Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Review
Written : Tuesday, March 27, 2012
By: Lee Abrahams
Warning: this game contains a rapping ninja, which some gamers may find annoying. Once you get past that though, you can expect the usual Naruto action consisting of over-the-top battles, crazy theatrics and a roster of fighters more bizarre than ever. Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations brings together the youthful Naruto characters of yesteryear and the (slightly) more mature versions that make up the Shippuden storyline, in a colossal brawl to end them all. Can the series trademark charisma and charm carry over into the virtual arena?
Sadly the most obvious loss is the story mode. In past games this is taken on a sort of sandbox style formula, with players free to roam throughout Naruto’s village and the surrounding world, taking on missions and discovering hidden secrets. Now the story has been boiled down into a few battles interspersed by still images from the show and some voice over work. Completing the story for each of the available characters will unlock a few more for you to go through, but the whole thing is remarkably unfulfilling and culminates with the aforementioned ninja rapper and one of the most bizarre, and slightly genius, segments imaginable. It’s a shame that the free roam aspect has been ditched so wholeheartedly as it was a nice way for the story to unfold and the new turn of events feels a bit more forced.
"Time for a ninja team up."
If anything the change was probably enforced by the fact that the last Shippuden game brought things fairly up to date in terms of the ongoing anime series, so they probably didn’t want to spoil things for anyone not reading the comics. Still it means that a lot of the stories on offer visit familiar ground both from Shippuden and the original Naruto Unleashed series, not to mention that certain battles are repeated between the stories themselves. Fans will probably not learn anything new, despite a few interesting segments, while those new to the series will probably be left a touch bewildered. It’s a shame as the story mode was such a strong and beautifully presented part of the game last time around and it rather feels like it was tacked on this time around.
Indeed the game seems to have taken a step towards full-on fighter status, with an enhanced roster of characters and much more in the way of multiplayer modes both on and offline. The story modes do at least let you unlock the full roster, which is a mild annoyance for those wanting to tangle with certain foes from the off, and then you can swing into action. Each character has the same basic move set, with basic attacks, ranged moves, grabs and a variety of jutsu that is activated by charging chakra. The clever part is just how subtly different each ninja manages to be, as some favour close combat while others have powerful ranged attacks to bombard your foes with. No character feels too overpowered and as long as you master judicious use of the chakra dash and substitution jutsu then you should be fine.
"Bitch slap your way to victory. That’ll learn them."
If anything though the substitution ability - or dodge for want of a better word - seems to have been nerfed. While it's now much easier to duck out of a foe's obliterating combo, you also only have four chances to do so and they take a while to recharge. This inevitably means that once your charge is gone you generally take an absolute pummelling, and it’s fairly frustrating. It would have been much better to bring back the old system which demanded flawless timing but with much fairer results. Still combat flows fairly well, and throwing in team members to throw off your opponent or defend you from assault makes things fairly tactical, as does the ability to have a loadout of handy items to help swing the battle in your favour. Then you have the OTT ultimate attacks and awakening powers that can swipe a victory from the jaws of defeat, so players never feel totally out of a battle.
With a range of tournaments to battle through and an interesting survival mode to pit your wits against, Naruto Shippuden: UNS Generations certainly offers plenty for fighting fans. Each mode also helps you snag new unlockables and items, so even when you are just sparring against friends locally or the AI you are always making some progress towards finding all the hidden bits and bobs on offer. You can also hop into online matches against some of the best in the world, which is a lot of people considering some of the characters will have been mastered a game or so ago by those in the know, and this is probably where most fans will end up. Battles are pretty much lag free but to newcomers it can be a real baptism of fire, as fans immediately fall back on individuals and teams that they have built almost impenetrable strategies around. It can be frustrating to say the least, but as with all fighting games it is often about finding the strengths and weaknesses of each character and finding a way to nullify them. Though that's easier said than done when you feel like rage quitting after your most recent massacre.
"Snap, crackle and...pop?"
Thankfully for those with almost zero fighting skills, like me, this game is a fairly easy one to max out. With enough grinding you can complete the full thousand points offline, and nothing is overly taxing as you can control the difficulty should you be struggling too much. Playing through all of the stories, tournaments and survival modes will see you pretty much over the line with only a (large) number of visits to Free Battle standing between you and the last few titles and unlockables you will need to finish things off. It is fun enough, but a few more novel achievements would have been welcome plus, dare I say it, encouraging players to at least dip their toe into the online modes would not have been amiss.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a strange sideways step for the series, and one that focuses much more on offering an all-out fighting game than one that pursues the Naruto story. For fans of the show there is not much here that they won’t have already seen before, but at least the enhanced roster offers up a whole new range of fighters for the online arena. However, with the rehashed story segments and just the addition of a few new modes you have to wonder whether the extra fighters would have been better served as DLC for the last game, as opposed to a full blown title. This is a beautiful looking game, with interesting and frenetic combat and a plethora of modes to entertain you, but without a cohesive story to hold it together it never feels like the Naruto we know and love.
Switch on the Japanese voice acting, you won’t regret it. The voice over work is top notch and some of the music is beautiful to boot.
A lush cel-shaded game, and one that captures the tone of the show perfectly especially when characters start to bust out their over the top special moves.
Fun and varied combat with a sizeable roster of ninjas, each with their own unique style. Sometimes fights can get frustrating, especially thanks to the poorly thought out Substitution jutsu, but there is always the lure of one more go.
Bland and already covered story modes are a disappointment, and the extra fighting modes never really cover the void that this has left. Your mileage will probably depend on your online skills.
A nice easy list but also one that has a remarkable lack of variety and innovation.
The latest Naruto Shippuden game still provides plenty of entertainment, not to mention looking and sounding great, but the decision to shift away from story and focus mainly on becoming an all out fighting game is an odd one considering the series heritage. Worth a look but for Naruto fans, Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations will feel a touch hollow.