The Naruto anime and manga series is one of the most popular media franchises in the world. Every week millions of people across the world watch, read or play Naruto, thanks to its captivating story lines and entertaining plot twists which keeps fans coming back for more. The series popularity has seen numerous outings of games on various platforms ranging from the PSP to the PS2 and Nintendo DS. However the main game for fans recently has been the Ultimate Ninja line of games. From the first, Ultimate Ninja Storm, fans have been roaring for a next gen title that captures the series to a tee. Now, CyberConnect 2 and Namco Bandai are looking to answer those calls with the latest in the series – Ulitmate Ninja Storm Generations.
Straight off the bat and just so you know, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a 3D fighter that follows the events of the Naruto Universe. As you’ve seen in previous trailers before, Generations covers both Part 1 and Part 2 of the anime series. From here you can expect the usual assortment of characters from the iconic Naruto in his different forms to the rebel Sasuke and fan favourite Jiraiya. You can start from the humble beginnings of Naruto taking the chunnin exam to him taking on Pein in a battle for the Ninja world and mankind.
Every week millions of people across the world watch, read or play Naruto.
Within the Story mode you’ll find the bulk of the Naruto narrative, you pick a particular story arc and play though their events within the universe. This is where problems arise within the mode. Previous Naruto titles had players wandering around an open world environment which added an exploration element to the game, this has been scrapped for a more linear approach within Generations. After you’ve picked your character you’re guided through his or her story arc by initially an anime cut scene followed by still images that has voice overs from a narrator and characters from the series. This is a major step backwards in the story telling of the game as still images and voice overs provide little clue as to what’s going on apart from 20 seconds of dialogue and description. This is a far cry from what previous titles done with in-engine cut scenes which fitted the narrative nicely. While a positive is that the battles go in a linear fashion cutting out the tedious exploration, story telling also suffers. Major plot holes within each arc are not explored and leave players wondering. An example of this being the game doesn’t inform players how Naruto acquired the ability to go into Sage mode nor does it explore the battle between Jiraiya and Pein. If you’re really into Naruto this will make you feel like the game is empty, hollow and segmented on the story side.
One positive from the story mode however is that the developers have given some face time to characters that aren’t on everybody’s lips. Players can choose story arcs from Haku and Zabuza to Kakashi when he was a little infant. These new arcs add some understanding to those not familiar with the characters despite the hollow illustration of the story mode. Conclusions to each story arc deflate the fighting experience within the game. Quick time events that would grace Naruto games preceding Generations would have epic scale boss battle where environments and players would get bloodied and bruised. Generations scraps this for an unknown reason and adds to the overall “What the hell” expression you might have towards the game.
One of the bright points of this title is the combat. CyberConnect2 have refined the combat within the game so it’s easier for new players to get a hold of while still giving the more advanced players a sense of ego. Primary gameplay consists of mashing of the face buttons to cause harm to your opponent with the flowing combat coming when you combine the different elements. Players have the choice of a melee, chakra, projectile and jump button at their disposal. Mixing and matching each of these gains different results and can lead to some serious damage being dealt out. Use of the melee and chakra buttons will cause the most damage with the combination resulting is special and ultimate moves. In certain battles players can make use of allies that players can make use of using the shoulder buttons. At a press they will enter the battle for a short moment to cause an attack to your opponent whether it hits or misses. Making use of this during battle fills up a meter and when full can unleash an ultimate team attack that makes use of all 3 members you pick and can have some devastating results the opposing players health bar.
Character aids also stick around. Awakening mode can be activated when your health is really low and transforms your player into another form for a short amount of time. These range from Naruto tapping into the nine tails fox chakra and transforming into it or Sasuke activating the Susanoo. In addition to this the substitution justu i.e teleporting to the regular man, is now mapped to the L2 button with it getting its own meter of four blocks. These blocks replenish at a moments rest and can be used any time permitting you have blocks available ready to use. The feature is responsive and can make for some interesting battles.
Interactivity with the game and real life comes in the form of Naruto trading cards. Cards from the booster pack will contain a code at the top where players enter into the game to unlock exclusive content. These range from artwork and battles to bonus skills to be used online to gain an advantage over others.
For Naruto fans, Generations will feel like a step backward when compared to Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.
The best part of the game no doubt comes in the form of online, surprisingly. Players can go head to head in 1vs1 combat with the aid of two other players attached to the shoulder buttons. People can engage in ranked battles or players battles as well as tournaments to see who’s the best on Sony’s and Microsoft’s online platforms. In addition to that players can save replays of their hard fought battles online which are accessible via the main online menu. Additional content is rampant within Generations and with the addition of unlocking content through the story mode players can also purchase items from the in-game shop using the in-game currency called Ryo. These buy-able items range from pictures, cut scenes, titles and ninja cards pictures and much more.
For Naruto fans, Generations will feel like a step backward when compared to Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, however the game does deliver a good online component which will waste some hours as you wrap your head around the missing plot lines from the story mode.
Rating: GoodReview Policy(Version tested: PS3)
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations launches March 30 on PS3 and 360. You can Pre-order your copy here (PS3), here (Xbox 360).