|System: Xbox 360, PS3*|
|Pub: NAMCO Bandai|
|Release: March 5, 2013|
|Players: 1-2 (Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
The Naruto series of fighting games are fighting games in title only. In a way, they and other games of their ilk (Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, etc.) have formed a new genre of their own. This otaku-game genre, so named only due to its source material, is the inverse of what a traditional fighting game is. While most fighting games focus on their versus mechanics and pay only vain lip service to a single-player mode, otaku games focus entirely on their story mode, offering up astounding set pieces and amazing boss battles. Unfortunately, this means they tend to neglect game balance and solid mechanics in a versus setting. These games are designed for the anime fan looking to relive the glory moments of their favorite series, not the hardcore tournament goer looking to take home fight money and fame. No game proves this split more than the latest offering from CyberConnect2, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3.
The last title in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series was Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, a side story that allowed you to develop dream matches between characters from the original Naruto arc and the Naruto Shippuden timeline. The game focused on fighting more than flash, and while it was more balanced than other entries in the series, it wasn’t as well received due to the lack of crazy cinematic battles in the single-player campaign.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, on the other hand, lays on the explosions and secret ninja arts right at the beginning. The game’s Ultimate Adventure mode kicks off with an assault on Konoha by the Kyuubi (or, for the people who follow the English dub, an assault on the hidden leaf village by the nine-tailed fox demon.) You hop from rooftop to rooftop, whittling away the thing’s stamina and coordinating with ninja troops in order to take down a foe many times your size. This battle would make Michael Bay drool all over himself.
The story then picks up where Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 leaves off, taking the player through the most recent anime and manga arcs of Naruto. Unlike many other games in the genre, it doesn’t spend much time retreading ground. Instead, it focuses only on the most up-to-date storylines that the Naruto has to offer.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from the same downfall as most other games in this genre, in that it loses gamers who aren’t die-hard fans of the anime. I’ll be honest, I stopped paying attention to Naruto after the Pain arc, so Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 lost me pretty quickly. The game acts as a decent set of CliffsNotes for what I missed, but there are just character motivations and personalities that I don’t particularly understand because I didn’t see them in the anime first.
The game falls into a rhythm quite quickly. You’ll fight in a battle, watch a few cutscenes in preparation for the next battle, and then fight the next battle. Lather, rinse, repeat. At times you’ll be asked to wander around RPG-style before actually getting to fight, but the environments are kind of dry and the NPCs you interact with are really just masks over a shop menu.
You’ll also be asked, at times, to battle through waves of low-powered enemies instead of fighting one overpowered foe, kind of like a Dynasty Warriors title. While a Naruto-based Dynasty Warriors would actually be awesome, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 doesn’t come anywhere close to realizing this idea’s potential. Your abilities are severely limited, and the hordes of enemies aren’t really a threat. It’s a fun diversion, but that’s all it amounts to.