I'm going to be the first admit to not being at all familiar with the world of Naruto. Japanese anime has always left me somewhat cold as it seems to follow the same basic traits of big explosions, people grimacing, bulging eyeballs and nonsensical and disjointed stories that feature characters who act inconsistently while jumping through giant plot holes.
I'm sure I'm going to get lambasted for slighting an entire genre of animation with a glib sentence and will also be directed to Akira
as being an exemplar of the medium. But that's the problem, if Akira
is the pinnacle of anime then it really is never going to appeal to me.
So here I am laying into anime yet at the same time talking about a game that is essentially a feature of that very genre that the player directly controls. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
really is an interactive anime as its visuals are mind-blowing in their fidelity, expanse and impact they have on the player.
So, I must be the worst person to preview a game that is in essence an interactive version of a type of entertainment I have little to no time for, right? Well you'd be right in saying that, only Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
is actually really fun to play, making the subject matter somewhat moot.
The short demo I experienced at Namco Bandai's Level Up event had me controlling Naruto as he took the reins of a giant frog that was a size of a mountain. Now I'm not going to pretend to know who or what this frog is or indeed why it's wearing a waistcoat or how Naruto is controlling him/her/it. All I know is that it's pretty good at punching things really hard and also can charge into things at a good pace.
I proceeded to lay waste to hoards of tiny clay men-like creatures along with giant versions of same little folk, again for reasons I really could not ascertain. I suspect I never will be able to get it, because anime revels in impenetrable nonsense; it's even safe to say that it actually basks in it!
Despite this I found the experience strangely satisfying as I pummelled the clay beings into submission while heading towards a navigation marker for reasons that were never properly explained. Which isn't surprising considering this is anime, which regards any form of coherent exposition as an anathema.
The second half of the demo saw me engaging in a series of animations that became increasingly fantastical. The frog's eyes bulged, he/she/it grimaced and there were lots of explosions. All the while, a series of quick-time-events (QTEs) flashed onto the screen as a way to include the player while the nonsensical action unfolds.
The artwork used for displaying what button to press or thumb-stick to twirl was rendered using the same style as the anime action. This caught me unawares as I initially thought this was some kind of fourth-wall-breaking metaphor being explored by Naruto only to realise no, this really is a QTE sequence and I'd better do something! Thankfully they are not instant-fail, so my inability to react to the initial sequences did not prevent me from completing the rest, which was a nice change from the norm.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
is the first game in this series to appear in the current generation of consoles and will also be the last of the Storm
titles to be made. From what I played of it, it appears to be a very fitting end of a thoroughly traditional anime series. Assuming they have an actual end, which is something I've never been able to determine...