Game Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (Xbox One)
07/02/2016 Leave a comment
The latest, and potentially, final instalment into the Ultimate Ninja Storm video game franchise has finally arrived; but was Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 worth the wait? or is it a disappointment waiting to unfold? Well that all depends if you like the Naruto franchise; but from our perspective it’s one of the best Naruto games ever released. Why exactly? Well read on to find out!
I started this review off by asking “was Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 worth the wait?” and the answer is absoutely; if the opening animation sequence, with music provided by KANA-BOON, does not get you excited for what’s to come then nothing will. Quite simply Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is the Naruto game you’ve been waiting for; and it’s the best one of them all thanks to it’s extended character rosta, improved gameplay mechanics and superb visual quality.
That may seem like a pretty bold statement; but it’s actually the truth. Everything that CyberConnect2 have been working on over the past eight years comes to fruition in this latest instalment. The visuals, the character rosta, the gameplay modes and even the hidden secrets discovered along the way – everything has been catered towards Naruto fans and it’s just so perfect. Not a fan of Naruto? Then fear not as the pick-up and play nature of the game, with its easy to learn but difficult to master combat mechanics, means that just about anyone can play and enjoy the game without any prior knowledge of the franchise.
So how exactly is Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 presented to the player? Well for starters it is separated into four main gameplay modes; Story, Adventure, Free Battle and Online Battle, with each offering a distinctively different experience. For instance Story mode concludes the Naruto Shippuden storyline and sees Naruto, along with the Allied Shinobi Forces, team-up to take down Madara and the Ten Tails Jinchuruki while Adventure mode takes place after the story and sees Naruto, along with Hinata and Sakura, completing various missions across the world.
Meanwhile Free Battle and Online Battle offer the regular types of gameplay you would expect from a traditional fighting game; for example free battle will offer offline versus multiplayer (with teams of up to 3 characters), Survival, Tournament and Training. Online battle however offers both casual and ranked multiplayer match types as well as online tournaments. Whichever option you choose, be it offline or online, the full rosta of unlocked characters will be available at your disposable; so you are never short on which character to try out next.
Ultimate Ninja Storm has always been a competitive game; the different types of attacks, items, styles and techniques used can make complex fighting games, such as Street Fighter IV, seem easy in comparison and with over one hundred characters on offer Storm 4 offers the best amount of variety and, in some respects, a harder challenge online. The traditional method of combining Combo’s with Jutsu has now been expanded upon with the introduction of Team Jutsu, Ultimate Awakenings and character swap-outs during combat for a more varied and refined fighting experience that is second to none.
Team Jutsu and Ultimate Team Justu can only be activated if certain conditions are met, such as having the right types of characters in your team, and Awakenings meanwhile return but come back in full-force with stronger attacks and alternate appearences. Of course the biggest new addition is the ability to ‘swap-out’ support characters. Previously support characters were only able to enter the fight for a brief moment when called-upon; however now you can now use the right analog stick to ‘swap-out’ your character for another member of your team. It’s a small change and yet it can easily turn the tide of battle if the correct setup of characters is chosen – and more importantly can also lead to regular combos lasting a lot longer than you may have previously thought possible.
All of these gameplay modes were extremely fun to play; but for me my enjoyment was found within the games two campaign elements; each of which offered a different kind of gameplay experience. As mentioned the story mode of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 focuses on the conclusion of the Fourth Great Ninja War and the final confrontation with Madara, Obito and Kaguya. This story, which in hindsight could have easily been butchered in to eight fights, is recreated in detail direct from the source material and as a result each fight is separated into its own chapter with cut-scenes either side of the fight to offer the complete story. The result, much like fights found within Storm 3, means that you can watch the dialogue unfold but enjoy the fight by playing it yourself.
As the anime is currently on-going in Japan these dialogue sequences have been split between anime and CGI Character models; the early elements of the story tend to focus on screenshots of the anime with dialogue on top with important aspects rendered in 3D character models. The later part of the story however uses solely 3D character models and, in one sense, delivers the better results; but it does lead to a few ‘dubbing problems’ as the lip-sync of the voice actors does not always match-up with the movements of the character – but this all depends on whether you are playing with Japanese or English audio.
When it comes to fights then Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 offers quite a varriety and differs from past Ninja Storm games. Some chapters will be your traditional fight with two (or more) characters fighting for the win but as you progress forward through the story you will soon find yourself taking part in mob-battles, which briefly made an appearance in Storm 3, gigantic battles between summoned deities that replicate a regular fight, and shoot-em-up themed fights which tend to replicate arcade shooters such as Ikagura.
It’s a nice variety and yet it never feels out of place; but instead feels more comfortable than it probably should. More importantly even if you should fail during these combat missions you won’t need to panic as due to a new system you can now restart the battle from where you died. It’s a feature which may upset die hard Naruto fans but to us who had trouble dealing with the bosses in previous games (especially Storm 3) it’s an absolutely dream and it does nothing to hamper the overall experience; in fact it actually makes it much more enjoyable.
Adventure mode on the other hand feels more reminiscence of Ultimate Ninja Storm 3; whereby players could control Naruto and navigate him around the numerous villages scattered across the world. The same concept is used here; except this time instead of progressing through with the ‘Shippuden’ storyline we find ourselves taking part in random missions and quests assigned by NPC characters scattered around the village.
It may sound like a waste of content; but it does serve a purpose as scattered throughout the land and by engaging with other characters you can acquire memory fragments which unlock access to fights from past events of the entire Naruto franchise; such as the iconic fight between Naruto and Gaara. Unlike the story mode it’s a relatively short experience but it does offer something different and allows you to become refamiliar with the Naruto world we all know and love.
You may be thinking “is that all that Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 has to offer?” Well; not quite. Two main story modes and endless hours of combat fighting is the main course thats on offer but if you dig deeper into the menus, namely the collection option, you will uncover hordes of unlockables that will take endless hours to unlock. Additional costumes, which in turn unlock alternative versions of characters already available, Finish Scenes and items used for online personalisation and character customisation can be purchased here; however unlike a traditional shop – which requires money earned from the game – you need to have the right amount of material as well.
Material is obtained by meeting certain criteria through all forms of combat in the game; so whether you are playing Story, Adventure or Multiplayer Battles you will find yourself being awarded items during combat. For instance defeating an opponent with over 50% or 70% health can award a Silver Kunai while defeating the enemy with an Ultimate Jutsu Attack, which is now known as a Secret Technique, can award a Gold Suriken. Items awarded do differ and before each match you will receive a check-list with what you need to do in order to obtain that piece of material. As mentioned the Material itself, along with Ryo (Money) can then be used in the shop to buy all-sorts of items which future unlock new elements of gameplay. My personal favourite was to buy costumes for characters as it would allow more variations of that character to become usuable in battle.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 offers a nice variety of gameplay; so much so than previous instalments and the visual flair added to the game – especially during Quick-Time-Event styled boss battles as well as the easy to grasp nature makes it all the more sweeter. To some the relatively ‘narrow-minded’ story of Storm 4 will put people off, as it only focuses on a small portion of the franchise; but the story it does end up telling is one of great importantance and it’s done exceptionally well. In some instances it can even be heart-warming and emotional; but I won’t spoil the surprise.
What Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 offers is a true conclusion to the Naruto Shippuden storyline with an expanded adventure mode that keeps the story growing. It’s been carefully created to cater for all Naruto fans and its packed to the brim with content that you’ll struggle to find time to fit it all in. If Storm 4 is the final Naruto game game by CyberConnect2 then this is their goodbye-letter to the fans; and they have done it in style! Believe it; this is the best Naruto game to date!
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is now available for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC.