The thing I find with games based on popular anime’s is the reviews are usually written by the fans for the fans. Now, as much as I don’t have a problem with this – after all, community love for a series is a wonderful thing – I always get left feeling like we, the reader, haven’t been given a true idea of what the game is actually like.
• Developer: CyberConnect2
• Publisher: Namco Bandai
• Reviewed on: Playstation 3
• Also Available On: Xbox 360
• Release Date: Available Now
It’s with this in mind that I stepped forward to review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst. I haven’t watched Naruto for some years, and I haven’t played a game related to the series for just as long, so I felt that I was in a position to approach it without bias or preconception. I wanted to see the actual mechanics were like rather than use the accepted views of them. I wanted to see it through fresh eyes and see if there was actually enough there to appeal to gamers as a whole, and not just fanboys. I wanted to see how it actually was as a game, and not a piece of fan service. And I have to be honest, I was not as disappointed as I was expecting to be, in fact, I was quite impressed.
The first thing I’ll say about Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst is it is absolutely stunning. It is hands down the most beautiful cel-shaded game I have ever seen, putting the like of Borderlands 2 to shame. The colours are vibrant, the lines are sharp, and on more than one occasion during the many, many cutscenes I was convinced I was seeing high definition clips for the show; it wasn’t until the characters and camera became animated that I realised it was all in game. It is absolutely gorgeous.
The version I was playing was on the PlayStation 3, and like many other titles on the system there is a mandatory install. This didn’t bother me as much as the other ones though, as CyberConnect2 have included a few pages of back story to read. Granted, it’s highly abridged, but I found myself recognising events that I’d watched in the anime years before, and was quite nicely brought up to speed with where things are before attempting the Ultimate Adventure mode. Seeing as this is the third in the series, being brought up to speed was highly appreciated as I, like anyone else picking this up with limited to no prior knowledge would have been completely lost.
The Ultimate Adventure mode is absolutely huge, and incredibly cutscene heavy, which I actually found to be a problem. Within the first hour or so of play time I only encountered three times I could actually play the game, and these sections themselves never lasted longer than five minutes. As much as I was enjoying the story (in quite a lot more detail than I was expecting), I was also expecting to play a game. On the plus side, voice actors from the series are here in force to add another element of authenticity to the title, and for people that don’t like America in their anime, the Japanese voices have also been included.
During Ultimate Adventure there are several gameplay variations, ranging from combat (which makes up the core of the experience), to minor exploration sections that if I’m honest amounted to nothing more that walking down a corridor and could only have been included to break up the cutscenes. Even in these section I’d rarely take more than a few steps before encountering yet more dialogue. I can understand why Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Boogaloo is so video heavy, but it’s this pandering to the fan base that is its biggest downfall. It completely destroys any semblance of pacing it may have otherwise had, and I can imagine fans who have already sat through the series will be skipping through all the dialogue anyway. In this case less would have most definitely been more.
The stand out sections for me were a mix between exploration and combat, giving the player the chance to run through an (albeit very limited) dungeon type area, fighting rooms of several enemies at once in order to progress. It gave it an action RPG kind of feel, and I have to admit I felt like a bit of a bad ass taking out room after room of enemies as my health continued to deplete after every hit thrown upon my avatars form. Then it was back to more video watching, and I may have dozed off.
Something I did think was nice was the ability to take items into battle. These can be anything from health recovery to stat buffs, and can definitely help turn the tide of some of the battles. These are bought from vendors and peddlers during the exploration sections, using money rewarded from battles. They can also be found in the field so it pays to be on the look out. The items are housed in palettes, and there are two palette types available; Hero and Legend.
Occasionally during Ultimate Adventure, Ultimate Decisions will activate at various points during the story. When this occurs the player has to choose one of two routes to take, in the form of Hero and Legend. Either route continues the story, but gameplay can change depending on which is taken, and more of the story may also be revealed. Both Hero and Legend routes reward experience points to either the Hero or Legend palette, allowing them access to more increasingly powerful recovery items and ninja tools. Hero and Legend palettes hold different items to each other, so it’s really down to the player which they chose, giving a very basic, but welcome, element of customisation to an otherwise very linear game.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst comes packaged with all the DLC characters and costumes from Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, as well as improved graphics over the original release. There is an absolutely incredible wealth of content on offer here; the roster of characters alone would make the Tekken series weep in shame. In addition to the Versus Mode, there is the newly included Challenge Mode, which offers 100 battles with various handicaps inflicted upon the character to keep things fresh, which is a welcome addition as the combat gets stale very quickly.
The combat is so basic it’s difficult to get excited about. During Ultimate Adventure, the playable character is constantly changing, and you’d think this would keep things exciting, but the truth is these character swaps only occur to keep the story moving, and all the characters play almost identically so the variety of offer is purely aesthetic. And although the different characters do have varying move lists, the differences are so minimal they might as well have not bothered.
Attack is mapped to the circle button, with square being used for projectiles and X used for jump. Mashing circle constantly, seeing the same combo animation over and over again gets old really fast. Pressing up or down on the left stick at differing points during the circle mashing will execute a new combo, but the animations up to this point are so flowery that’s it was often difficult to see if I had in fact pressed circle the correct amount of times. It’s functional, but it gets old fast.
Triangle is used for chakra. Pressing it once then attacking unleashes a stronger attack, pressing it a few times and attacking unleashes a much stronger attack, and holding triangle down for a few seconds recharges the chakra gauge. It’s possible, with great timing, to execute a strong chakra attack after a regular combo, and I have to admit, for all my talk of the combat being dull, when it connects it’s hard not to feel like an absolute bad ass. It’s moments like these that make Naruto Shippuden: Back in the Habit seem great.
It’s difficult not to like Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst. Even though I have no idea what’s happening in the series right now I found the story charming, and I genuinely cared about the fates of the characters. Namco Bandai have the makings for an absolutely great game here, but they can’t seem to decide which route to take with it and so in the end it becomes a bit of a mess. A working mess, but a mess nonetheless.
All that being said, I actually enjoyed my time with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst. It was nice to experience a game like this with unbiased eyes and see exactly how it is as a game as opposed to a piece of finely crafted fan service. I also understand why it’s usually left to fan of the franchise to review, they understand it on a level I just can’t grasp. Not to say I won’t understand in the future, as this is definitely a title I’ll be going back to right after I’ve bought a new control pad.