Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm
Manga for years didn’t manage to interest the European public. Only in France there was quite a vast audience but the last couple of years we’re seeing a change in that thanks to Pokemon. The games and accompanying TV shows have opened the gates to this Japanese art. Manga comics like Monster and Death Note became a huge success and also Dragon Ball Z got a second life as series and videogame. Next to that also Naruto, the pointy yellow-haired Ninja came to exist as manga, anime and videogame character. On the Playstation2 we already got a buttload of games about this ninja but will he make the transition towards PS3 without torn clothes?
Developer CyberConnect2 in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm tries to make a combination of Free Roaming and Fighting. This translates in the main menu of the game, “Ultimate Mission” mode. Here the idea is that you search in the pittoresque streets of the village Hidden Leaf for missions in the form of classic Naruto combat and minigames. Some are only available after reaching a certain number of experience points which makes the largest part running around hence and forth to find available missions as you can hardly read anything from the hidious mini-map thanks to an abundance of symbols.
Graphically the game is great, the difference with the cartoons is minimal. The amount of details on the characters is high, the movement realistic, swift and well-formed, only the typical empty environments are a downer for those that don’t know the series. The few cut-scenes are of high quality and contain the characteristic properties of the series. This makes that the storyline never loses its “schwung”.
CyberConnect2 chose for easy controls that cannot be compared with the standard fighting game. The most incredible attacks can be done with a simple push on the circle. The other face buttons are used to jump, throw shuriken or load your Chakra. The shoulder buttons are for blocking, evasion or calling in the help of a friend. Despite the one button for attack you can still find some tactics. By loading your Chakra you can perform a Jutsu or Ultimate Jutsu attack which brings more depth to the gameplay although just not enough for the hardcore gamers.
Next to the Ulatimate Mission there’s also Free Battle Mode. Here you can replay every classic Naruto fight without having to dwell the streets of Hidden Leaf. The selection of playable characters is limited to 12 until you finish Ultimate Mission so due to this you can’t escape from the annoying main mode. Another big absentee is the online multiplayer eventhough Soul Calibur IV has proven that it’s not too hard to implement it.
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm is divided into two parts, the free roaming and the combat. Unfortunately the first isn’t well worked out and as such the game starts to bore pretty quickly. The fighting part on the other hand doesn’t miss the effect but is too simplistic and focused towards the mainstream audience. Biggest plus are the graphics which score very high and we hope future developers will take an example of these cell shaded graphics. In short: Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm is focused mainly towards fans of the series, young or old and ready for a spectacle of visual violence.