Game Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution
17/09/2014 2 Comments
The latest instalment of the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series will offer players a new experience within the deep & rich Naruto environment. Tons of new techniques, enhanced mechanics, three anime origin stories, a world tournament mode and over 100 playable characters, including a brand new exclusive character designed by Masashi Kishimoto, await the player. This is Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution.
When it comes to games based upon anime or manga you never quite know what you are going to get until you see it for yourself; for instance the previous instalments into the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise re-told the events of the Naruto storyline in various different forms but in this latest release, entitled Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution, we are instead treated to spin-off events and origin stories.
Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this game features everything we’ve come to expect from a Naruto game and so much more, but at times it just makes this beautiful and energetic game seem like a cheap cash-in as opposed to a full-fledged release. Confused? Well let me explain; the main campaign mode, entitled the Ninja World Tournament, has no relevance to the Naruto timeline what-so-ever and instead sees the entire back catalogue of Naruto characters, both dead and alive, taking part in a tournament to see who the strongest ninja of all-time is.
This Ninja World Tournament gameplay mode, although pointless, is a pretty interesting experience as it attempts to offer a unique story and character exploration. For example upon arriving on the island, which is where the tournament is taking place, players can explore the surrounding area, interact with other characters, purchase equipment and even take on mini-missions before they even get to the first fight of the tournament. Of course there is a reason for this, fights in the tournament are made-up of teams and in order to take part you need to form a team of three people. To do this you need to complete mini-missions in order to befriend other characters into joining your team; the first of which sees a painstaking trivia challenge about the Fourth Great Ninja War, luckily some help is on hand at the Ninja Shop – but these ‘assets’ don’t come cheap.
Once you’ve recruited your team you can then enter the tournament and unlike traditional Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm fighting games the objective is not to reduce the opponent’s health gauge but instead it’s to collect as many yellow orbs as possible within the time limit. This is where the gameplay for this particular mode can become confusing to explain as the tournament is separated into Qualifiers, Preliminaries and then the Main Match itself. Each match type is then separated into three rounds, with each character in your team taking part in a round. Basically after three rounds the team with the most yellow orbs wins the match and moves on until finally the tournament is completed and the winner is decided. It’s a completely different spin on the Ninja Storm franchise and it feels more like a gimmick or an alternate multi-player gameplay mode than an actual campaign.
Interestingly this Ninja World Tournament can be played multiple-times, with each playthrough seeing your chosen character thrown into a higher-ranked difficulty mode. The first playthrough will see your character thrown into D-Rank match-ups and given a brief overview of the tournament and it’s rules – so read carefully – meanwhile the second playthrough will see players entered into the C-Rank tournament and so forth. That’s not all either as each new playthrough will see new areas of the island unlocked for further exploration and character relationship building; relationships (mini-missions) which need to be completed in order for new characters to be used within the game.
There is more ‘uniqueness’ to be found within this Ninja World Tournament mode as well; as upon completing the first tournament players will unlock the “Mecha-Naruto story”; a storyline which sees Naruto and Hinata discover a robotic version of Naruto on the island but in order to find out where he came from they must win the world tournament and reclaim a piece of Mecha-Naruto’s brain; a mysterious aqua-coloured gem. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a way to get people to re-play the Ninja World Tournament mode, but in fact I found it to be a much more entertaining and engaging story than that of the main Ninja World Tournament campaign.
Either way both elements of the Ninja World Tournament are an interesting experience but once you learn these campaign modes have nothing to do with the overall Naruto storyline then the rest of the game loses some of its appeal. Personally I was hoping this game would continue or expand the true-Naruto storyline in some form, but seeing as the manga (and anime) are still on-going it’s understandable why there is no ‘real’ story-telling goin on. Fortunately the game manages to redeem itself through the Ninja Escapades mode, a mode which sees original anime content mixed with gameplay for a truly unique and entertaining experience that even gives Short Peace a run for its money. For me this ‘Ninja Escapades’ section is the highlight of the entire game, but even then this will only take a couple of hours to finish.
In total three different anime storylines are presented within the Ninja Escapades mode; The Creation of the Akatsuki, The Two Uchiha and The far reaches of Hope, with each one being unlocked upon completion of the previous storyline. For instance upon completion of The Creation of the Akatsuki the second storyline, The Two Uchiha, will be unlocked. While three episodes (or storylines) are included only the first two feature any gameplay, and even then they are limited to a handful of fights. These fights remain true to the original Ninja Storm gameplay we’ve come to known and love, whereby opponents can perform substitutions, justu’s and ultimate jutsu attacks so long as chakra and health is available. More importantly these fights can be easily completed and are very forgiving, so even if you are new to the gaming scene you’ll easily be able to experience everything these individual stories have to offer.
How these stories are played out are relatively simple; upon selecting them from within the ‘Ninja Escapades’ menu the episode will start and once a battle is about to begin the screen will fade to white and the battle will commence. When the battle is over the screen will once again fade to white and continue along with the episode. It blends together perfectly and gives a sense that ‘you’ are in control of the outcome rather than the storyboard editors back in Japan. The biggest fear I had with these episodes is that they would be full of talking and no movement, similar to the styled used in visual novels, but amazingly this is not the case – they are in fact fully animated specials that even feature the odd fight before the real ‘gameplay fight’ begins; to put it bluntly it feels like you are watching a real episode of Naruto Shippuden instead of playing a game.
In terms of what you can expect from each storyline then The Creation of the Akatsuki, which is obviously one of the games highlights, sees Tobi and The Pain venturing around the ninja world in search of the ten members needed to form the akatsuki with each member of the clan being carefully hand picked. During this 25-minute anime special you’ll encounter all of the ten members, in some shape or form, but more importantly it provides some clarification into why these ‘select few’ joined the group in the first place. That’s not all as this special also provides a brief insight into what the characters were doing before they joined the Akatsuki; information which has rarely been seen anywhere else.
The second anime special, entitled The Two Uchiha, is a story that has previously been told in the original anime and manga series. It’s a story that takes a closer look at the bond between Itachi Uchiha and Shisui Uchiha but it further explores the reasoning behind Danzo’s Coup-de-ta and the extermination of the Uchiha within the Hidden leaf village. As entertaining as this second anime special it will cause some controversy among fans of the anime, as it feels heavily edited. For instance upon being attacked by Danzo the screen stays black, as if something violent had been removed/edited out, and then later Shisui is heavily injured but there is no blood on his face. If you’ve seen the anime then you’ll already be familiar with what happened; but in the case of this anime special it has been toned down a fair bit.
The final anime special, entitled The far reaches of Hope, is a 10 minute anime only experience that sees Minato Namikaze and his team of ninja (Kakashi Hatake, Obito Uchiha and Rin Nohara) training in the forest until Minato’s wife, Kushina Uzumaki, arrives on the scene. It’s a special that explores Kushina’s feelings for Obito as well as what her intentions for the future are. It’s an interesting, but comical, episode and it ends in spectacular fashion – a teaser of things to come in future events of the Naruto Shippuden timeline; the final fight to save the world from destruction.
Of course there is more to experience in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution than just spin-off events and anime origin stories as since this is a ‘fighting game’ players can expect all-sorts of online and offline gameplay modes as well as the ability to customise character appearance with weapon accessories and trinkets. For instance within offline multiplayer players can take part in single or team-based multiplayer matches, start-up their own tournament with ‘original’ gameplay rules or even take part in a survival mode which challenges the player to defeat as many opponents as possible without dying. Meanwhile in online multiplayer players yet again face-off against each other in single or team-based match-ups and with thanks to the introduction of Storm League players can setup their own online tournaments with other players from around the globe.
Another new feature within Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm is the ‘Network Clone’ feature; an option which sees your chosen (and potential customised) character invade other peoples games in the Ninja World Tournament Mode. These ‘Network Clones’ will appear in various places around the island, with each one representing a different real-life player, the more Network Clones created the more times players will see them within their own game world. The idea of the Network Clone is that they will fight on your behalf and acts as if you (the player) yourself is playing the game; it’s basically CyberConnect2’s answer to Microsoft’s Drivatar feature (seen within Forza Motorsport 5) whereby your fight style is recorded and then used online in other peoples games and while it may feel like a gimmick it offers new ways to interact with players online without having to search for a fight online in the online multiplayer mode.
If you’ve previously played an Ultimate Ninja Storm title then the overall gameplay is relatively the same; it’s just a few minor tweaks and gameplay balances have been made to the game to offer fans the best Ultimate Ninja Storm experience to date and with over 100 playable characters to choose from, all of which are unlocked by continuiously playing the game, there is plenty of choice and variety on offer.
If CyberConnect2 were a band and they were releasing a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection based upon their work then this release of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution would be the end result. This is how i see this game; a greatest hits collection whereby everything the team has worked on over the past several years has been combined into a single non-story-related game that can be enjoyed by anyone; but if you are a fan of the Naruto franchise then there is still something for you in the form of three anime-specials and new content created by the original manga author; Masashi Kishimoto. Put simply this is the best Naruto game released to date.