Review: Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
The latest installment of Naruto Shippuden puts players into interesting situations, but will it ultimately be worth it?
- Worth The Time?Depending on your taste.
- Things LovedBeautiful art-style. Fitting soundtrack. Cool fight scenes. A certain emotional flashback. Combat is fun once you're used to it and have learned enough combos to kick serious ninja ass. Loads of content.
- Things HatedCut-scenes can be very long. Dragged out dialogue. Inconsistent difficulty. Tends to be frustrating. Visuals tend to fluctuate in regards to quality. Lip-syncing can be irritable to some people. Not always easy to find an online game.
- RecommendationFor Naruto and Anime fans.
- Name: Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: Local 1-2; Online 2-8
- Multiplayer: Local and Online
- Platforms: Xbox 360 and PS3
- Developer: CyberConnect2
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
- Price: R599
- Reviewed On: PS3
We enter yet another crazy Naruto game with cel-shaded graphics at work to recreate the feeling of a game that appears to be hand drawn, with over the top characters, angst and people running like chickens.
I’m going to start by saying that I do not have the most extensive knowledge of Naruto and indeed, in this case, Naruto Shippuden, so if I do not seem like the ultimate Wiseman, my apologies. I do, however, know the basics, most of the characters involved and I am quite a fan of anime type affairs.
So, without further hesitation, join me in the flashy and angst-inspired world of ninjas with lots of time to talk between and during fights.
I haven’t played the previous Ultimate Ninja Storm games, so I admit that I may have been a bit lost at the beginning of the game, but after hours and hours of vigorous research and Google searches I was able to decipher the first few minutes. (Do not fear, I’m merely being facetious.)
If you’re familiar with Naruto and most of the story elements, you do not need to worry. If you’re up to date with the manga and Shippuden series, you’ll almost certainly know what is in store for you throughout the game. The game can be played by a newcomer and they’ll most likely still be able to enjoy the narrative, but so many different titles and characters will be completely unknown to them.
The game begins with a flashback to a certain event in which Naruto’s father, Minato had a part to play in and help in the defense of the Hidden Leaf Village: A massive attack on the village by a fierce creature known as the Nine-Tail Fox. This creature plays quite an important role in the Naruto series from the very beginning and has been a part in Naruto’s life since he was born. Minato encounters a mysterious Masked Man and cryptic words are exchanged, leaving both Minato and the player scratching the back of their heads. (Pretty much in the same fashion as Naruto does throughout the series.)
When we return to the present, Naruto and his fellows are helping out by doing their part in restoring the Hidden Leaf Village. Naruto’s long-time friend and hatred–infused hard-ass, Sasuke, makes sure that all balance maintained in the previous instances of narrative before this game, is tipped and another angst-brigade is under way in full swing. Not before long, we learn that there is indeed a much larger game afoot. As the game progresses, we learn that the larger game afoot increases in scale by more characters becoming involved and true intentions being revealed.
Many of the game’s back story is explained during dialogue and the occasional flashback. Like I mentioned earlier, you’ll either be informed with the coming events, but if you’ve not read the manga or watched the series, the events will be new to you. So, for those of you not familiar with the narrative happenings, I’ll leave it here for the sake of spoilers.
I will however state that there are quite a few over the top scenarios, creatures with numerous tails kicking serious ass and enough angst to go around that after a while you’ll feel the need to scream at your family while swinging down a fist onto the nearest counter / table, when being asked about your wanting of coffee. (Basically any subject in this game is talked about in a way of turmoil.)
This game is heavily driven by its story and the sheer amount of dialogue is quite reminiscent of an RPG. This is not a game you buy to play a little bit and come back later. It’s more along the lines of watching a TV series with you, the audience, encouraging the characters while they are contemplating about a decision or cheering them along while fists and elemental attacks are flung around all over the place. It is cut-scene after cut-scene after cut-scene, with a battle every now and then between the characters you’ve been listening to for ten minutes and quite often a battle is interrupted by another cut-scene. It is certainly not a game for those of you out there that just want to keep on playing with very little interrupting the gameplay. There are hours and hours of cut-scenes.
Some of the dialogue within these cut-scenes feels like it has been added just for the sake of prolonging the game. That is also not helped by the fact that the pauses between lines are noticeable from start to finish. It’s either the timing with the English translation not undergoing smoothly, or the characters need to think carefully about what they are saying. (You can switch the language to Japanese if you so desire.) It’s not a deal-breaker, but you’ll certainly want to urge these characters along during cut-scenes. I’m always happy when a game focuses on its story and the same applies to this game; I just feel that some dialogue trimming here and there would’ve made it a lot more appealing. The pacing within the series is also like this, but seeing as how this is a game, you’ll want to play more than you watch. The game definitely picks up later during the game. More than once the game turned towards a more emotional direction and it actually had impact. Naruto also faces an internal battle with interesting results.
This is a fighting game, so whenever the angst in the cut-scenes reaches its immediate peak, you can expect a battle between pretty much everybody. Whether it be someone standing in your way, someone not cooperating or someone trying to protect you from the evil men, you’ll fight them for it. All of this seems rather silly and it really tends to be like that often, but I cannot help but feel that it fits within the game’s context. When looking at a character performing one of his powerful attacks by dropping an abnormally large panda on top of his enemy, out of nowhere and actually being one of the least conspicuous moves, one begins to wonder.
This will pretty much be the point where the people looking for a game with a realistic setting, characters and standard storyline start to quietly move away to the side and out of view. If you are not a fan of anime, anime games, Japanese games or Naruto, I believe I’m well within my rights to say that you’ll be better off staying away from this one.
Not meaning the game is of bad quality, just that one’s personal taste will have a definite say in the matter.
Let’s talk actual gameplay.
When talking about fighting games, you think about titles such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat where your point of view is strictly from a 2D perspective. That isn’t the case here. As with previous Naruto games, you fight in a 3D space, which is both a good and bad idea simultaneously.
I like the open environments in which to fight, because it’s not something seen as often in a fighting game and it opens up a number of interesting ideas and techniques to the mix.
On the other hand, when combat gets hectic and you’re bombarded with attacks, you will very often struggle to see what exactly is going on and if you’re indeed dodging in the correct direction. When you and your enemy are close to each other, no problem. When you move away from each other, you will repeatedly attack in the wrong direction and your view can be very easily be obscured. Luckily, when you block (Guard) incoming attacks your character will automatically stand guard facing his / her opponent.
When entering your first couple of battles you will be bombarded by hints and instructions on how to play and what the controls are. It is all explained rather well, but they give you so much information at once that it isn’t difficult to forget some of them before long. I feel that it could’ve been spread out a little more; giving the player more chance to learn and become comfortable with the controls. If I were to give you a tip, write some of the combos or hints down, or you can check the player commands if you’re unsure about certain actions. There isn’t a lack of instructions at all, but it could’ve benefited the player with more instructions over time with easier battles at the start. It may feel like the game being unfair at the start; all you need to do to survive and win the battle is all there, you just need to learn the controls and effective ways to block and properly kick some ass.
I didn’t enjoy the game at first, at all, but as I learned the controls, combos and how to trick my enemies it became rather engaging when things went my way. The combat system can be quite deep when you’re using all the elements at your disposal. Don’t throw down the controller when you’re dying a lot at the beginning, just try and think smart. It really is a combat system you have to get used to.
The game frequently jumps from one character’s perspective to the next, resulting in the player seeing a lot of different moves and preventing you from seeing the same powerful combo animation over and over.
Your HUD consists of a health bar, a Chakra bar (power bar), a bar broken up into segments to display the amount of times you can “log” an enemy’s attacks, one or two allies’ icon(s) depending on the amount of characters fighting and at the bottom-left corner you have your usable items.
Chakra is what you need to dish out powerful combos, which recharges slowly or you can make it recharge much faster by holding down the “Triangle” button. You’re vulnerable when recharging Chakra, so you have to be on your toes. Timing is crucial in this game. Recharge Chakra and risk the attacks or defend and be unable to deliver fatal blows to your enemy.
The “log” function is very valuable. When blocking / Guarding by holding down R2, you’ll be able to press L2 when your opponent’s attack strikes and teleport behind or next to your enemy, leaving a log behind. It doesn’t necessarily have to make sense, but this action is what’ll keep you alive during the very hairy fights.
Speaking of hairy fights, I should mention that this game’s difficulty curve is not very balanced. Some opponents will go down very easily while others will urge all kinds of curses from your mind. If I were to take the last few chapters of the game as examples; some fights will be over with little sweat while some will offer over-powered enemies with such a large barrage of attacks that follow one another, leaving you angrier than challenged. The game is by no means unbeatable; don’t get me wrong, the difficulty curve is just messed up.
When offering the player a choice in regards to difficulty, you can choose as to how you want to approach certain situations by either choosing the “Hero” or “Legend” path. Hero being the easier one, I strongly recommend picking the Hero option, while keeping the Legend options for a second playthrough, seeing as how you’ll be much more familiar with the controls and combat. Whenever you see a lightning strike coupled with the words: “Ultimate Decision”, you’ll know it’s time to pick the option that’ll be manageable or the option that you choose when you hate yourself more than usual. These choices can be seen as different routes through these certain situations. I quite like the choice, even though I always opted for the easier option. I’ll tackle the “Legend” options when I decide to play another playthrough. Another aspect I should mention is that these choices reward you in Hero or Legend points, upgrading your item slots to carry more of a given item within that slot and later on; using more powerful / effective gear. Food items and gear can be purchased my shops or merchants. These items are crucial to your survival. Be sure to buy enough Bento for boosting your abilities for the upcoming battle.
With the game mostly being a one on one fighter, with a few twists added every now and then, you’ll be thrown into a “Mob Battle” once in a blue moon, where you’ll have to take on more than just a few enemies at a time. These battles increase in size and difficulty as the game goes on, but the increase in enemy numbers luckily means that the opponents are weaker. These were quite a nice change of pace.
During key moments of the game (important battles), you’re placed into “Interactive Action” mode. All of the action within these sections is very well done, despite it being just a glorified way of saying that these parts of the battle will have you completing quick-time events.
Another integration into the combat that isn’t necessary to complete in order to advance, is the “Secret Factors”. You either receive one of these hidden story segments when you’ve gained enough stars in the Interactive Combat sequences or if you’re being asked to perform certain moves within regular combat.
The scenarios at the end of the game really increase in scale and you begin to realize just how big this whole affair actually is. I’m not going to spoil anything, I just would’ve liked certain key elements within the story to have some closure, but I guess that’s because the Shippuden story isn’t finished yet. Just a little closure, guys.
The game also features two other modes: Online Battles and Free Battle, alongside the Ultimate Adventure being the story mode described above.
Online Battles consist out of Ranked and Unranked matches with 2 or more players to engage in numerous modes of battle. Ranging from one on one battles to more elaborate tournament based modes with numerous players. It usually takes a while to find one match and I sometimes struggled to even find a local match. So those of you seeking solely multiplayer action will not always be satisfied. It could also be that my connection is not of the best.
Free Battle is probably where you are going to get your money’s worth other than the Ultimate Adventure. You and a friend can play on the same console with all the characters you’ve gradually unlocked during the story mode. It can be hectic and fun. I quite enjoy it when I know I’ve unlocked a character I’m going to be able to play with later. There truly is a LOT of characters to unlock. 80 characters in total.