Naruto as a franchise has existed for about a decade, and there have been many a game in the series. The series has been hit or miss, some should not even have the Naruto name on it. This newest NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja STORM 3 might just prove that it’s worth a your time and your hard earned money.
The latest effort from Cyber Connect 2, Naruto Shippuuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 makes assumptions about your knowledge of the franchise’s place in the ongoing story from the manga and anime. Taking place timeline-wise after the Pain Arc, the devastation left in the wake of the attack on The Village of the Hidden Leaf has left the leader of Naruto’s village incapacitated and in need of a replacement. The village also needs major reconstruction; the new leader is a very hard-lined and opportunistic man who has very harsh methods of leading his people. A meeting between him and the leaders of the other villages takes place. This is to see what can be done about the terrorist organization that is a threat to all the nations, and the same group that also attacked Naruto’s village and the leader’s brother. Then, the real leader of the organization shows up and declares all-out war on the nations of Naruto’s world. This is where the story begins, but not before a flashback moment to Fourth Hokage’s past.
Here is where the gameplay is introduced: This game has several different modes of gameplay to it and they are split between an action game, a 3D based fighter laced with Quick Time Events, and light free roaming exploration segments. The action parts the game takes on Dynasty Warrior like aspects as you move through a small area and fights mobs of enemies. Nothing too exciting but it’s a nice change of pace from the straight up fighting engine of the previous releases from the series. In this mode you can do basic melee and charge up your chakra to power up your shuriken, move from one place to another quickly, or use your jutsu attacks. You can also use substitution jutsu which allows you to avoid damage from an attack and get behind the enemy to do a counterattack. This is provided you have your substitution gauge filled up enough, as you have a limited amount of uses before recharging. You can also use ninja tools like health and chakra powerups to make your task a bit easier. If you string together enough melee hits, you can pull off a screen clearing wave of attacks through a button prompt.
The versus fighting engine from the previous games has returned and remains mostly unchanged, and plays a bit like the mob battles save for the focus on one-to-one combat. Also it’s in this mode where you can execute ultimate jutsus. These are very powerful attacks that while devastating, consume large amounts of chakra, and usually need your character to move in close quarters to pull off. This can be aided by using support characters in certain battles. Hitting the appropriate button calls out a team member for a quick support attack to buy you time to flee, charge chakra, pull off a jutsu, or a short melee combo. If your health gets brought to critical levels you can use a last ditch desperation mode where your character transforms and becomes super tough. This is meant to give you one last chance to quickly turn around a battle. Like in the mob battles, you can also make use of ninja tools, which come in two different varieties, Legend and Hero. Legend seems to be the more offensive set of items while “Hero” are more defensive. The two types are tied to the games Ultimate Decision system. There are certain points in the story that call for you to make decisions that determine the difficulty and types of battles you take. Choosing one over the other will also earn you more points in that branch, and level it up to use more effective and more quantities of that tool set. Lastly, during the story mode, you will be interrupted during points in the battle by cinematic Quick Time Events that really show off Cyber Connect 2′ engine.
The last part of gameplay is also the most underutilized part of the game, the exploration part. For most of the game you be unable to explore the Ninja World, being dragged along the path of the linear story. But once the story mode is completed, the post-game portion opens up and you can freely buy stuff to add to your collections and other extras. You can also undertake side quests or revisit past battles to pick the other decisions you didn’t do the first time.
There are two other modes to access in the main menu of the game. And those are Online Battles and Free Battles. Online Battles are like free battles but online. You can do versus with single or team play, and even tournaments with special rules. Free Battles are also the best way to re-earn money to buy more tools and collectibles post game. The music is serviceable and does its job of setting the mood, but the music is not particularly memorable. The voice acting for the dub is very well done, full of a lot of talented voice-actors. There is also an option for Japanese audio for those who wish to play the game that way. There is also planned DLC, but those are mostly costumes.
All in all, Naruto Shippuuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a very polished game and surprisingly enjoyable for a simple but exciting fighting engine. This game is probably worth a rental, as the $60 dollar price point seems a bit too much for a game like this. Also unlocking some of the game’s characters is quite the endeavor in itself, requiring ridiculous gameplay to get some of them. But there is some replay value in that I suppose. I’d wait for a price drop, personally, but if you are interested check the game out.