Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Xbox 360 Review

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There has been a shed load of Naruto games released since the anime started back in 2002, some good and some bad. It wasn’t until the series hit the PlayStation 3, with Ultimate Ninja Storm, that I felt the games finally captured the spirit of the TV show. The power of the PS3 allowed the game to look and animate exceptionally well, to the point that people could easily mistake it for an episode at a quick glance. Now the third instalment of the Storm series is here, bringing the best of past and present for fans of the popular franchise.

Mixing characters from both the first two Storm games, Generations creates a time paradox where all incarnations (pre-Shippuden and Shippuden) can battle it out, thus creating a cast list of 72 characters to pick from. This is quite many for a fighting game, but you’ve got to remember this includes different personifications of Sasuke, Naruto and other fan favourites, so it’s not a true diverse cast of fighters. Even so, all your favourites are here, and no doubt fans will have blast with the situations you can set up between them.

The story in Naruto hasn’t progressed that far since the last game came out. Playing any of the previous games will give you an idea what to expect with the story; it’s repeated in virtually all the games, something DragonBall games have problems with too. Story mode is still included in Generations, but it’s told differently as it tries to spice up the general plot by letting you pick one of the eleven key characters. Whoever you pick, you’ll get to play out their key battles that took place over the story in both Shippuden and before the time skip. Included are additional never seen before cutscenes done by the anime studio that creates the show, Studio Pierrot, pleasing anyone who wants to get everything new to do with Naruto.

Fighting in the Naruto games has always seemed more accommodating for casual fighting game players. This pick-up-and-play approach aims to let the fans of Naruto get into the game without having to learn complex combos and other deep gameplay mechanics. The Storm series is a 3D fighting game with open environments. Roaming around is easy – just move the stick and you’ll go in the direction you are pushing. And pulling out moves is just as simple – just hold a direction and mash on the B button to lash out a basic combo string. The rest of the buttons allow you to jump, block, throw weapons at the opponent, call support (like an assist in Marvel vs. Capcom 3), use items and use Chakra – a metre that fills up over time by itself.  You can buff it faster by holding down the Chakra button to put the character in a charging state. Chakra is import to Generations as you can power up standard attacks with it, but you also need it to unleash character specific special moves that can deal a tremendous amount of damage. It’s the same move set for all the characters, so once you’ve learnt one you can put the same basic principles to all the others, with the only diversity due to a character’s unique specials.

The game might sound like a simple button masher, which probably won’t interest some of the more serious fighting fans who play things like Street Fighter or Soul Calibur, but there is depth to the combat. A feature that has changed slightly is the substitution jutsu (skill), a move that happens when the corresponding button is pressed while your character is taking damage. It teleports your character out of danger, allowing him to then counter attack the opponent. Call it a get out of jail free card if you will, as players are given four bars to use at the start of a fight. The metre will gradually build back up over the course of the fight when used. Knowing when to use this is significant to the battle system; since both players have the same amount at the start, you have to try force your opponent to use more than you, eventually opening him up to a big damage combo.

Fighting in Naruto is very in your face. There’s hardly ever any downtime as the ninjas are dashing, teleporting, flipping and running all over the place in a fancy showpiece, just like the anime. Combo cancelling is a new feature that I am so glad is included. Sometimes you get carried away bashing the attack button in a combo that you’re left completing the combo after the opponent has safely teleported out of it. Pressing the Chakra button and then the jump button breaks you out of the combo, letting you extend into a ninja move or move away to safety from a counter attack. This move is god’s gift for the Storm series, solving some problems I had with the first two games.

Generations has erased a few game modes from older games. The story is told through cutscenes and still art, meaning there is no exploration of the village where Naruto lives. There isn’t a dedicated mode for this either; it’s just complete removed from the game. Outside of the story, you can take part in tournaments and survival, each one a pre-set of events that increase in difficulty as you progress through them. Taking part in all of the single player content earns you Ryo to spend in the shop. Here you can unlock new substitution objects, new ninja tools to help you in battle, new titles for profiles, artwork and ninja cards, the latter giving you a buff depending on the card you have equipped. For example, you can get combo attack power increase or better Chakra recovery. Overall, there is a ton of stuff to unlock that will keep you busy well after you have finished the game.

Online mode features Ranked matches, which are split into normal and custom. Both normal and custom versions earn you battle points in the corresponding type you pick. The difference between custom and normal is that custom allows for the use of Ninja cards and modified ninja tools, while normal is the fairer of the two, where it’s all down to the skill of the player. Player matches include additional tournament and endless features, both modes that you can find in other more serious fighting games. After every fight, you can save your replay and uploaded it to the servers so that other players can check it out. It’s a decent filled mode that doesn’t lag at all when you fight someone with maximum connection bars.

There is no denying that Generations has the visuals spot on. The cel-shaded graphics bring the representation of the anime to life on our video game consoles, doing the show justice by capturing the essences of the fights. Crisp, sharp colours and beautiful character animations make this the best looking anime themed game yet on the market. Sound and music is just as good, with the entire soundtrack fitting with the theme of the game. The inclusion of both Japanese and English voice over tracks will make purist fans happy.

Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is sure to be a hit with fans. No doubt they were already going to get this since the track record for the Ultimate Ninja Storm series is a positive one. There’s not really much to say beyond this, the game aims to please those fans by representing what they like with a great video game. Looking at it from a general gamers’ point of view, the less complex fighting mechanics opens up this genre to many people who might not have time to learn all the techniques that often comes with a fighting game. If you can deal with the blonde haired fox-kid, you’ll find yourself having some serious fun with this simple, yet enjoyable fighting game.

8/10

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Version tested: Xbox 360

Also available on: PS3

Developer: CyberConnect2

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Genre: Fighting