Review: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm

NUNS_PS3 Pack Front.jpg Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm suffers from a classic case of style over substance. This PS3-exclusive anime fighter features some of the most eye-popping, awe-inducing special effects and animations ever produced in a videogame. Seriously, many of the special attack sequences in this game will completely blow your mind. But unfortunately the gameplay that backs this master class effort in graphical design doesn’t have the depth or longevity to match.

I don’t want to sound too negative about this though because overall Storm is a very enjoyable game. As a fighting game, it’s lightning fast, exhilarating and amazingly cinematic, pitting two of 25 available Naruto favorites against one another in open 3D environments. Free battle mode allows you and one other player — either CPU controlled or another live player — to duke it out like pretty much any fighting game, with a few key features that set it apart from the crowd like support characters you can call on in a pinch to disrupt an enemy combo or extend one of your own into something even more deadly, usable items mapped to the D-pad for providing performance boosts and other effects when used, fully 3D combat taking place on the ground, in the air and even on the walls, and spectacular Ultimate Jutsu special attacks that are as lavishly produced as any Final Fantasy summoning sequence.

Storm also doubles as a compelling action-adventure game through a lengthy 8-10 hour Ultimate Mission Mode campaign following the story arc of the original animated TV show. This campaign transforms the game into much more than just a standard fighter, with a fully explorable Hidden Leaf Village hub, boatloads of story and optional missions, various mini-game challenges, and epically scaled Giant Creature battles that have to be seen to be believed.

This two-games-in-one design style is great at first, but in relatively short order the realization sets in that much of the game is too shallow to hold up to extended play. The fighting engine is fun to control and even more thrilling to watch, but after a while it boils down into nothing more than a button-masher. You hop around dodging the enemy, blocking and countering when needed, then when you get an opening you mash on the circle button until the combo ends or go for the kill shot with your Ultimate Jutsu. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to it, and without online play or trophies there is very little about the free battle fighting mode that’ll keep you coming back for more.

The Ultimate Mission Mode has far more meat on its bones with 100 missions and a bunch of collectibles like figurines, music tracks, Ultimate Jutsu movies and even these cool dioramas you can make by combining the figures, tracks and Jutsus you’ve unlocked. After a couple hours though, the campaign becomes bogged down by repetition. You complete a mission, explore the town hub for collectible scrolls, treasure chests and other items that pop into the world as a reward, rinse and repeat the rest of the way and that’s about it. Most of the missions are standard fights as well, only with certain stipulations that must be met on top of winning the match. Occasional tree-climbing and tree-running mini-game challenges break up the pace a bit, but they are nothing more than on-rails reflex tests that play out the same way every time. Naruto automatically funs up the tree while you flick the left analog stick left or right to dodge tree limbs in order to reach the finish line in the allotted time. That’s about it.

If you’re a Naruto fan in any way, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is a game you’ll be proud to have in your collection, no doubt about it. It’s authentic to the anime in every way — even including both English and Japanese dialogue tracks — and with so many collectibles and such a high quality visual design it’s the ultimate fan service type of experience. But in stepping back and just looking at the game as a fighter/action-adventure, it’s just a little too light on depth and staying power to demand a purchase, in my opinion. This game definitely deserves your time but I’m not so sure it’s worth shelling out $60 for. Therefore try before you buy would be my suggestion. You will surely be entertained either way.

TryIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Visual design of supreme quality combining crystal clear HD graphics, silky smooth animations, and spectacular special effects into one of the best looking games ever produced
+ Ultimate Mission Mode lasts a good 8-10 hours and offers lots of collectible goodies
+ Fighting engine is fast, fluid and frenetic
+ Ultimate work of Naruto fan service

Cons:
– No online play
– Fighting mechanics don’t offer enough depth to hold your attention for the long haul
– Ultimate Mission Mode lacks variety

Game Info:
Platform: PS3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: 11/4/08
Genre: Fighting
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (offline only)

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!