Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution PC Review
It looks like Bandai Namco was happy with the sale results after trying the waters with a PC release of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst, which to my account was the first big anime licensed title to hit Steam. It looks like the company isn’t stopping there with its properties, as Dragon Ball Xenoverse was recently confirmed to be heading to PC through Valve’s Steam platform, but I am getting ahead of myself, since that’s the future for anime games on Steam. Currently, the latest game staring the orange and black suited Ninja has just arrived, but is Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution really a revolutionary entry in the franchise’s long running history or is it simply the next logical step to take the series in? Put on your Hidden Leaf headband and let’s find out.
Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution takes a step away from the anime and manga plotline and goes with its own original story. Storylines for anime games, such as previous Naruto titles, can have issues with repeating the same material in the sequels, which cause them to suffer from déjà vu and unoriginality. Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution’s story is one that was overseen by Masashi Kishimoto, the manga’s artist, with some of the additional stories actually penned by him to give more background to specific characters. An original story is all well and good, but there isn’t really enough of it here, especially for people who are used to seeing some of the amazing looking action scenes from all the preceding games.
What we have here in Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is, to be brutally honest, all filler, but not in a good way. The main bulk of the game is the Ninja World Tournament, where players pick their favourite hero – limited at first, but more are unlocked as you begin to discover them in Ninja World Tournament – and battle against others in a newly implemented four-way battle system (more on that in a bit). The problem is that the story doesn’t go anywhere; you are simply exploring the island, doing errands to get the various hidden village ninjas to be accessible for your team, buying tools from the shop and attempting other countless challenges.
The issue I found is that there is no real meat to the story, and so the main interest from this mode is the actual tournament fights. Beating the first tier (D) finishes the game and unlocks the Mecha-Naruto short story, but also lets players re-enter the Ninja World Tournament again, this time at a higher rank than the one you finished before. This will keep clocking up until you hit S rank, along with isolated challenges and battles to participating in that unlock from beating the previous tier. It becomes painfully obvious that the mode reuses the general plot, and so the story is nothing more than dry and unexciting. The Mecha-Naruto section, while short, is a bit more entertaining, reverting mostly back to the old formula of the one-on-one fights of old, with an amusing story that does just enough to be an enjoyable play through.
The highlight of the story for Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution for me was the Ninja Escapades section, an area of the game that contains three episodes based on how the Akatsuki was created, a backstory for the Uchiha clan and a small short with Obito and Kushina. These sections are interesting shorts that I wish there was more of, since the Ninja World Tournament isn’t something I would class as having a proper story and this section gives a sneak peek at what Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution‘s true story potential could have been. I would have liked the game to feature more of the great cinematic action that the series is known for. It’s so bizarre that a company I would regard as experts in the art of building gripping action scenes through the use of quick time events (just see Asura’s Wrath for example) doesn’t keep that tradition up with a series that has literally always had it.
Moving on from the story, the biggest addition to the gameplay is the introduction of four way battles. It’s more Power Stone than something like Smash Bros., as the arenas are created with a circle barrier, offering a wide area for the characters to go wild in. These four player brawls remove the series’ health bars and replaces it with a chakra orb counter. Every hit knocks these orbs out of the character and onto the ground for people to collect. If a character loses all their orbs, they will be KO’d and out for the rest of the fight. This result depends mostly on the time set for the match, as it becomes increasingly difficulty to reduce everyone’s orbs to zero before the timer ticks over to end the fight.
In theory, these four player fights sound like a brilliant addition, but overall, I was a bit disappointed in its execution. More often than not, the fights become a mess of hectic action. To help with concentration, you can lock on to the enemy and switch between them with the right stick, but even then it still felt like these battles were clumsy and frustratingly executed. I found this to be the worse when having a clear lead on the higher rank tournaments, as the AI decided to hunt me down based on my high orb count. I felt like I couldn’t do anything to break away from this temporary three-on-one beat down. The combat in these brawls features the same controls as the one-vs-one, meaning you can hammer the combo button, throw projectiles, and use chakra to release devastating super moves or dance around the fight zone with the dash button. Overall, I wasn’t a fan of these battles compared to the usual Ultimate Ninja Storm combat engine, and it’s a shame it makes up so much of the Ninja World Tournament.
Thankfully, the one-on-one action is still great and has been tweaked for slight improvements. One thing I enjoy about the Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise is that the fighting engine is easy to understand for less serious hardcore players, but still includes enough mechanics that people with a deeper knowledge of fighting games can play with the advance gameplay mechanics, even if there isn’t anything here that requires weeks to master. I would advise using an Xbox 360 controller on PC, as it makes it easier to have access to all the commands on the pad. The game has all the button prompts for the controller without having to assign anything, so you’re good to go from the start.
One of the first notable tweaks is at the character select screen – which now includes over 110 characters, although some are alternates of the same character, such as Sage Naruto and Tailed Beast Naruto – and it’s the inclusion of three playing styles, Ultimate Jutsu, Awakening and Drive. Ultimate Jutsu allows the use of flashy ultimate jutsu finishes, Awakening unlocks the ability to activate the powered up form of the selected hero, while Drive uses the two support characters to come into the battle and provide a shield of defence for you, great if you need a breather in the middle of a battle to charge up some needed chakra. Do you want large instant damage, more powerful basic attacks or irritate foes with defence buddies? Those are basically the options, and having this split doesn’t feel like it’s taking anything away from the core fighting gameplay that included most of these before as a unity, but instead gives it that small strategic element.
Guard Break and Counterattack are the big mechanics fused into the engine. Instead of having four item slots, a player can replace one of them with a break move that can crack through an opponent guarding, stunning them with stars above their head and leaving them to take a full attack until the stun is gone. There is a limited use on this, so it cannot be abused. Counterattack also performs with the same result – stunning the attacker with stars – but is harder to perform, as it requires good timing on pressing the RT and X button together when they are about to get hit. This will create a flash and cause a stunning animation on the opponent. Because of the difficulty of using this, it’s limited to the use of chakra, so if you can keep the chakra flowing, then you can keep trying to perfect the counterattack to get in a free combo.
These new combat mechanics, along with the added fighting type selection, adds some nice changes to the formula. It still remains an unbalanced fighter (I hate you, Deidara), but it’s probably the least unbalanced of the Naruto games to come out so far, so online can remain a fun place to go once you sapped everything the single player has to offer. In regards to the online, it’s got a decent netcode that doesn’t seem to be spoilt by bad lag. For people who like showing off, a network clone can be created, which is an AI controlled version of your character that is sent into other people’s games to challenge them to a duel, hopefully returning with experience points and some free items if it is successful.
Once again, the developers for the PC version of Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution have locked it to 30FPS. The reason why is due to how the game locks its animations with the frame rate, so it requires a lot of work to get it to work at 60FPS. PC owners will be happy to know that it seems to run without any hiccups, and even with the minimal graphical options available, this game looks stunning, especially when you stick on the 2x supersampling option. The cel-shaded look is animated wonderfully, and the added bonus of rich colour makes the game simply gorgeous.
Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution has me mixed with emotions. On one hand, the core fighting has been improved and is probably the best the series has had, plus it has a huge cast of characters that flow with personality and unique playing styles. But on the other hand, the four-way battle mode comes off hectic and frustrating – it needed more tweaks in the workshop before being given the go ahead to become the main fighting mode in Ninja World Tournament. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution isn’t the revolution it could have been, and even though it took some logical steps in the right direction to improve the one-vs.-one fights with new mechanics, the story, missing cinematic action and the new battle system feel like Revolution has taken the series one step forward, but two steps back.