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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm (PlayStation 3) artwork

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm (PlayStation 3) review


"The Naruto name is slowly becoming well recognized in the entertainment industry as one of the few mainstream Japanese anime franchises to become an international hit. The transition from manga to anime to video games has had a positive effect on the series, as it has received plenty of attention worldwide for its creative and action-packed storyline. Developed by CyberConnect2, the Ultimate Ninja series has always captured the feel and atmosphere of the Naruto universe, not to mention offering a fast and ninja-like fighting experience. The new addition into their popular series hits the Playstation 3, offering an old experience with a new look."



The Naruto name is slowly becoming well recognized in the entertainment industry as one of the few mainstream Japanese anime franchises to become an international hit. The transition from manga to anime to video games has had a positive effect on the series, as it has received plenty of attention worldwide for its creative and action-packed storyline. Developed by CyberConnect2, the Ultimate Ninja series has always captured the feel and atmosphere of the Naruto universe, not to mention offering a fast and ninja-like fighting experience. The new addition into their popular series hits the Playstation 3, offering an old experience with a new look.

You cannot have a Naruto game without a fighting engine, and Ninja Storm is all about it. The fighting aspect is highly smiled upon as something fast and intense, but it would appear that CyberConnect2 decided to go in a different direction. Instead of using two-dimensional fighting ground, the game has been developed fully on a three-dimensional plane. Sadly, because of this development, the game is toned down and has become a simpler button masher than its predecessors. The original titles worked in a similar way using one button for an attack and another for a special, but it feels like the new fighting system lacks the variety in moves, both for regular attacks and special techniques. It is definitely a game that anyone can pick up and play without a second thought, but because of this, most of the characters only have a few moves, and once you fight them, you can easily predict the best strategy to defeat them. Thankfully, each character has his or her unique attributes as some are faster but weaker, and some slower but more powerful. This helps balance the battle system significantly as it takes some time to get used to a character you havenít played before. Along with your selected character, you are also able to easily call for assistance from two supporting characters when youíre in trouble. This is a helpful function as it adds to the fury of the gameplay and allows you to accomplish higher combos.

The new three-dimensional plane allows you to accomplish many things that you couldnít in previous games. For example: traps are a much larger aspect as someone like Sakura can plant one of her special moves around the battle arena, and because the fight is located on an xyz-plane, you can easily manoeuvre yourself out of the way and avoid taking damage that previously seemed inevitable. The only problem with the new system is that the camera will sometimes make the opponent look closer to you than he or she is. It becomes somewhat bothersome when your character comes within inches of striking your opponent, only to have the other fighter throw a devastating blow.

Given the presence of such a robust fighting system, youíd think there would be some sort of online functionality. Sadly, that's not the case. One of the largest aspects that Ninja Storm lacks is online support. It's becoming increasingly difficult to forget that most modern fighting video games contain some form of online capabilities. Their absence here is inexcusable. With the title's exciting and enjoyable gameplay factors, it could have easily become a large hit in terms of online competition. Itís disappointing to see such promise put to waste. With that said, there are still a few multiplayer modes to get some enjoyment out of, as long as you have a buddy who also enjoys the series.

Battles aren't the only the features Ninja Storm has to offer, either; there are a couple of interesting mini-games to play. These consist of time trial events that range from such activities as jumping from tree to tree, to running up a giant tree and avoiding branches in the process. Sadly, these two mini-games are pretty much the extent of what's available, with the exception of a couple of events where the same old task receives a couple tweaks to build into the scenario. Unfortunately, these are repetitive and uninteresting events that you wonít want to go back and play all that often.

One thing that needs to be noted is that the storyline in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm is not an experience for anyone who hasnít read the manga or seen the anime. The storytelling in the adventure portion of the game is pretty poor, but that really isnít uncommon with most fighting video games. Ninja Storm tries to display some story, but fails to do anything beyond offering uninteresting scrolls to read during loading times, and on occasions, a quick in-game cinematic. Whatís more, you will always play as the ďgood guys.Ē If you have any prior history with series, you'll know that many of these characters are not destined to win a specific fight, despite your victorious efforts.

The adventure mode plays out a lot like what we saw earlier in the year with the Playstation 2 release of Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3. After getting through some brief story points, you will jump into the shoes of the spunky and troublesome Naruto. There are some issues that plague this section of the game: first off, the camera moves way too slowly and becomes a serious nuisance when running around the well-developed city of Konoha. Secondly--and probably one of the worst of the problems--you donít ever feel like youíre playing through a timeline. Sure, you'll go through events that occur in the series in the order they were displayed, but Naruto can instantly do everything he is slowly taught through the anime and manga. For example, you can walk on water right from the get-go, whereas if you followed the Naruto series, you would know that Jiraya teaches him this during episode 53. It feels like youíre controlling a character who is telling a story at one point in time, but in reality, it isnít how the game is structured.

One thing players may notice is the terrific cel-shading. The series has always maintained a steady and vibrant look that captures the anime perfectly, but for some reason, CyberConnect2 is able to deliver something even better. It almost feels like youíre living in the anime as the entire world and its inhabitants stand out with solid colors and immersive animation. The audio department also is an immersive experience, but it doesnít go without its ups and downs. The game contains both English and Japanese audio tracks, so if youíre not a big fan of the English dub, you can always switch over to the traditional Japanese voices (not that it will really make much of a difference, considering there isnít a lot of dialogue in the game in the first place). The soundtrack will mix things up for specials, but generally speaking, most of the music is pretty repetitive and rehashed from the anime.

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm is a step in the right direction for the series, offering the fast and furious gameplay we know and love, and mixing a couple new tweaks here and there. While the adventure section lacks depth and is obviously aimed towards fans of the series, there is definitely something here to enjoy. With 25 characters and ten support-characters to battle with, this isnít the most filled Naruto fighting game, but the attention towards each individual character allows little repetition between each battle.

Rating: 7/10

Beck's avatar
Freelance review by Adam Beck (November 21, 2008)

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