Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
I am going to assume that everyone knows what Naruto is. The series has been a member of Shounen Jump’s big three for years even though the popularity has gone down recently. Obviously, it hasn’t taken as big of a fall as Bleach, but it hasn’t kept up with One Piece very well. Manga series aside, we are here to talk about a video game. I really hope that this isn’t your first Ultimate Ninja game, not just because there are thirteen of them, but because they are fantastic. The series has evolved from a 2.5D fighting game with your standard fighting game story that involves a series of match ups, to a fully 3D fighting game with a story mode that pulls in elements from many different types of games. There is an emphasis on a cinematic experience that is present in every game mode which should excite both fans of the series and casual players of the game. Some people may be a little apprehensive when it comes to jumping into a game that already has an established universe and story, but I would let the gameplay speak for itself. If you look at it simply as a fighting game, then you should have no issues with starting with this one. I don’t think everyone that has played Street Fighter IV has been a fan since the original. However, you could get confused when playing through the story if you are new to the series. There are a few ways around that, so let me jump right into the game.
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is unique when it comes to fighting games due to the drastically different experience that you will have in the story mode as opposed to the battle mode. Even then, both the story and battle modes have options that will change your experience within themselves. Overall, a great deal of effort was put into giving us a lot of different things to do in this game. Probably the best part about this setup is the fact that the story mode is worth your time. I know for a fact that I would skip the story mode in most fighting games if it wasn’t for the fact that you unlock the characters by playing through it. Well, let’s get to the specifics regarding the gameplay.
For fans of the series, the story mode for this game covers the time from the beginning of the fourth great ninja war to the point where Naruto and Killer Bee must fight the tailed beasts. I would recommend that you be up to date with most of the Naruto story line in order to understand what is going on. That can be a tough task because the series has been going on for years, but that i what happens when you have a game that is directed towards an established fan base. However, I would say that you could skip the cut scenes and still enjoy the gameplay. Yes, this game does allow you to skip the cut scenes which is fantastic because they are ridiculously long at times. I wouldn’t skip them if you have time because graphically speaking it is quite the experience, but if you already read this part of the story on your own, or you don’t really know much about the story, then a skipping function is necessary. The cool thing is that you press start during the scene and choose whether or not to skip the cut scene which can prevent accidentally skipping something that you want to watch. Now, cinematic stuff aside, the four ways to play that the story mode presents us is quite the unique experience. There is obviously the preset fighting engine that makes an appearance when you have to fight the major opponents. The way in which you fight is unique because you are working with a 3D fighting engine that I believe is very well done and it will get you ready to fight your friends later on. You can’t really have a fighting game that doesn’t showcase its engine in the story mode, but there is a lot more going on in this game mode. There will be a lot of fights where you encounter large opponents like the one in the picture that is directly above this section. Most of those encounters will have you going in for attacks and responding at various points with action commands. For those of you that don’t know what action commands are, they are points in a cinematic part of a fight where things flash on you screen that will ask you to press a series of buttons in a short period of time. In this game, doing the commands will allot you stars of varying numbers in according with the speed and correctness with which you reacted to the action commands. Once you get enough stars, the fight is over. The game doesn’t ask you to do anything complex. There are at most three things asked of you at one time for a single button press or the game will ask you to mash a specific button. Not very difficult, but extremely rewarding because the cinematic element of this game is beautiful. Next you have mob fights which function the way that you would expect them to. You have access to some of your abilities from the fighting engine, but your big attacks have been traded for mob clearing skills that allow you to quickly shift your focus between enemies. Finally, there is some rail shooting. This happens during fights with gigantic enemies at a few points in the game and exist to further the graphical prowess of the game. Honestly, the entire story mode should mostly leave you in awe of the way that the game looks. Even though the game sports a story mode that you don’t see in most fighting games, the story itself can be completed relatively quickly. I completed the main story in a little under five hours, but there are side quests and unlockable side stories that should give the story mode some good replay value. You can’t set the difficulty outside of the game, but you get to choose between hero and legend before every big fight. Thus, you can play each fight with varying levels of difficulty depending on how much trouble you are having with it. The two difficulties will give you some slight differences in your experience.
Even after having said all of that, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is still a fighting game. There are a few things that make the battle mode pretty unique when it comes to fighters even though some of those things have been met with criticism. The main thing to talk about is this game’s fighting engine. Unlike games like Street Fighter that function in 2D plane, this game is fully 3D. That means that the character models are 3D and you fight in three dimensions. Obviously, this means that we cannot use the classic quarter circle+attack style commands that the world is used to, but I do not find this to be a bad thing. The circle button is for melee attacks, square is for throwing projectiles, X is for jumping and dashing, triangle is for charging and activating your chakra, the bumpers are for your supports in team battle, right trigger is for guarding, and left trigger is for substitutes, the left analog stick is for running around, and the D-pad activates special items. That sounds like a lot, but the game gets criticized for being too simple. I mean, special moves are pulled off simply by pressing triangle and circle in succession and that is an example of how the game does get very simple once you get going. You have three bars to worry about. You have the health bar which must be depleted twice, the chakra bar which you can recharge easily and is necessary for special attacks, and the substitution bar which tells you how many subs you have. Subs, maximum four, are used to jump out of an attack which can be useful. During your health bar’s second run down, there will be a point where you can charge your chakra and enter a hyper mode. This may or may not be useful depending on your situation, but it is almost always cool. Now, even though the controls are the same for everyone, there are eighty playable characters and seven support only characters. Each one functions slightly differently because they have varying speed, power, and types of special moves, but only odd characters like the puppet masters will make you completely change what you are doing. The single battle mode will allow you to fight with any of the eighty playable characters in a one on one fight which can be versus an AI or another person and the team battle mode allows the same thing, but you can select up to two other characters to enlist as supports. The support characters will perform a low-grade special move to aid you in your battle. You can choose between five different AI difficulty settings and the top one is a decent challenge. Luckily, all of the characters can be unlocked with one run through of the story mode which includes the optional challenges. However, if you played the other Naruto Ultimate Ninja games on your account, then you will automatically unlock some of the characters that you get through the optional challenges. If you played all of them, then you will obtain every character by simply beating the mandatory parts of the story mode.
Graphics and Sound:
This game has a very unique art style. The game uses a manga style cell shading that looks really cool and represents the actual series very well. I play this game in HD and I must say that the quality blew me away. Obviously, the characters weren’t meant to look like real people so you can throw that goal out of the window. What we have is something that makes the anime look atrocious. I would much rather see the series animated like this because of the quality of the game graphics and the sloppy nature of the fighting animation that has really started to bug me in the anime. Along with that, the sound is very nice. You get music and voice actors from the show which is nice. Naruto has always sported a very nice soundtrack and you do get the option to change between english and japanese when it comes to the in-game language. Some of you may not like reading subtitles, but I played this game with japanese dialogue and english subs. Overall, the game is fantastic when it comes to graphics and sound.
I really enjoyed this game. Actually, that doesn’t truly express my feelings regarding Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. I FUCKING LOVE THIS GAME!!! That’s better. Not only is the game great to look at, but the gameplay is super fun. The story mode actually gives me a reason to play it besides unlocking all of the characters. Having all of those different ways to play is nice and makes this much more than just a fighting game. One of the criticisms for this game is the fact that you can’t adjust the difficulty outside of the story mode, but I actually like what they did. When you get to choose your difficulty prior to a fight, you should be able to strive for the tougher journey and the more complete story. However, if you really can’t get past something, why not give someone the chance to play through that one part on a lower difficulty setting so that they don’t get stuck for way too long on one overly tough fight. It is like skipping problems on the SAT. When it comes to the fighting engine, a lot of reviewers complain about the fact that the fighting engine is far too simple. Specials are very easy to pull off and actual combos don’t really exist. However, I would like to call bullshit on that. Why does every fighting game have to ask me to solve a calculus problem before I can do something cool? I am a fan of fighters, but that really hurts casual gamers. The Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games are the kind of games that I can take to parties and all of my friends can have fun playing together. Instead of one guy knowing how to pull of shoryukens and perfect guard, you have easy to pull off specials that are visually rewarding. There isn’t a set way that you have to play, even though some tactics are better than others, and that allows for this game to give a great casual experience. What you are looking for in a casual game is fun and that is what I can say that I take away from Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. Both the story and battle modes are fun. The side quests give the story replay value and the battle mode should be accessible to most of the people who you know.
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a very fun game. The story mode is great and the battle mode can appeal to both serious and casual players. Unfortunately, there is a standard way that fighters function in this world, so innovative and fun games like this one will never get the credit that they deserve. Also, the fact that it is based on an established fan base will scare off third-party gamers that would otherwise enjoy the game. Going back through the story and playing specific parts is made easy and the character roster that sports eighty members should keep you from getting bored. My favorite support character from the last game is no longer playable, but characters will always get cycled in and out of games. Luckily, the Ultimate Ninja games sell well because fans rush to buy it so we can expect more of them in the future. The game currently costs $59.99 out here because it came out last week, but it is definitely worth it if you are a fan of the series. Good job Bandai.