Title: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release date: Out now
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
For the past few years, I’ve always been curious about the Naruto games. I’ve never really had the chance to try one as I usually am busy with other games, but once I had the opportunity to review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, I jumped on it. Being a n00b to the Naruto franchise, I thought it was a great way for me to start. While some might think it’s a detriment to the review, I think having someone who’s new to the Naruto storyline reviewing this game can give a fresh perspective on it. Without further ado, here we go!
The campaign for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 basically covers the Shippuden era and the final story arcs. Obviously, I’m avoiding spoilers. But trust me, it’s an enjoyable ride.
The game’s story is told through comic book-like sequences; some of the time, you’ll also be treated to anime sequences. However, when it switches to cutscenes, that’s when it makes the story come alive; you’ll feel as if you’re watching the anime. Battles take place on huge 3D fields with plenty of area to move around and avoid enemy attacks; some areas even allow players to take the fight to the walls. More often than not you’ll be in a one-on-one fight, but to make things a bit more diverse you’ll also come across a crew of enemies to take down, known as mob battles. While most one-on-one fights let you use any type of attacks, Secret Techniques and Awakenings are not available against a mob. Additionally, certain fights will let you call upon friends in battle for a limited amount of time, allowing players to gain the upper hand.
However, some battles feature quick time events. Although there aren’t too many of them, they still break up the flow of a fight. You can be in a middle of a crazy combo, but if it reaches a certain point, it’ll switch to a cutscene and you’ll be prompted to press the button shown on screen. They feel more appropriate than say, in a God of War game, but the prompt will appear right smack in the middle of screen, and with so much going on it’s easy to get distracted.
The game’s combat is a bit more intricate than simply punching and blocking; mixing up standard attacks and Special Techniques is key to survival. The combat is very fast paced and things can go to hell pretty quickly. You’ll need to also make good use of the dodge mechanic; if an enemy is still early in their combo, players can teleport from behind and start a combo of their own. A successful and uninterrupted combo can lead to devastating and impressive attacks, taking out a reasonable chunk of your or your opponent’s health. The game’s battle can feel unevenly balanced at times: while you’ll feel confident in your skills against certain enemies when you defeat them unscathed, other fights will you leave you on the receiving end of a quick and brutal beatdown.
If you’ve successfully cleared battle-specific objectives, you’ll gain items such as Gold Kunais and Silver Shurikens which can be sold in Collection mode for Ryo. You can then spend them on collectible items such as voice snippets or finish cut-ins, which is a nice touch for long-time Naruto fans but might feel a bit hollow for newcomers looking for more substantial unlockables.
Story wise, being an outsider to everything possibly associated with Naruto, CyberConnect2 crafted an intriguing story which would have me on the edge of my seat as I was anxiously pressing buttons to move through the Results screen of each chapter. I wanted to get into it, and honestly it’s been a while since a story had me hooked (the last one being last summer’s exquisite Until Dawn). The story is adequately paced and you get to learn enough about each character to get a grasp of their motives.
Once you’re done with the game’s story mode, which can take about seven to nine hours to complete depending on how many times you fall in battle, there’s plenty more content to chew on. First there’s the Adventure mode which is a continuation of the Story mode, and occurs after the events of the final battle of the story. This mode has players interact with villagers and other NPCs to be assigned missions and earn money. You also have access to an overhead map which lets you teleport to various areas of the Naruto universe. Adventure mode will have Naruto, Sakura and Hinata on their way to deliver a letter to the Village Hidden in the Sand. As they make their way to their destination, Sakura is trying to tell Naruto to the fact that Hinata wants to get closer to him.
During all this time, Naruto retells the stories of past battles, which are relived by the player. Winning a battle will earn you a Memory Fragment of the battle which can be replayed from the Pause menu. Additionally, there are hidden Memory Fragments spread across the various accessible areas. Fragments obtained through Naruto retelling past fights will have players in the boots of our hero. Other fragments will retell fights from other characters who faced off against the same adversary as Naruto.
As with any fighting games, you’ll also have online battles where you can take your skills and show them off or get beat down. As most online battles are filled by passionate fans of the franchise, you may want to practice a bit before trying your luck. If local fighting is more your thing, Free Battles mode has plenty of modes for you to chew on. You can work on your skills with Practice mode or versus a friend. Courageous and skilled players can also test their skills with Survival mode, fighting as many opponents in a row without falling in battle. Tournament and League modes will also test the strongest Naruto players.
Unfortunately for newcomers, this could feel very overwhelming. While the introductory fight of Story Mode lets you get acquainted with the controls, there isn’t a tutorial per se. Luckily, there is a Practice mode which is highly recommended if this is your first foray into the Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Additionally, there isn’t any difficulty setting either, which can prove frustrating if you keep getting your ass handed to you during Story mode or any other of the game’s multiple modes. It will however force players to dedicate themselves to the game and get into the groove with one or more characters. Once you’ve gotten a hang of the game’s control scheme, fights will actually feel challenging – not too easy nor too hard. Some fights will feel insanely overwhelming if you’re not careful, but once you get knocked out you’re brought back directly into the fight. However, before you can continue dishing out (or receiving) the beatdown, you’ll be given the choice to return to the fight under certain criteria. For example, you’ll be able to either return with an Attack Boost or Increased Defense, giving you a chance to move on.
In terms of presentation, the game in on point. As stated, the game’s story mode is told through storyboard and in-game cutscenes, both of which are wonderfully designed and colourful. Whether it be the characters or when characters deform the scenery for battle, the visuals are colorful and beautifully drawn; and it’s all displayed in gorgeous 1080p. The game’s audio is great; dramatic tunes for intense parts and adequate touchy-feely tracks for the more emotional sequences. The voice actors all nail their jobs perfectly, although with most of the game’s story being told through storyboards, the characters’ emotions don’t come out as intense as they’re meant to be.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is CyberConnect2’s perfect swan song to the UNS series. Although I never played the previous iterations, CC2 created something that legitimately got me hooked. Sure, there’s a steep learning curve as newcomers will need to adapt to the fast paced battles and intricacies, but it never makes you feel like you suck and it feels extremely rewarding once you start winning battles. And once you’re done with Story mode, there’s so much content to keep you busy for the long run. If you crave something different and fast paced, I highly recommend Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. And returning Naruto Shippuden players will feel right at home all the while learning the game’s new mechanics.
- Fast paced battles
- So much content
- Properly paced story
- Wide variety of characters
- Lack of tutorial to ease in newcomers
- Annoying QTEs
- Steep learning curve
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is rated T for Teen as it features blood, some crude language, suggestive themes and violence. I mean, you didn’t expect a game where everyone beating everyone up to be accessible for the little ones?
Code provided courtesy of Bandai Namco