With any mega shonen manga series making its way out of Japan, you can always expect to see game after game flowing from the 10 year lifespan the series’ seem to endure. Naruto certainly isn’t the one to go breaking the tradition as much as he wants to be the head honcho of his town, he also seems to pride himself in being the top manga series across the world.
Mere days following the release of the comedic Naturo title for the 3DS centered around the franchise’s chibi spin-off - Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals – console goers get something a little more series in the form of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 – the sequel to the games that offer another way to enjoy Naruto’s on-going a lengthy campaign.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 takes place – without ruining anything – at the start of the current manga arc. As far as my knowledge goes, the anime has also reached the same point – so there’s no excuse for any current Naruto fan to not be up-to-date with the current events now that every medium is practically up to the same point.
Anyone who remembers the initial release of the Ultimate Ninja Storm series will remember the pre-release promotional screenshots drew a lot of attention from not only the Naruto fanbase, but the industry as a whole for showcasing gorgeous HD cel-shaded visuals not long after the world was wowed by the likes of the Dragonball Z Budokai visuals from the last console generation. You’ll be glad to know that those have only improved as time goes by as Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 demonstrates some gorgeously smooth graphics and animations that quite literally sent shivers up my spine from the opening menu. It’s just a shame those visuals come to bite the game in the backside during the bigger fights.
Naturo has matured a lot over the past few years. It’s been some time now since he arrived back from his 3 year training session with Jiraiya - a legendary ninja – ready to take on the organisation plotting extract his still uncontrollable power for their own benefit. Following his joint efforts to take the group down, it’s leader appears from behind the scenes to unveil his master plan and puts the daredevil stunt swiftly into motion. Because of this, expect those fabled tailed beasts to emerge and put up a hell of a fight.
While the game’s name – and the franchise as a whole – may imply it follows Naruto on a 24/7 basis, this is the title that’ll help to you understand that it really isn’t the case, here. Across the game’s 10 chapters you’ll take control of character’s like Sarutobi, Sakura, Killer Bee and even Mifune – a Samurai. The story of Naruto tells the tale of not only the titular character’s following of a dream; but the ongoing feuds of an entire continent, and it never shies away from getting under the nails of the topic of war and its ultimatum.
Each chapter of the game’s campaign features a heavy dose of arena style combat similar to that of the Dragonball Z Budokai fighting series. You’ll capable of – and encouraged – to run around the fairly large circular battle stages to utilize a combination of fleet-footed movement, battle items and physical combat to open up the enemy to a whole host of devastating ‘ninjutsu’ attacks. It’s a nifty little battle system that leaves itself open to a fair amount of multiplayer mayhem across its 80+ strong character roster; but it’s sheer simplicity will keep it from being a much loved and religiously practiced fighting game outside of the home.
Between the brawls breaking out between the series more prominent characters – and a lot of more minor tagalongs - there’s time where you’ll be wandering on your own two feet to the next mission objective. Ultimately there to make the game seem a little less straightforward, the ‘free roam’ sequences are essentially what people complained about in Final Fantasy XIII – a corridor system – and that’s disappointing coming from a franchise that managed the sequences quite well in the earlier Xbox 360 titles – Rise of a Ninja and The Broken Bond. The walkabout scenes boil down to giving the player an opportunity to talk to a few characters around the area and a cheap excuse to ‘hide’ collectables under everyday objects on the single path to the next fight or cutscene.
The high level of voice acting paired with the excellent visuals breath life into moments that the still images of the manga could only dream of pulling off. Naruto fans will feel those nerd chills traversing their spins in near every chapter of the fairly lengthy campaign and will come away with a new lease of the story that had, admittedly, grown stale over the past few years.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a hard sell to anyone who hasn’t kept up with the series, but is a must have for those who have followed the tales far enough – or further – that the story arc it follows. Die hard fans will begin to notice inconsistencies stemming from the manga adaption and the plot followed by the anime – the version this title seems to more closely partake in. Newcomers to the series will surely get a kick out of the fast-paced combat, but won’t gather the desired effect of the tale told from an already lengthy legend.
Gameplay – 3/5: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 suffers from a unsteady mix of gameplay elements when it should have stuck to just one or two. For the most part, it does a good job as a thrilling fighter while at others feels like it has some unrealised potential in the lesser - tacked on – hack n’ slash moment.
Audio/Visual - 5/5: Absolutely gorgeous cel-shaded visuals show of a world that couldn’t be more dull in a rather artistic way. The soundtrack and voice acting work wonders to showcase the drama and tension of the story and its depth.
Innovation – 2/5: It’s hard to see what they’ve added here to differentiate it from the past UNS games. The choice system offers an interesting approach to difficulty but the fighting mechanics are void of the polish a 4th entry should have aced by now.
Replay Value – 4/5: Not a whole lot to see, but certainly a whole lot to do afterward. Collecting characters, hidden cutscenes and those infamous ninja info cards. Did I forget to mention a Sasuke sub-quest, too?
Final Score: – 4/5
- Josh reviewed Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 on Playstation 3 -