Thursday, 5 April 2012

Review: Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations


Going to try a different review style this time to see if I can create a more balanced review for games.  I will list everything that I like and explain why I like it, and then list the bad and explain those points to come up with a score.

PRO'S

Plenty of playable character's
Naruto Generations is stacked with characters from both Ultimate ninja storm 1 and 2, meaning you get all of the pre time skip characters including the likes of Zabuza and Haku, along with the previous game's list.  There a few new characters to fit in with the more uptodate story, since this goes upto the five kage summit.  There is pretty much a character for everyone here from long range attackers, close up melee focused brawlers, powerful jutsu users and jack of all trades types.

Faster Combat
The combat has since been sped up a little to keep the flow going.  What this means is that new elements such as combo breaks and interrupts can be used during combo's to use a jutsu, retreat or simply start a new combo attack.  I don't expect people who are fan's of the series will have much trouble adjusting and will likely welcome the new fighting mechanics introduced here, even if they are things that have been in other more hardcore fighters for years now.  For newer players the speed may at first seem a little intimidating, but you will soon get comfortable with it after you find a character that suits your style of play.

New gameplay modes
To keep singleplayer and multiplayer a little more interesting CC2 have added a tournament and survival mode to the game.  Tournament can be played with a maximum of eight players or seven computers and one player.  Brackets can be customised to suit your own requirements if your the host and it's a nice addition.  I would have liked bigger brackets but this is still pretty good.

Survival mode is pretty self explanatory with players taking on challenges until they run out of health.  Between rounds you get a percentage of your health back based on your end of round score.  Both of these modes have a set of challenges that when completed unlock trophies/achievements and other in game items, such as titles and item sets.

Vastly improved multiplayer 
Many fans of ultimate ninja storm 2's multiplayer called for improvements to the system and to make it more balanced.  Well Generations is mainly focused on the multiplayer this time round so many changes have been made.  The biggest change is the new system for using substitution jutsu, which in previous game's relied on timing or using an auto pad, now each player has a maximum of four substitutions which when used guarantee a dodge, but when you use all four you will need to wait several seconds to recharge this meter.  As a result players now need to be cautious when using their substitutions, or leave themselves open to punishing attacks, and overall it makes the PVP more tactical.

Ninja info cards which act as a kind of online avatar when squaring off against other players, now has other effects during combat.  Every single card has different abilities associated with it such as improved melee damage or increased jutsu defence.  There are many other bonus effects associated with these cards and the effects increase with rarer cards, going from 'weak' all the way to 'huge'.  Players of the Naruto CCG will be able to use codes located in the top right of their cards to unlock those cards in game for use online, which could create an imbalance as players with more rare cards could unlock the better buffs quicker than those simply playing through the game.  All ninja info cards can be unlocked through play, but if you own the CCG then you can get them faster.

Graphically impressive
Although Naruto Generations is running on the same graphics engine used in Storm 2, it still looks good.  I would go as far as saying that it's probably the best looking anime fighting game made to date.  It captures the look and feel of the anime perfectly, making good use of the game's engine to mimic the anime's lighting style and effects.  Characters look good close up and are very expressive during combat and other scenes.  The arena's are detailed and again look like they have been lifted straight from the anime.

Memorable original musical score
The music in game is completely original, made exclusively for the ultimate ninja storm series and aims to capture the style of the anime.  The result is a score that not only fits the tone and feel of the show, but creates a distinct character for the series.  The sound effects are straight from the anime, being based on the anime every single effect used is heard here.  Players also have the choice of spoken dialogue from either the god awful english dub, to the much more fitting japanese soundtrack.

Original Animated content exclusive to the game
Every story mode chapter is prefaced by a short anime sequence that sets up the character you are following, and all of these are new and completely original pieces made specifically for the game by studio Pierrot who also make the anime.  Its a nice touch, but I will explain more about later.


CON'S

Substitution system
Although this new system for using your substitution jutsu is great for multiplayer and keeps things balanced, the result in singleplayer is a mess.  The AI at times can be too good at using it and it feels cheap to be beaten by the AI when you know the computer has simply reacted based on your button inputs.  Couple this with the near controller snapping frustration of some of the story mode fights and it really does begin to grate.

Very few new characters
Despite the huge character list to play with, the number of brand new characters is dissapointingly small.  We get the kage's, Zabuza and Haku, Obito and young Kakashi, Danzo and Masked man.  Roughly nine new characters.  Now you could say that since the story only goes to the kage summit arc there isn't much in the way of new characters to introduce, but then I would point you to the support only list.  Considering the game also allows you to play the original stories characters, why not give players the sound four, other leaf jonin such as Shizune, Kurenai and Anko or even allow us to play some of the kage's support characters.  It just seem's like more time and effort was spent on multiplayer and little was done to the character roster to keep it fresh.

Story mode is bare bones and very short
Compared to the story mode seen in Storm 1 and 2, Generations has one of the most bland story modes in the series history.  You can choose to play as several characters and relive their exploits from their perspectives, but all this boils down to is watching is static images with text overlayed, while someone narrates the text.  We don't see anything new or original to explain certain character motivations of reasons for doing what they did, the mode simply plays out like a picture book recap with fights sprinkled in.  The worst example is Zabuza and Haku's story, which is literally four fights, with Zabuza fighting Kakashi twice, while Haku fights Sasuke and Naruto.  Once you win those fights you see an anime scene (which has been created for the game) that is basically an uptodate version of Zabuza's sacrifice on the bridge before dying, only without any blood so it looks weird.

The issues above aren't the worse part of story mode though no, the worst part is the way the fights are balanced.  In previous games the developers would give your AI opponent a slight buff to say defence, speed or attack to represent the situation of the characters in the anime.  Here in generations every single fight has your opponent with an attack buff of at least 20, going upto 100 for some fights.  So basically they do their base damage plus 100, meaning double damage.  Couple this with the unfair AI use of the sustitution jutsu and creeping difficulty as the fights as you go and the game can be extremely annoying.

Even with these issues you can still complete the story mode within a few hours.  The fights in the serie's story mode also featured some amazing QTE sequences during key boss battles that worked as a nice reward for winning these tough battles, but sadly these have been cut out this time around, so don't expect the important battles such as Naruto VS Sasuke to have some cool QTE sequence near the end.

Characters have less jutsu
Now I assume this was done for multiplayer balance overall, but several characters that in the previous two games who had multiple jutsu are now only given one.  An example here would be Kimimaro who in Storm 1 had two normal jutsu attacks 'Camelia dance' and  'Larch dance', along with two ultimate jutsu, one for his standard state and one for his cursed mark state.  Now in generations he only has 'Larch Dance' and one ultimate jutsu, and this has happened for many characters.  You could say that the large number of characters necessitated a need to cut down on certain content, but I struggle to think what needed the space.  There are no QTE's, a much shorter and less developed story mode and the ultimate jutsu's are still shortened versions of their originals.  I just put it down to laziness on CC2's part here personally, and that they are saving all the hard work for Ultimate Ninja Storm 3.

Less item's in collection mode
A minor thing, but I really liked unlocking the character models in collection mode to view the characters up close to see all the great detail put in by CC2.  The diarama's have also gone missing in this game, which is another shame.

So after weighing up the good and the bad of Generations I still like the game, but feel it is by far the weakest showing for CC2.  The game's heavy emphasis on multiplayer really detracted from the singleplayer, but the game's core fighting mechanics are still there and when playing it's hard not to get caught up in some of the cooler moments.  It still has plenty of characters to experiment with and if you enjoy unlocking items then there is no shortage of info cards and other items to unlock from regular free battle play.

If you are a diehard fan of Naruto games then you will get this regardless, but don't be shocked by the comparitively brief singleplayer experience.  If you are new to the series and have played other fighting titles online then this is pretty good and will probably keep you playing for a long time with all of the character to choose from.

Score: 6.9/10



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