Friday, 15 March 2013

Review: Naurto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PS3)

The chronological third but technically fourth game of the ultimate ninja storm series hits with a lot of expectations and pressure to deliver, unfortunately this game suffers in a few areas that may let down a majority of fans.

Where Naruto Generations was more of a greatest hits volume focused on multiplayer with new characters and mechanics changes, Storm 3 is the game many expect to blow it's predecessor out of the water.  Taking place after the end of Storm 2 before the five Kage summit, Naruto and co. continue their quest to rescue Sasuke and stop the Akatsuki from completing their mission of capturing all of the Bijuu.
Boss battles remain one of the series highlights

The game is broken down into two segments, battles and linear map exploration.  Exploration involves running around areas from the anime such as the hidden leaf village, forest paths, snowy drifts and more.  These areas are there to allow players to take on sidequests, collect items from smashable crates and the like.  If you have played ultimate ninja storm 2 then this will all be familiar but with some new visuals what with the hidden leaf being destroyed and rebuilt.

These areas are functional but I still miss the fully explorable village from ultimate ninja storm 1, these linear maps are very flat and boring and leave no real room for post game secret discovery or even for just messing around.  Several times you will be asked to run back and forth between areas of these maps as the story develops, the worst offender being the waterfall of truth which involves numerous trips back and forth along it's bland corridors.

Numerous sidequests pop up in these sections with tasks mainly requiring you to collect things found in the world as you travel.  Fetch quests in a Naruto game isn't anything new but it's starting to get a little old by this point when you consider CC2 aren't exactly unoriginal in their approach to anime style games.  This mode is just screaming out for a few minigames to play outside of the bland map roaming.  Also don't expect to be able to explore the world until you finish the games story mode as you will be simply locked out of most areas unless the story says you can visit them.

Mob battles are pretty uninspiring and few in number
Another issue for players who may not have played Ultimate ninja storm 2 is the dialogue which can run for upwards of 60 minutes.  It's great that CC2 have tried to replicate the anime as much as possible, but sometimes you just want to play so if you don't mind missing the dialogue you can skip these segments and continue playing which is a massive boost.  My problem with the dialogue is that unlike the anime the characters are largely static and tend not to move much when speaking, so you will end up looking at emotionless mannequins more often than not.  I think this could have been avoided by having more camera cuts to show reactions and expressions more, but as it is these segments remain very uninteresting visually.

Of course the main part of any Naruto game is the fighting and here the combat remains just as good as the original title.  Characters are still just as fast and beautifully animated as ever and the combat has received a few new additions.  Like generations the substitution jutsu metre returns with a minor UI update to make it clearer how many you have left before it recharges.  But the biggest addition is the quick awakening system which allows certain characters to enter an awakened state immediately with a touch of the right analogue stick.

There is a trade off of course as entering this powerful state reduces your chakra constantly and when it runs out you are fairly weak when it comes to using jutsu.  While you are in a forced awakened state your support characters will be inactive, instead replaced with new jutsu attacks or defences.  An example is Haku who can summon ice mirrors to block incoming attacks, or Mei who will attack with water dragons for a more ranged offensive option to a relatively short ranged attacker.

The new Bijuu characters are fun to play as
Other new features include ninja cancels which allow rapid alterations to combo's as you shift from the attack to jutsu blasts or support actions.  Your support characters now also have life bars themselves and can be knocked out of the fight permanently if you aren't careful.  If you have a support who takes that ultimate jutsu for you instead of you then expect them to remain unconscious for the rest of the fight.  It helps keep the spamming down as targeting enemy supports is now a viable tactic.

Aside from these the combat has seen a few improvements or tweaks here and there which will mostly be seen in online play.  There are still completely broken or overpowered characters such as Deidara who can win without ever needing to attack close range.  The roster has been a mixed bag really.  Obvious additions have been things relating to the story such as Hanzo, Mifune and later versions of characters like Tobi.  Unexpected additions have been the other jinchuriki with complete movesets and full tailed beast modes.  Less welcoming additions though have been the doubling up on characters.  We have 4 versions of Naruto and Sasuke, 2 Killer Bee's, 2 Sakura's, Shino's, Shikamaru's, Neji's and Kiba as we have pre timeksip battles which are unlocked via collectible items found in the story mode.

These double or even triple characters count to the vaunted 80 character roster which feels a little cheap to be honest and at this point I don't see the need to have pre timeskip characters or even 2 of killer bee.  The sole difference with Killer Bee is that one has Samehada and the other doesn't.  Did we need an entirely new character slot for this?  Another major source of frustration with regards to the character list is that so many new characters have been left out of the game.  You can fight the seven mist swordsmen, Ginkaku and Kinkaku and the Edo kages, but these characters will never be playable in this game.

Unsurprisingly this has garnered a fair amount of hate online and the recent news that these characters will not be made playable has hurt the franchise in the long run.  This game has been in development for some time and to see so little in the way of new characters is like putting a cherry on a turd.  Too many of the characters are simply copied from generations with little alteration and the new characters are too few in number to get excited about even with new costumes to update their appearance to coincide with the story progression.  An example is the 5 kage characters which could have seen some minor alterations, but the most significant change he is that the Raikage now has a new ultimate jutsu but that's it. 

The characters look amazing, even better than their anime peers.
Another sad let down is the new mob battle mode which was first seen in the PSP game Naruto ultimate ninja impact, a great game that really felt like a naruto version of Dynasty Warriors.  Sadly none of this has crossed over to storm 3, which has very few and boring mob battles.  Most of the time these are used to combat bosses such as the edo kages but it is painful to play effectively.  The camera has a mind of it's own making it difficult to focus on a single target effectively.  You can switch targets but this does little to help with the high difficulty when fighting up to 6 opponents at once all throwing attacks at you from off screen.  It wouldn't be so bad but when the game is also calling for you to maintain a certain health percentage, the rate of rage increases exponentially.

The final note about the combat is the ultimate decision feature which boils down to a difficulty selector.  Choosing legend mode means you have a tougher but more rewarding battle against bosses, while hero is easier but with weaker rewards.  Really it doesn't matter as the changes to the story are minor and can be replayed in either mode whenever you feel so the choice is largely based on how much of a challenge you feel like taking on. 

It isn't that the game is terribly bad it just feels like the developers have spent more time on recreating scenes from an anime all the fans have seen already.  If you have never played any of these games previously then this is the best version for the combat but for long time fans it's a mixed bag at best and hardly inspires confidence in the inevitable fourth title which will likely add the characters wanted in this game along with other longstanding omissions such as Akatsuchi and Kurotsuchi.

Graphically the game cannot be faulted as the engine used here produces some stunning effects that look better than the anime ever could.  Effects are flashy and impressive while the cel shaded design gives the world it's distinctive animated style.  The engine is best shown off during the boss battles as these use a lot of pre-rendered sequences for QTE battles and cutscenes.  The character animations are still sublimely smooth and amazing to look at when someone else is playing.

The sound here is all dependant upon which dub you prefer.  The English voice cast do a truly terrible job with the characters even when compared to their anime work prior to the game.  They just seem to be phoning it in and the overall quality seems lacking.  The Japanese dub however still has all of the emotion and power you are used to from the regular show.  The soundtrack is a mix of past and new tracks which again mimic that of the show but also maintain CC2's intent to create a unique Naruto style sound for the Ultimate Ninja series.  The music still works well and captures the emotion of the scenes and battles very well.  Combat sounds are pretty much unchanged from previous titles but this isn't a bad thing as they are the sounds used in the anime.

Overall Ultimate ninja storm 3 is a good but ultimately flawed fighting game.  A series that isn't sold as a hardcore fighter like Street fighter but as a game for the fans feels let down by the lack of characters that really should have been added, while the new mob battles is a opportunity missed in my opinion.

SCORE: 6.8/10


www said...

i wanted to ask u this

can u run arround the leaf village in ninja storm 3

Thadius Cole said...

Yes you can, but it is more like Ultimate Ninja storm 2 in that the village is broken into sections rather than being a full open village a la NUNS 1. During story play you won't really spend a lot of time in the leaf village anyway, but the post game section allows you to run around as you please.

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