If you are a fan of the manga or anime, you will have been as excited as I was when Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Storm 4 was announced. Personally, I have yet to read the manga, and the anime has been stuck on filler episodes (again) for a while, so Ninja Storm 4 was actually a huge opportunity to actually finish the Naruto Shippuden Great Ninja War story arc, as well as battle with your favourite characters!
Game: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
(Review code provided by publisher)
Graphically, this game is a beast. CyberConnect2 should be given huge credit for bringing the Naruto world to next-gen in the best looking way possible. It is a colourful and vibrant world that can be seen throughout all of the different stages and characters in the game. This area for me is flawless and Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is easily one of the best looking anime games to date.
The story mode picks up during the latest arc in the anime, The Fourth Great Ninja War. The story mode actually ends up going past the anime too, so there is some new content in this game too unless you’ve read the manga. If you’ve neither read the manga or watched the anime then the games does a decent job of trying to educate you before you jump into action. It’s a good attempt to catch the player up but the Naruto world is so large and in depth that it’ll be truly hard to feel completely in the know but also feel the emotions attached with the story.
Emotions is a word I use a lot when it comes to Naruto and its story and Emotion applies tremendously towards the Story Mode. You are captured by its charm and Naruto’s will in a way that is quite rare in anime and video games. By the end, I was truly holding back tears and I was desperate for more. Combine the incredible story with a truly solid gameplay infrastructure that dates back to the original Ultimate Ninja Storm and you have the best mode in the game by a long shot. I won’t speak about what is involved story wise as I do not want to spoil it for anyone.
The gameplay that I speak of has been present since the original. A 3D fighter with a basic control scheme essentially but when everything comes together it produces fast paced, exciting and memorable battles. You choose your character and two supporting buddies. These two can be involved by either pressing R1 or L1 for quick assist moves or flick the right analogue stick to swap places with them and have them as your primary character. Choose the right team of characters and you can have a truly diverse and dynamic team.
The “simple” control scheme is as follows; circle will land melee blows, X is for jump, square is to throw an item (such a kunai or shuriken) while triangle is to charge your chakra (your energy). Sounds basic right? Well the game works in such a way that a combination of melee attacks will end up with a cinematic attack at the end; button bashing can work to a degree and end with some flair. Complicate it a little bit, throw a triangle into that mix and you’ll end up with a different, more powerful chakra based attack. Again, this attack looks awesome, lending itself to the dramatisation of the fight. Another nice touch is the ability to “awaken” a special power at a certain point in a fight. As an example, if you are playing as Naruto, when the prompt comes up on screen then you can charge your chakra to max and transform into the nine tails Kurama mode, giving yourself a tremendous power boost.
The control scheme, while it may look daunting at times, is pretty easy to pick up and you’ll be surprised by how adept you can be with it after a few battles. At certain points in a fight during story mode you will also be asked to take part in mini games during cut scenes, such as pressing circle at the right time or using the analogue stick to dodge an attack, all while the games pans out events of the anime on screen. This way you aren’t just sitting there during cut scenes twiddling your thumbs! It makes for a wonderfully interactive way to experience the story. Having said that, there are plenty of times you get to sit back and enjoy the story as it unfolds.
The only real issue I have with story mode is to do with the dubbing. The Japanese and English voices do not match up with the characters lips and can occasionally take you out of the zone. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the Story Mode and would recommend the game on this mode alone if you are a fan of Naruto, whilst newcomers will also come to enjoy it.
One mode I can’t recommend is the Adventure mode. It’s a mode that is supposed to carry on the “adventure” after the story has reached its conclusion but it’s a desperate attempt to add longevity to the game with a not so great story to it. In Adventure Mode, you have a small open world where you can free travel around the land of the Hidden Leaf, pick up missions and speak to your comrades. You start off by going on a quest with other characters from the Naruto world, Sakura and Hinata. If you know the Naruto world, you will know that Hinata has always been desperately in love with Naruto. This quest is an attempt to get the two of them to spend time together. During their travels they reminisce about old battles and adventures Naruto and others have had and it’s your job to complete the fights to add memories to the “Memory Bank” and carry on with the mode. Whilst it is fun in that you get to remember some epic battles, the constant running around makes it tiring and boring. While I blazed through Story Mode as I wanted to see more, Adventure Mode had me wanting to turn it off and head to Free Battle.
Free Battle is where you can find VS Mode, Battle Mode, Training and much more. You’ll end up spending a lot of time in VS Mode if you’re enjoying the overall gameplay. This is where you can access the plethora of characters on offer. I mean, there is a hell of a lot! Think of any character from Naruto and they are likely to be in this game. Weirdly the main characters, instead of having one character slot and lots of alternative costumes, they end up having 4-6 slots AND alternative costumes. I am all for variation and I want as many different versions of characters as possible, but as an example, Sasuke Uchiha, one of the major characters in the franchise, has six slots, then also has multiple different costumes. I believe a lot of the extra character models could have been used as alternative costumes and could have saved a bit of space in the character select screen which is crowded to put it lightly.
Online Battles were tested but didn’t show itself in a great light. I suffered from some lag in the few games I did play. This put me off wanting to play more unfortunately, however multiplayer is the easily the funnest way to play. Local multiplayer may be the way forward for the moment however, whilst the developers work on a patch to improve the experience of online play.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a journey where I found myself having mixed emotions. Having fully enjoyed the Story and VS Mode, I was disappointingly let down by Adventure and Online. However, the pros by far outweighs the cons and this is still a game I can be happy with. Naruto can be proud that Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 carries its legacy across successfully and has enough about it to be the best game in the series since its creation.