The first thing to say is that I am a complete newbie to the Naruto franchise and 20 minutes into playing the latest in the series, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja STORM Revolution, I was left thinking, “I have definitely missed out”
Originally adapted from the manga “Naruto” in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja franchise has come along way.
Now split into three separate series, Ultimate Ninja, Ultimate Ninja Heroes and Ultimate Ninja Storm, the stories which follow these fighting games intertwine directly with the canon manga series thanks to the involvement of creator Masashi Kishimoto.
The story is a big part of the series as a whole and Revolution does assume that the player knows a bit about the series beforehand but this doesn’t hinder game-play in any way.
The main premise for the game is taking part in the Ultimate Ninja Tournament to determine who is the worlds ultimate ninja (aptly named then). The battles are ranked from D to S+ depending on the difficulty you are playing and are split into three rounds, Qualifying, Preliminary and Main.
In each event you fight three other characters with the main objective being to kick the energy orbs (and crap) out of them. The character with the most orbs wins. This four player mode is new to the series and incredibly fun. With multiple 3D arenas adding stunning backgrounds, each with their own unique interactions, the battles do get insanely fast paced yet at the same time never overwhelming.
Even with the four player mode this all sounds reasonably standard for the fighting genre so far, doesn’t it? Well Revolution isn’t your bulk standard, pick a character and fight your way through a knock-out tournament. No, this game is something much more.
In between tournament battles you have access to an open-world environment which serves as a hub for a number of things. There are characters to unlock through challenges, some physical in battle, some requiring a bit of grey matter, a pleasant mix that turns something that could be mindless into something intelligent.
There are collectibles scattered around the open environment too, from tools to improve your battle performance to money to spend in one of the shops spread out on the island. Why not play the lottery for your chance to win the more rare items and collectibles available in game?
The free-roam isn’t the only advance on the standard fighting genre in this game. Character customization is quite substantial. As you unlock characters and goodies in the free-roam the options for customization quickly stack up. Once you have a custom character that you’re particularly proud of you have the option to use them as a Network Clone, an interesting and something of a novel feature which allows you to upload a copy of the player for others to fight against. These clones are then randomly scattered around the open-world.
The clones aren’t the only way to interact with the outside world however. In addition to the main tournament mode there are a number of other features offering so much more content to play and explore. From local vs mode and online multiplayer to survival mode where you fight as many characters as you can before your health runs out, even league based events, there’s plenty to do.
One of the more interesting modes is Ninja Escapades, an interactive Manga mode where the player can enjoy the animated story before jumping in at certain points when battle is required, its a must for any manga fan.
At it’s peak you will have 118 playable characters available, hundreds of customization options and a number of fighting styles available to choose from, it’s very difficult to get bored of this game. So how does it play? Are we expected to learn elaborate button combinations with each one of the 100+ characters having unique battle combinations? Well no, it’s surprisingly easy to master the moves.
While some characters do have unique combos, there are half a dozen simple three or four button combos which translate to every character and helpful on-screen hints let you know when your powers are charged up enough to use them. This smartly levels the playing-field somewhat and turns the battles from using combos aimlessly into learning when the best time to use the them is. Although the combos are pretty much the same for every character, the powers they unleash are far from it. These range from a simple Street Fighter’esque Hadoken to something involving giant mythical creatures and nuclear explosions, all of which are animated beautifully.
Visually this game is odd, but in a good way. The interesting animation is made up of a mixture of manga and the hand-drawn style of the Borderlands franchise creating a unique visual experience that keeps faithful to the expanded franchise. The character models are on par with the best of the genre and their movement in battle flows beautifully.
The soundtrack is naturally inspired by the franchises Asian roots and the ambient music fits perfectly but maybe sometimes a little too like Street Fighter in areas like the character selection screen. The explosive sound effects are something Michael Bay would be proud of and while limited, the voice-over work does it’s job well enough.
As an introduction to the franchise as a whole, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja STORM Revolution worked well for me. It’s vast array of characters and battle modes mixed with an open-world hub made for a varied and enjoyable experience which never became dull. The simple controls and combos allow players new and experienced to adapt quickly and focus more on what to do rather than how to do it, the learning curve is steep thankfully.
A visually pleasing game with more to do then most triple A titles. A must for fans of the franchise, manga or just general fighting games.