Missing the March release window of the now annual Ultimate Ninja Storm series, the extra six months have been put to great use by the guys and girls of CyberConnect2. Feeling more like a spin off than a sequel, and with some changes to the formula that will surely shake things up, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is finally here, and it is absolutely glorious.
• Developer: CyberConnect2
• Publisher: Bandai Namco Gams
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
• Also Available On: Xbox 360, PC
• Release Date: 16 September 2014 (US) / Available Now (Europe)
Long gone is Ultimate Ninja Storm 3’s rather lengthy Ultimate Adventure Mode, instead replaced by two brand new modes. Ninja World Tournament pits characters from all over Shippuden’s timeline against each other to answer the question “who is the greatest of all?”, and Ninja Escapades, which tells three never told before stories that should please die-hard Naruto fans.
Ninja Escapades is interesting in that it takes the form of three short films written by Masashi Kishimoto, and animated by Studio Pierrot, the team behind the Naruto Shippuden anime. The stories cover the formation of the Akatsuki, as well as never before seen scenarios for Shisui Uchia, and Kushina Uzumaki. Running about the same length as an episode of the anime, each story is broken up with combat segments, giving them the feel of interactive episodes. The movies are beautifully animated, showing a history never seen before that is bound to excite fans of the series.
For the most part, combat should feel familiar to fans of the series; the circle button is the main attack, with directional movement on the left analogue stick to perform different combos. Triangle uses chakra, which can be combined with other inputs to various effect. Support characters to be selected at the beginning of most battles, and pressing L1 or R1 in battle calls them in to use a special.
There are also a couple of new additions in the form of guard breaks and counter attacks, which can turn the tide of the more difficult battles. Guard breaks, and other helpful ninja tools, are set up on the directional pad and have a limited number of uses. Counter attacks are performed by pressing the projectile attack button at just the right time while blocking. If done correctly, the attacking opponent will be temporarily stunned, leaving them open to onslaught. Timing is everything, and it can mean the difference between winning and losing, especially in the later battles.
There are three team types to chose from at the beginning of a battle; Ultimate Jutsu, Awakening, and Drive. These determine what actions can be used during battle. Ultimate Jutsu Type can use the powerful Ultimate Jutsu attack, and the devastating Ultimate Team Jutsu. Awakening Type allows the use of Awakening, a powerful transformation similar to Devil May Cry‘s Devil Trigger. And finally Drive Type enables automatic support from the team. These do a great job of catering for all play styles, and help to keep fights interesting.
The battle system for Ninja World Tournament mode has had a complete overhaul, with battles now taking place under the ‘4-person’ rule, replacing the hack and slash style sections from the previous game. The 4-person rule sees four fighters, going at it at once in an insane battle royale.
Due to the chaotic nature of the 4-person battles, a brand new lock on feature has been added, allowing players to focus their attacks on a single opponent. Targets can be changed with the flick of the right analogue stick, and turned off and on by pushing it down. It’s a great feature that helps to give some focus to the inane battles, and switching becomes both key, and second nature with extended play.
Tournaments are ranked from D to S+, and last for three or more rounds. Each round consists of one or more fights, depending on how many members are in a team, with each team member having one fight each. So if a round has teams of three, that round will consist of three fights, with different fighters in each. This system sees dream teams and fan favourites come together for the first time in a game, and is a great way to try out different fighters.
In order to build a team, allies must first be recruited. Characters can be found dotted around Festival Island, the island the tournament is held, and can be drafted by completing various tasks for them. These range from simple fetch quests, to the more traditional one-on-one battles of old. More characters become available to recruit as the different ranks are completed and more of the island is unlocked to explore.
During the tournament, health bars are removed and replaced with Battle Orbs. Each combatant starts out with 1000 orbs, and these are reduced each time they take damage, or collected when dishing out the hurt on an opponent. Once a fighters orbs have been reduced to zero, they become stunned and if hit in this state will be removed from the fight.
The fights are timed, and the character with the most orbs at the end of the battle wins. The orbs are then carried over to the next fighter’s total, giving them an advantage in the next fight. This continues until all battles have been fought, with the winning team being the one with the most orbs at the end. This adds an element of genuine excitement to the battles, as losing a fight doesn’t mean the round is lost, and the feeling of going from last place to first during the final fight is fantastic.
As ranks increase and time goes one, obstacles and rails are added to battles to mix things up. These are fun at first, but during later fights, especially in S rank, things can get a little too hectic. Traps exploding, obstacle characters, and four player carnage, things can get seriously confusing, making any wins in these kind of scenarios more luck than judgement. I was impressed by the lack of slow down, however, considering everything happening on screen my PS3 held its own.
After the D rank tournament has been completed, a special Mecha-Naruto story unlocks. This is a brand new story exclusive to the game, differing entirely from the recent episodes of the Naruto Shippuden anime. I found this story preferable to the anime’s rendition, and I genuinely liked Mecha-Naruto by the end of it. It’s interesting to note, that the games Japanese release date coincided with the air date of the conclusion to that story arc.
Outside of the tournament itself, there are a whole wealth of other activities to do. Jobs can be picked up from the Employment Offices found around Festival Island and range from traditional and 4-person battles with varying win conditions, Scout missions, and beyond. Each tournament rank also have challenges that become available after the corresponding rank is beaten. The impose handicaps to the player and offer a great challenge to elite players.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution, like its predecessor, is visually stunning. The excellent use of cel shading on the characters inhabiting the world complement the slightly muted environments to make the whole thing feel like an episode come to life. This is especially apparent during fights whenever an Ultimate Jutsu or True Awakening is unleashed. If this is what CyberConnect2 can do with last gen tech, I can’t wait to see what the new generation of Naruto games are going to look like.
Both the Japanese and English voice cast of the anime return to their known roles, and both languages are available from the off. Some of the voice acting is sketchy in places, and the subtitles don’t always match up to what’s being said on screen, but I guess that’s what I get for playing with the English dub, right?
The biggest let down, then, is the lack of competitive 4-person battles. Free Battle mode only allows for single or team based combat, albeit with added leagues and special victory conditions. It’s the same with Online Battle. I understand the problems involved with having a 4-person battle locally, but this mode is built for online. They’ve missed a huge opportunity by not including 4-person battles for online play, as it is easily the stand out battle system in the game.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a fantastic game, and an absolute must have for fans. The variety of gameplay in Ninja World Tournament keeps things engaging well into the S rank battles, and the amount of unlockables will keep completionists busy for the foreseeable future. Multiplayer complaints aside, I genuinely enjoyed this game, and I can’t wait to see what CyberConnect2 will do with the next one. In the meantime though, I’m going to stay on Festival Island just a bit longer.