Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Take On Nine-Tails

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.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Screenshot

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.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Screenshot

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.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Screenshot

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.

There’s also a rather odd “moral choice” system integrated into the game. At times, you will be able to choose between two paths, the “legend” path or the “hero” path. The hero path is almost always easier than the legend path, and while choosing one or the other may alter the story a tiny bit, the outcome is almost always the same. The choice honestly comes off as kind of stupid. It’s literally asking you whether or not you want to be a good guy or also a good guy. It would make a magnificent satire of moral choice systems if it weren’t actually trying to be taken seriously.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Screenshot

The combat of Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is essentially the same combat we have seen in Naruto games in the past. Combos are more often than not relegated to timed presses of a single primary attack button, while specials and signature attacks use up your Chakra, which needs to be charged. You can still use a Substitution Jutsu to disappear out of an opponent’s string and reappear behind them to lay on the hurt. Unfortunately, many battles still do come down to chicken races of “who substitutes last.” It’s still very mashable, and while it’s amazingly fun in single-player, accurately recreating the feel of an epic Naruto battle, it’s still very unbalanced and far too linear for multiplayer play.

The graphics of Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 are absolutely astounding. I would almost say they make up for whatever shortcomings the gameplay suffers from. The cel-shaded animations are far more fluid than the anime ever was. It doesn’t look like a moving anime; it actually looks better. These are some of the best graphics we have seen on this generation of consoles. Characters move fluidly, strikes hit with a force that you can almost feel, and quick time events, while still shallow, are filled to the brim with anime-style spectacle. If anything can be said about the game, it’s that it’s pretty.

In terms of audio, the game is also a cut above the rest. Gamers can choose from both English and Japanese voices, so purists can hear all the “Dattebayos” they want. While you may have your own opinions about the English Naruto cast, they do a solid job here and provide a fine alternative for the softcore Otkau crowd.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 seems to finally understand who it is appealing to. Its Ultimate Adventure mode is an absolute joy if you are a fan of the anime. It has great action, amazing cutscenes, superb voice acting, and, although it has a few weird diversions that could have been dropped, it’s a fun experience nonetheless. Unfortunately, that’s all the game is: a wonderful single-player experience for die-hard Naruto fans. It falls short in multiplayer depth, but this isn’t anything new for the franchise. You have to play through the single-player mode to unlock all of the game’s expansive roster in multiplayer, but once you do you will essentially have experienced all the game has to offer.

The graphics are some of the best I have ever seen. 2.8 Control
The controls are mostly mashable and don’t do much to create a deep fighting system. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice actors do a competent job, but I wish they would have been able to get the official anime music. 3.2 Play Value
The single-player mode is enthralling, but it’s all the game truly has to offer. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Absolute Immersion – Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 offers the most immersive and epic Naruto game ever created.
  • Bigger Scale Boss Battles – Boss Battles are back and more impressive than ever before. Prepare to battle through an entire village in a huge boss battle with Nine-Tails.
  • Authentic Naruto Experience – Play through the anime-driven story mode and relive the most recent events of the animated series with a degree of faithfulness never seen before.
  • Nine-Tails Attacks Konoha – The Story mode starts out with the heated invasion of Nine-Tails! Help Hiruzen and Minato defend the village against Masked Man and Nine-Tails.

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