having any character AI. Running into NPCs does not initiate any type of reaction. Run into them enough and you will simply go right through them.
During battles, I did experience lag during areas with speedy animations. The game seems to have issues of charging chakra, while ninja dashing, and defending yourself with the Kunai throw. Slowdowns can also be found when conducting a Substitution Jutsu, Naruto’s version of the counter-move, during a large combo. For anyone who has played the previous games, doing a combination of moves is essential to setting up an opportunity to perform a powerful Jutsu. The in-game lag is inexcusable. Fights actually seem slower and simpler as compare to other Ninja Storm titles. Just like any other fighter, controls are everything.
For Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, controls have been simplified to an attack, jump, and chakra charge buttons causing the fight to be a spam fest. Gone are the battle introductions. This is a small but important change as these introductions connected the story and fight rivalries, allowing these matches to be much more fun. With it gone, battles carry less importance.
Last but not least, levels are not interactive anymore. When as before you used to be able to use chakra to climb up walls, but now you cannot. These issues and lack of presentation might be due to the game supporting 80 selectable characters, most of which are variations of the same character.
Once again, you can customize your load out and use them during the battle by using the directional pad. Load outs include special Kunai/other weapons used and health/chakra restorations just to name the common load outs.
Due to early access to the game, the online multiplayer was not available for review.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 provides nothing new to the franchise. Despite its bigger roster, the gameplay is slower, and the presentation is not as defined unlike prior installments in the series.
The campaign is more like watching an interactive comic book than actually playing the game. Playing through the campaign is the only way to unlock characters however; its 10 hour length is tiring, repetitive, and boring.
The epic boss battles are simple dodge and attack patterns with quick time events (QTE) incorporated into them. The game could be entertaining for children under 10 years old, but any hardcore fighting fan (even fans of Naruto) should stay away from this game. There are better and cheaper options available like the first Ninja Storm or the fighting mode in Naruto: Rise of a Ninja.
+ 80 Selectable Roster
– Unnecessary Length
-Lack of Features Present in Previous Titles