Hi. My name is Briana Lawrence and I — deep breath — am a Naruto fan. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m more of a recovering addict. My fangirl mind has become exhausted with the series and, recently, I haven’t felt the excitement I use to feel oh so many years ago back when Naruto was a wee little lad of twelve. But there’s something about the video games that makes me feel like that youthful girl who anxiously awaited each episode or manga volume of Naruto.
The Ultimate Ninja series in particular has always been a personal favorite of mine. The gameplay, the jutsus, the art style — especially in the next gen games — always makes my Naruto heart drum in soft pitters and patters. This newest installment to the Ninja Storm franchise takes the Naruto of yesterday and combines it with the Naruto of today. If you’re a fan like me who’s been into the series for many, many years then you’ll jump at the chance to play with characters like Zabuza and Haku. Or you can throw yourself into the Shippuden universe with a grown up Sasuke Uchiha — or Uchiha Sasuke for the Japanese savvy — and his newly formed team. As twelve year old Naruto races through the grass to clash against his older self the question is raised: who is the Ultimate Ninja?
If you’ve played the previous games — at least on the PS3 — you’ll be treated with a nifty extra surprise once the game installs. Thank you, Naruto, now I shall embark on my ninja quest! The gameplay continues to be top notch with a few tweaks that make it the best in the Ultimate Ninja series thus far. The fast-paced, simple, one-button combat continues with up to two assist characters and ninja tools to help in battle. Much like Smash Brothers, the one-button combat is deceptively simple and matches can get pretty intense when you throw in special attacks, ultimate moves, substitution jutsus and other tools of the ninja-verse. Speaking of substitution, that particular technique has gone through a major change. The always important technique can be done with just the press of a button, however, you can only perform it a couple of times before you’re forced to wait for the meter to fill back up. This forces you to plan your attacks carefully since you can’t use the technique as much or as often as you’d like, and believe me that meter always has a knack of running out in the worst possible moments.
Each character is truly unique in their abilities, from Ultimate Jutsus to the always dangerous “Awakening Mode” where characters like Naruto can unleash the deadly power of the nine-tailed fox. The character roster has never been so massive. There’s up to 72 playable characters, but when the game starts you’re nowhere near that number. This made me incredibly happy. I miss the fighting games where you have to unlock those extra characters; games today seem to only have a handful of unlocks until later, DLC is released. This game is nothing like that. You’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to have all the game’s characters at your disposal. It’s like CyberConnect 2 forgot that we live in a DLC age and went back to the basics — fight, fight, and fight some more until that character roster screen is filled. And there’s different versions to certain characters, too — Naruto, Shippuden Naruto, Sage Mode Naruto — and each one has a different set of moves. Besides the characters themselves there’s an insane amount of things to collect in the game. Videos, cards, titles, the list goes on. If you’re a completionist and/or a trophy/achievement junkie you’ll be playing this game for a while both on and offline.
The story mode has been completely redone. The sort of open world RPG mechanic has, sadly, been taken away. Instead you pick from a group of characters and play through their story in the world of Naruto. On the plus side, this means you’re not simply playing with Naruto and walking his path through the ninja-verse. You’re playing with Sasuke, Gaara, and other key characters to get their side of the ongoing story. As cool as it is to get every character’s story I miss the exploration that existed in the next-gen games before. Running around the Leaf Village, jumping from roof to roof, collecting scrolls and taking on side missions was one of the things that made Ultimate Ninja Storm so great.
The new anime cutscenes aren’t really new, they’re sort of reinterpretations of things that have happened in the series. The same events happen, yes, but they’re shown differently. For example, when you play with young Naruto he’s spray painting the mountains like he did before, only now he’s already a ninja instead of being a student trying to earn his headband. These scenes are fun to watch and the animation quality is great but they aren’t used enough. The formula of the story mode is like this: anime cutscene in the beginning, narrations, still images, battle, then you lather, rinse, and repeat steps two through four until you reach the end where another cutscene awaits you. It’s a standard fighting game formula, but not what I was expecting from Ultimate Ninja. This formula works for games like Street Fighter, but Street Fighter has never been an open world adventure like Naruto has.
At first I thought this technique was used because having one huge story with every single character would be too large of a task to perform. Instead, you pick your character and solely play with that character for their entire story. Except… sometimes you play with other characters anyway! As young Naruto control switches to the Third Hokage during the Orochimaru battle and even Kakashi for the Itachi battle. So… why not have a huge, open world, Naruto RPG and a fighter at the same time? It’s what’s been done before and it worked well. More characters are great but their stories feel rushed; as young Naruto you literally skip from Haku and Zabuza to the Neji fight in the Chuunin Exams. Any fan knows that there’s a whole mess of stuff in the middle there.
… what was I saying before about not being a Naruto fan anymore? Guess I sort of lied about that one.
Despite the hiccups with the story mode the game is a must have for any Naruto fan. The story mode is still fun and worth playing through even with the changes made. The stages and the soundtrack is just so Naruto, taking gamers by the hand and tying that headband around their foreheads. The game does a good job of getting through 400+ episodes of content — or is it 500 now? I don’t remember anymore. While it certainly caters to Naruto fans the game is a solid fighter that can be enjoyed by anyone who’s a fan of the fighting game genre. Do I expect non-Naruto fans to run out and grab this? No. But if such gamers have a rabid Naruto fan in their circle of friends they’ll definitely have fun playing with them. The characters are interesting, the combat is solid, the Ultimate Jutsu cutscenes are flashy and cool to watch, and the techniques are easy to get a grasp of but can — like most fighting games — turn into some ridiculously sick combos that only those experts online seem to master. All and all, this is a game that definitely needs to be added to your Naruto collection. Believe it. Dattebayo. Whichever way you say it the fact remains: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is awesome.
Final Rating: 8.5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: PS3
Time to completion: What is this “complete” you speak of? You see how many characters there are to play with?!
Trophies Earned: None! Spending way too much time spamming arcade and poking at story mode.
Price Bought at: $60
Current Price: $60
Recommend Purchase Price: If you’ve been keeping up with Naruto all this time, or just got into it and really enjoy it, then take the plunge. Full price it up.
Why you should buy it: If you’re a Naruto fan then CyperConnect2 is the studio for you. Ever since they started doing the next-gen Ultimate Ninja Storm stuff they’ve been doing the series great justice. The music, the cutscenes, the art, the faithfulness to the story (for the most part), they know how to make a Naruto game. This one has the most characters EVER, including classics like Zabuza and Haku. The fighting can go on for hours and hours with the endless amount of combinations. Seriously, buy it if you like Naruto.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: If you want that same run around RPG feel as the previous games. If that’s all you’re in for then don’t pick this one up. The story mode isn’t bad, but it isn’t what it use to be. Oh, and I suppose if you hate ninjas in orange then don’t buy it.