Naruto is just one of many long-running manga/anime series to spawn a successful series of fighting games. Vast casts of quirky characters and over-the-top explosive battles just lend themselves well to the fighting genre I guess. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
continues the story from the end of Ninja Storm 2
, mostly ignoring the gameplay changes made by spin-off Ninja Storm Generations
that was released between the two.
As usual for the series, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
is very well-presented. It looks brilliant, the Ultimate Ninja Storm
series perfected its anime-authentic look a few games ago. Soundwise the game holds up just as well, with a great soundtrack and the full cast of voice actors from the anime.
Purists even have the option of changing the voices to Japanese if that tickles their fancy. Where the two elements meet is a little sketchy Ė some of the lip-synching looks like it came straight out of an old Kung Fu movie Ė but apart from that itís smooth sailing across the board.
The story mode will be the main selling point to most fans, and itís pretty expansive. I havenít seen the anime so I canít accurately judge how closely the game follows it, but going by whatís here Iíd say it does a so-so job. Some parts are covered extensively, leading to long periods of time where youíre doing nothing but watching cutscenes or tapping through conversations.
These bits irked me a little bit. Naruto
ís interesting enough stuff and I get the feeling I could enjoy the anime, but if Iím sitting down to play the game I expect to play the damn game. Otherwise I might as well just watch the anime.
On the other hand, some plot threads and characters just seem to stealthily drop out of the equation altogether. I obviously canít confirm if this is how things go down in the source material but I suspect not. Part of the problem here is the gameís PG rating, which limits what they can show and leads to the frequent character deaths being glossed over so much that Iím not even sure whoís really dead in the end.
The main meat of the game is in the fighting however, and it fares much better in this area. Things havenít changed much in regards to the mechanics or controls, so if youíve played previous games in the series then youíll probably pick it right back up without missing a beat. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing - the fighting here is fast and smooth with enough unique mechanics to give it some depth.
Tokyo Game Show 2012
No doubt the best part of the game is the fantastic boss battles, which move almost seamlessly from battle to animated cutscene while you follow QTEs in order to advance the fight. I know QTEs arenít terribly popular but they do work quite well here.
Not only do they let the game capture some of the animeís more spectacular moments without interrupting the fight, thereís even a point to them. Doing well enough will unlock a special extra scene at the end of the fight that develops the characters further. These only tend to be snippets of info but perfectionists will no doubt want to completely beat everything the game has to offer.
Those familiar with the series will know that this is pretty much the same formula used in the previous games, though Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
ups the ante somewhat by throwing you into much bigger and flashier fights courtesy of the many giant monsters that populate Narutoís world.
Some battles even take the game in a slightly different direction by pitting you against multiple enemies at once in crazy free-for-alls. And while these melees might be a bit rougher around the edges than the core one-on-one fights, their inclusion does make for a nice change of pace.
Ignoring its hectic plot and massive cast, gameplay-wise Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
is very newcomer-friendly and youíve got a few options available if a fightís too much. Firstly is the vast array of offensive, defensive and healing items you can choose from to take into a fight with you.
Youíll unlock more powerful varieties as you progress through the game, but even the basic tools can give you an edge in an otherwise close battle. Another new feature is Ultimate Decisions, where you get to choose two approaches to certain boss fights that will make things more or less difficult for you, letting you take the easy way through any difficult battles.
The only real problem with the story mode seems to be how little time you actually spend fighting in it. Between the copious amounts of dialogue and cutscenes you have to sit through the fights seem few and far between.
What makes things worse is that the free adventuring sections that pop up in between every scene are incredibly dull. Youíll rarely have to do anything more than follow a straight path and any attempts to explore a side road or head back to a previous area are usually shot down. Considering how heavily youíre railroaded for most of the game itís a wonder they even bothered.