Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review

_namcobandai_Screenshots_41340[BossBattle] Naruto VS Sasuke 02

With a title like Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, it’s not hard to guess that this game is the product of several iterative releases that have progressively improved on an existing formula. While this can be a problem in some series’ where there are very minimal changes from game to game, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 not only perfects the existing formula, but makes some pretty big improvements that make this a must play if you’ve enjoyed any of the past games in the series. It’s simply the best the series has ever offered by a considerable way.

Let’s start with the Story mode as that’s where the biggest changes are. The story is the most up-to-date it’s ever been, as well as being the best suited for a fighting game. There’s a newly added “Ultimate Decision” mode added to some fights and an updated focus on QTE’s (don’t panic, they work really nicely in the context of the game’s single player).

This time around the game doesn’t stop when it catches up with the English dub of the anime, rather it continues right up to the current arc in the Japanese version of the show. This means that we get to see everything between Konoha being rebuilt following the Pain battle, Naruto’s training with Killer Bee and into the Fourth Shinobi World War. This not only means that the game’s single player covers a huge amount of ground and has loads of content to experience, but much of this content involves pivotal moments in Naruto’s character growth, huge scale battles with multiple enemies and allows you to fight against many of the most well known characters from the history of the series due to Kabuto’s involvement in the Shinobi World War.

The game’s opening sequence not only shows off the increased sense of scale in battles but also the new “Ultimate Decision” mode, which is essentially an interesting way of implementing difficulty selection into battles without just dumbing down enemy AI and lowering their stats. The game starts with you in the battle between the Forth Hokage and the Nine Tailed Fox, which started the whole chain of events that placed Naruto slap bang in the middle of the whole story we’ve seen through the series. Before the battle starts you can choose to play it in either the easier Hero mode, where you attempt to chase the masked man through Konoha and attempt to stop him, or the more difficult Legend mode, where you try to directly take on the Nine Tails attempting to stop it damaging the village. Both options will branch slightly, before ultimately returning to the same story point before the next battle, but they prove an interesting way to handle difficulty selection in some of these more pivotal moments.

These big story based fights also contain QTE segments. Before you panic, they’re used mainly to funnel the battle when needed from one story point in the battle to another so that the battles mirror the anime, and to emphasise and strengthen the connection when you pull of specific attacks that were pivotal to the episode where that fight took place. They’re not overused, and the best comparison I can find is Asura’s Wrath, which would make sense considering that they were both overseen by Hiroshi Matsuyama.

Naruto Samurai costume

The game features a lot of cutscenes, some of which are pretty long. I’m not joking when I say it reminded me of Metal Gear Solid IV, in the way it occasionally had very long cutscenes that were more like watching a show on TV. I’m aware some of you out there will be irritated by cutscene length, but I loved the way they were worked into the story. For those a little behind on the story (or only up to date with the English dub), it made for a great way to get up-to-date and feel like you’ve not missed out on anything. Also, while the English audio is strong for the most part, the dialogue and the characters mouths are not synced for English. The Japanese dialogue syncs up better and is there for those of you who’d rather have a “Dattebayo” than be told to “Believe it.”

The battle system itself is much the same as previous entries in the series, in the best possible way. The controls are unchanged, the combat is still fluid and you still get that sense of what it’s like to fight as a ninja. The main way the combat has changed in both single player and multiplayer is just that the combat has been polished even more than it was before. It’s looking more fluid, models are more detailed, attacks have more weight to them when they land and everything’s just a bit more of the top and spectacular in scope. There’s now over 80 playable characters to choose from in multiplayer thanks to that story point in the Shinobi World War that brings all sorts of characters into the fray. There’s such a wide array of choice for multiplayer that I’m not sure how they can possibly top this multiplayer selection in the future.

In short, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 has taken all the things the series was doing correctly, built on those concepts and worked to get them as polished as possible. It covers the most interesting period in the series so far and throws in a little of the sense of scope and awe that appeared in Asura’s Wrath. It’s a huge game with loads of content to explore that I just didn’t want to stop playing from start to finish.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is released for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 8 March. 

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