'Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3' for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3' for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Namco Bandai has released a number of video games based upon the popular anime 'Naruto' over the past few years. The latest one, the CyberConnect2-developed Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, lets players relive the events surrounding the Fourth Great Ninja War and just might be the best 'Naruto' video game yet.
A fighting game at its core, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 provides players with three play options: Free play, online play, and story mode. It's in that last mode that the title really shines.
Beginning with a flashback about the legendary Nine-Tails' attack upon Hidden Leaf village, NSUNS3 takes place during the onset of the Fourth Great Ninja War as well as the War itself with Naruto and his friends being caught in the middle of it all. The fighting is intense, but plays second fiddle to the story and how it's presented. That's not to imply that gameplay is poor as it's simply that the story is that good. In fact, it feels at times more like you are playing the anime itself rather than a game based upon the anime. There is one downside to this, however, as storyline fights might be 15 or more minutes apart.
One really cool thing is that NSUNS3 features its own brand of decision engine, allowing players to choose between "Legendary" and "Hero" actions at pivital points in the story. The player's ultimate collection of decisions dictates which ending the player gets. While fighting games typically have incredible replay value to begin with, this only furthers this title's already stellar replay options.
As for the other two modes, free and online play, they're pretty much exactly what they sound to be. Free mode is your standard PvP combat and allows for PvE, PvP, and EvE (for spectating, one would presume) play. Online mode is strictly PvP, though there seems to be a lack of players actively on as no opponents were found for the purpose of this review.
Once action ensues, NSUNS3 plays much like any other fighting game save for one (semi-fortunate) aspect: an easy-to-understand control scheme without the need for tricky and over-complicated button combos. That's not to imply that there are no button combinations what-so-ever to pull of, but what there is to pull off can be done so rather simply. The key here is the fighter's chakra -- a re-fillable power source from which each character can pull from to perform some rather powerful attacks. While gameplay is simple compared to many other fighters, it's intuitive and fun and is one of those rare occasions where the two combine just right to provide a satisfactory play experience for new and veteran gamers alike.
As a side note, the game accepts codes found on Namco Bandai's Naruto collectible card game cards. These codes make available various unlocks for the player's enjoyment.
Visually, NSUNS3 looks very good. The characters look fully accurate to their animated counterparts and everything seems to run smooth and clean. One thing, though is that it would have been nice if there was some hand-animated sequences. While the CG is very well done, this is a game based upon a very popular anime and fans of that anime would probably appreciate it if some of the show were to make it into the game -- even if the animated scenes were unique to the game itself.
As far as audio goes, players will quickly find when playing the story mode that NSUNS3 features the same quality of voice acting as does the anime. The same can be said for the soundtrack, which suits every scene and circumstance incredibly well. For something inspired by another medium, this is a critical thing that the developers got right.
'Naruto' fans will find more enjoyment out of this title than those unfamiliar with the property, but as a fighting game it's rather good. Its solid gameplay, fleshed-out plot for story mode, and immense roster of playable characters should attract all sorts of gamers to look at Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 as a good fighting game title to add to their libraries.
Version tested: Xbox 360 (also available on PlayStation 3)
(Namco Bandai supplied a copy of this game for review.)