(WARNING: This game was initially released in Japan, where the anime is currently running. However, unless you are watching it on Hulu, Crunchyroll or reading the manga, this game will spoil all future events of the series.)
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is the latest game developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Namco-Bandai from this long popular anime. The Fourth Great Shinobi War has begun, all due to the ambitions of Madara Uchiha – the leader of a shadowy organization called the Akatsuki.His plans are to capture the Jinchūriki: tailed beasts of legend. And with them, he will have the power to bring peace to the world … under his reign. However, there is one obstacle in his way – the Number One Hyperactive Knucklehead Ninja of Konoha: Naruto Uzumaki !
With the help of his friends and the Great Shinobi Alliance, he will stop this madman at all costs. But, how?
The game follows our hero’s journey in the war. There are three modes:
- Ultimate Adventure: Travels Naruto’s path through the conflict
- Free Battle: Vs. battles (local or AI), Tournament (using 4-8 character teams) or Practice
- Online Battle: Connect and fight with other players
The latter two formats have over 80 characters to use. But, Ultimate Adventure (or story mode) will be the one that immerses the player into the current crisis. It begins with the battle that starts it all: the destruction of Konoha by Kurama – the nine tails!
Ninja Storm 3 uses an interesting premise to bring the player into this drama – a factouring system called Ultimate Decision. During critical times in the story, you put yourself in the character’s place and select a “route” for future developments. The game play will change depending on which path you choose: Legend or Hero.
- Legend: Closer to the manga/anime plotline, but it is more difficult so the rewards are greater
- Hero: Easier combat and changes the storyline
We now skip forward sixteen years. Nagato (aka Pain) has been defeated and Konoha begins to rebuild. As the effects of the war reverberate through the village, the tension is reflected in the demeanour of the people. Everyone, including Team 7, wonders what will happen next!
As usual, Naruto gets impatient and decides to confront the village’s new leader – the Hokage Danzo. However, the mysterious leader is no where to be found. He has already left for Meeting of the Five Kages.
And so, the journey begins …
… with the establishment of the Great Shinobi Alliance …
… to training with Killer Bee as your allies fight for their lives …
… and ending by confronting legendary resurrected warriors.
How will it all play out? Will you survive the war? Who will win? You will have to play to find out!
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 plays out the current storyline of the manga and anime; however, due to neither being complete at time of development, CyberConnect2 had to take some artistic liberties.
The ending of the story mode (Ultimate Adventure), has been creatively manipulated to incite the most action in the game; in other words, the developer had to speculate or guess what would be the best ending for the war! And due to the fact that this mode is over fifty hours long, certain details were sacrificed to make room for more interesting outcomes/encounters. Therefore, CyberConnect2 is assuming that the player has seen or read the story until this point. All of these dropped trivialities will make those uninformed gamers wonder how the characters arrived from Point A to Point B.
The majority of this mode’s length is due to CGI/anime cutscenes. Approximately half of your time is spent watching narrative mini-movies explaining what happens between the battles. These clips would be nice, if they had decided which animation method to use – and not a combination of both. Skipping from a pixelated CG scene to a polished anime just makes the former look worse when compared to the latter. All of these transitions were in the original animation, but for some reason, the developers decided to re-film them in CGI. Although you can skip them, it will leave the game lacking since the uninitiated will not know how the characters arrived at the next battle. And due to these transitions and graphic buffering, you need to get used the game’s load screens. Moving to a new area may take a few seconds; but, before any major battle or cutscene – you can expect that to be extended to a twenty second load time!
The combat itself is very satisfying. You will feel the impacts due a tactful use of vibration feedback; the expanded arsenal weapons and ninjutsu help the immersion into this game. However, there is another assumption that Namco-Bandai has made of the player: they assume that the gamer has finished or is familiar with the mechanics of the previous games.
The adventure starts with THREE boss level fights:
- Fourth Hokage vs. Madara
- Third Hokage vs. the Nine-Tailed Jinjuriki
- Fourth Hokage vs. Madara
If you are new to this series, this will be a trial by fire! There are no tutorials on controls or how to use any of the ninja tools/techniques. This game will test your reflexes as you frantically mash the buttons to survive. But just defeating your opponents won’t be enough – especially for the bosses. Each contest will have certain conditions that must be met to ensure victory (use a ninjutsu or weapon to defeat the opponent, have at least 40% life remaining, use team tag-ins a certain number of times).
Plus, factor in that there is no difficulty setting or manual saves on top of these circumstances, and you end up re-playing these battles multiple times. You may be able to overcome these hurdles eventually, but expect a LOT of frustration for the first time player. And if you wish to get all of the games achievements, expect to revisit these foes again. Most of the bosses will need to beaten with top scores (minimal damage to yourself, fastest times, technique combinations).
The Free Battle mode lets practise your techniques versus AI or local opponents. Each team can be solo or composed of up to eight contestants.
However, when you first start, only Naruto and Sasuke will be unlocked. All of the others must be released via:
- Playing through Ultimate Adventure or
- Having saves from previous Naruto games on your console’s hard drive
In other words, you must play all fifty hours in order to have all of the characters as picture above. Also keep in mind, any AI controlled opponents will be as formidable as in story mode. So, get your reflexes ready.
Online mode is another dilemma. Although the game advertises that you can connect with opponents all over the world … that is not always the case. More often than not, you will experience numerous could not connect to session or session full errors. You will end up playing more in a local Free Battle than Online.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a great game for those initiated followers of this franchise. You can play as most of the characters in the anime and manga through the current amazing storyline. However, be prepared for a steep learning curve if you are not used to this series. But, if you manage to survive the initial frustrations, this romp into the realm of ninjas will be worth the time you spend in their mystical world.
A copy of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 for the Xbox 360 was supplied by Namco-Bandai for the purposes of this review.