It seems like six months can't go past without another video game based upon the popular 'Naruto' anime being either announced or released. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, the third in Namco Bandai's Ninja Storm series, came out earlier this year. The title takes some of the better elements of the first two games and adds some original content of its own to provide an above-average anime-inspired video game fighting action experience.
The first things players of NSUNSG will notice is that the game looks good -- really good. The previous two Ninja Storm games looked rather good as well, but they suffered from a below-average camera. With Generations, the camera has been improved (though it's not perfect). An improved camera means better overall visuals with an improved player experience. On top of that, this game makes good use of the system's resources and players should experince little-to-no slowdown when things get hectic. Furthermore, the art style is true to the anime and all 75 characters and the game's various environments look great.
The game gives players a couple of options when it comes to play modes. They can go it mano-a-mano in versus play (both local and online); or dive into the Naruto universe with its story mode. The story mode is by far the weakest element of this game. It follows a simple (yet boring) formula of watch a cut scene, fight, watch another cut scene, fight again, etc etc etc. The whole mode just feels rushed. Furthermore, those who are unfamiliar with Naruto mythos will find themselves a bit lost. Making things a bit worse, many of the story mode cut scenes are little more than static images with character voice overs mixed in. Such a shame.
Online is where this game shines brightest. That is thanks, in part, to the game's new Ninja Info cards. This allows players to use trading cards unlocked within the game to do battle with an opponent's cards. The winner of the card battle receives in-battle boosts during the ensuing PvP fight. While finding battles isn't much of an issue, the game also has a lobby where players not currently in a match can view other matches in progress -- thus making NSUNSG a sort of spectator activity.
While story mode might be something worth forgetting about, NSUNSG's overall gameplay most certaintly is not. In a market dominated by 2D fighters like Street Fighter IV and 3D ones such as Soul Calibur V, NSUNSG stands slightly apart from the mainstream by offering a gameplay experience that is (at least slightly) its own. Instead of promoting button mashing and combo mastering, NSUNSG encourages players to build up their own skill within the game through resource management and the mastering of its fighting mechanics. While that might not seem like a whole heck of fun, it's more entertaining than it looks in print.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations provides a satisfactory overall play experience, giving fighitng game fans something different than the status quo set forth by other, more popular fighting game franchises. Those unfamiliar with the Naruto franchise will find themselves lost, however, in both the story and arcade modes. Parts of the game, though, feel as if they were rushed through production; hindering this title from achieving a higher grade than it gets.
Final Game Guys grade: B
(Namco Bandai provided a copy of this game for review.)