GAME NAME: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst
PUBLISHER(S): Namco Bandai
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
RELEASE DATE(S): January 31st, 2014
Xbox 360 – Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (Original review)
It is no secret that I am a fan of the Naruto anime series as well as Dragon Ball Z (rabidly so) and other shōnen anime. By extension I’m rather fond of the games based on these shows and the latest offering from Namco Bandai to be based in the Naruto Shippuden universe is trying its damnedest to be the best game of its sort ever made. Does it succeed? Sort of, thanks to the cinematic influences of developer CyberConnect2 (Asura’s Wrath). Then again it also falls flat in places, resulting in peaks and valleys in gameplay. The peaks are fantastically high but they are almost outweighed by the accompanying troughs in excitement.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 will at least slightly impress those disappointed by the previous release, Generations, for a few reasons. The Ultimate Adventure campaign mode reintroduces the free-roaming RPG-like gameplay from the first Ultimate Ninja Storm, though the extent to which this is done isn’t actually apparent until the main story arc has been completed. The Adventure mode, which takes place directly after the Pain story arc and continues until the conclusion of the Fourth Great Ninja War (fans will understand the time frame, everyone else needs to watch more than 200 episodes of the anime to catch up), is mostly linear but there are some RPG-lite elements. Complete the arc though and players will find that most of the ninja countries are open for exploration, with quests and side-stories to complete after all the hullabaloo has died down.
The game’s storyline puts players into the shoes of various characters at key points in the series’ story arc. These key points are sometimes split, especially during boss battles, into an Ultimate Decision choice. Legend is the tougher but more awesome option while Hero is slightly less so. Each fight that concludes will net players Legend and/or Hero points, which are used to upgrade the equipment that they can use in fights. Gameplay varies, from wandering around a restricted version of the world with little to interact with to so-called mob combat (think a side-scrolling beat-em-up kind of thing) to cut-scene-to-combat sections.
Be warned however, the cut-scenes are sometimes very lengthy and are almost always rendered with the game engine (which isn’t a bad thing). At times you may find yourself dozing off though, especially if you have already watched the episodes that cover the sections being presented in-game. But the boss battles are huge affairs, easily the highlight of the game, but they may also put a few players off. Boss battles are scripted to go into a heavily cinematic mode at certain points, with QTEs rearing their head. There is incentive to complete these though since they unlock extra scenes if you get enough QTEs spot-on. Going head-to-head with the Kyuubi (The Nine-tails, for those who watch the dub) on multiple occassions, and fighting Sasuke or Uchiha Madara in these sections is very reminiscent of Asura’s Wrath. The boss fights won’t please everyone but for those that appreciate it, the impact is huge.
There are over 80 playable characters available this time around (90, if you count support characters), though some of these are duplicates. So you’ll have young Gaara, Kazekage Gaara and Ninja War Gaara on the roster for instance, but some of these have alternate movesets and models, upping the combinations possible quite a bit. The repetition is balanced by having new playable characters, like Mifune, Danzo and the previous Jinchuuriki (those killed by Akatsuki) as selectable options.
So far this review is mostly positive but there are a few downsides here. You’ll note that the review score is actually slightly lower than Generations‘ and that is for two reasons. The online and Free Battle modes for UNS 3 are actually less impressive than the last outing and there are been zero innovation in the combat engine. A few new characters and abilities are presented, yes, but there isn’t anything to set the fighting apart. Each character still handles in exactly the same manner, with just the effects being different. This might as well be an incremental, beefed-up roster Street Fighter release without the timing and power tweaks that those games bring to the table, meaning that long-time players will easily master pretty much anything that the game tasks them with.
That said, should you buy this game? If you’re a fan of the series and a first-timer when it comes to the games, definitely. Even fans of the games will find that there is plenty to keep them busy. Those who have no idea who Naruto is but appreciate a decent fighting title will also find this to their liking, more or less, but the story mode will be mostly incomprehensible. There are several long-running gags that require that you have followed the series in the past that will just fly over a newcomer’s head. If you can’t stand the series, it’d be best to leave Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 alone. This was built strictly for the fans and hits its mark, even if it wavers sometimes on the way to its goal.
PlayStation 3 – Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst is essentially a DLC-laden re-release of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. What’s new, you ask? Very little has changed, in fact. Actually, if you were to read the review above, written for the original (what you might call vanilla) Ninja Storm 3, adding the words “plus DLC” wouldn’t be far off from what this re-release represents. Although… I suppose that’s not entirely true as there is a fair bit of TLC given to this release, including a couple extra additions, but you get the gist of it.
The most promising addition is the introduction of a new character, Sage-mode Kabuto (who recently made his appearance within the anime), and a new story mission: the Uchiha brothers take on Kabuto in an all-out showdown for… well that’d be spoiler now wouldn’t it.
Beyond that, many of the cut-scenes and cinematics that mould the singleplayer experience have received marked improvements, the affect of which is only subtle, but it certainly looks better for it. As far as I can tell, nothing else has received much of a visual tweak, which is a shame because this re-release needs a little more to separate it from Ninja Storm 3. The issue being, like with Ninja Storm 3, many of the characters you can choose from have merely been ported from previous iterations of the series and so can feel a little bland and uninspired. They’re not badly designed by any means, and some really wowed me when I originally ushered them into combat, but I’ve already played with most of these characters many times since then and there’s nothing new worth getting excited for. In truth, I felt that way with Ninja Storm 3, and with this game being a re-release, the issue is effectively magnified, unless, of course, cosmetic DLC skins is enough to excite you; it wasn’t for me.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst as a re-release or as a standalone title, isn’t half bad, but it still suffers from many of the issues Ninja Storm 3 faced and so isn’t a fantastic title either. The story is still too narrative-centric and throws a whole lot more conversing than actual fighting; I think the developers forgot this was a game. The combat that is there, however, is more than solid and the boss battles are fantastic, even if they are few and far between, some of them even do a better a job of conveying their immensity than the anime series. But everywhere else, the game is relatively light on what we want. The extra Challenge Missions included within this version are nice and all, but I’d have happily given them up if they had reworked or given fresh twists on the characters.
If this is your first foray into the Ninja Storm series or you’re a hardcore fan of Naruto, and you don’t own Ninja Storm 3, then this isn’t a half bad title. For everyone else, I’d recommend you wait for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution.