GAME NAME: Naruto Shippuden – Ultimate Ninja Storm: Generations
PUBLISHER(S): Namco Bandai
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): 30 March 2012
The anime-based fighting title with the unwieldy name, Naruto Shippuden – Ultimate Ninja Storm: Generations, has put a few over on previous games in the series. But there are also a few changes that may be unwelcome, depending on how ardently you want this to be a Naruto RPG. Pretty much all semblance of a free-roaming world where players can explore Masashi Kishimoto’s ninja universe has been stripped away, replaced instead with a story-based series of fights book-ended by snippets from the anime and divided by narrated stills.
Story mode focuses on several of the lead characters in the Naruto and Naruto Shippuden series’. Initially players have access to the young and Shippuden Naruto as well as a tale told from Sasuke’s point of view. Clearing these, which all encompass key fights in the animated series, unlocks a story mode for another fighter. The enigmatic Kakashi, goofball Jiraiya, Uzumaki Minato and even Uchiha Madara get their own episodes, with the final unlockable being a gag mode featuring Killer Bee that turns into an awful rap video.
Story mode isn’t anything more than conventional player versus CPU fights that have been set up to reflect events in the anime. Players could replicate these fights themselves in the Free Battle mode if they wished but the included story changes the experience. Just a warning, Generations contains spoilers for Naruto Shippuden right through the Pain story arc and up to the Five Kage Summit’s events so if you aren’t up to date on your episodes, now would be a good time to fix that.
What makes Generations special is the inclusion of almost every character you could hope for. There are over 70 playable fighters, although there are several versions of some. There are three versions each of Naruto and Sasuke from the Shippuden series and there are Shippuden and original series versions of most of the main characters from the series. Uchiha Madara and Tobi are featured as different fighters, Akatsuki and the Five Kages are all present and every Hokage seen in the series is also playable. Generations gets bonus points for including a young Kakashi and the members of Sasuke’s Hebi as playable characters. Don’t worry if you didn’t follow the character listing too well, long-time fans of the series will understand every word but it is all positive.
Besides the Story mode and insane player roster, the combat is fantastic. The simplified control scheme from previous Ultimate Ninja Storm titles has been retained but the expanded character list makes for some interesting bouts. Strengths, weaknesses and the distinctive fighting styles from the anime series are accurately reflected (so someone like puppet-user Kankuro is pretty boned in close combat) but the uncomplicated controls offer a surprising amount of room for strategy while fighting. The Hidden and Ultimate Jutsu special attack animations will bring a tear to the eye of any Naruto fan, not least because they will finally get to see the Yellow Flash in action. Any attack can be interrupted if players are on the ball enough, giving Generations the foundations for a solid – if somewhat specialised – online fighter.
Team-based combat is still very evident. Each playable character can be used as a team-mate, with up to two team-mates possible to help out in tough situations. These can be triggered during combat, either to defend or attack on a player’s behalf. In addition to the 70+ playable fighters there are several other, less popular characters that are available purely as supporting team members. There are a host of familiar locations to choose as your battleground and a massive amount of collectibles that are earned through combat and completing the various modes.
Free Battle includes several tournaments (which are all a snap when using Sage Mode Naruto), ranging in difficulty from Genin to Kage rank – Easy to Very Hard difficulty in normal terms. There is also a Survival mode to contend with, player-created tournaments that support up to eight players and the online mode, which is where the game heads when everything else on the disc has been mastered. If there is any complaint about Generations, aside from the removal of the RPG elements, it is that it is aimed too squarely at fans of the series and doesn’t feature a broad enough appeal to hook in unrelated fans of 3D combat.