Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution (PS3)

The ultimate ninja storm series has now been rolling along the Playstation 3 lifeline now for a good few years and when viewed as a whole the series has been running since the Playstation 2 days before the advent of full three dimensional Ninja brawling was introduced to gamers.  As the titular anime series finally starts to reach it's climax with the end of the great ninja war and near god like beings battling for the future of humanity, the game series I feel has become something of a stuck record.

This latest release can be viewed as a side story to the main one.  Taking the gameplay elements introduced in Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 and adding a few small tweaks to the system, Ultimate Ninja revolution is a fairly standard game that doesn't really make any real steps forward for the series but doesn't take any backwards either.  Basically it's a stop gap to allow the manga and anime to finish before Cyber Connect 2 finally make Ultimate Ninja 4 and then go the Dragonball Z route of re-releasing games with slightly better graphics and experimental gameplay features, at least in my opinion anyway.

New anime sequences are welcome but few and far between
So if you're expecting advancement in the story or more insight into the overall arch of the Narutoverse then you will be disappointed right off the bat.  The game has a few modes that focus on different aspects of the series.  You can play in a story mode of sorts that chronicles the creation of the antagonist group Akatsuki replete with newly created animation from the same studio that makes the current anime and the same voice is a nice addition.  You also get to play a flashback scenario featuring Itachi's close friend Shisui and learn how he came to die with the mode wrapping up with a short video of a young Obito and his relationship to Kushina. 

This mode is interesting narratively but very slim on the ground with features and lasts only an hour at best since it is simply made up of several short fights all requiring some finishing move to achieve an S rank.  It does however unlock several characters and gives you some cool pre-Akatsuki costumes for the many members of the team, some I actually prefer over the normal cloaks. 

The main mode of the game is the new Ninja world tournament mode.  This mode is completely original story wise and will take up most of your time.  In this mode you choose a character you have unlocked and then play through progressively more difficult versions of the tournament mode.  It features a new map which starts off small but becomes larger as you complete the tournament levels.  The tournament itself is a new four player mode that pits character against each other in a free for all fight with each round lasting 50 seconds each.  In place of life bars you instead have a currency of orbs which you knock off your foes to increase your total amount.  The winner is determined by whoever has the most at the end of the round(s) depending on difficulty.  Some matches can have three or more rounds so you need to carefully select your characters.

The arena's are truly chaotic at higher levels with random events like Samurai throwing waves of energy around, exploding tag balls, giant turtles, wolves, Zetsu clones and even powerful Ninja attacking the combatants.  Rails can be used to make attacks that are unique to each character.  In the end though the mode is poorly built.  The AI is too quick to attack the player and basically shower them with ranged and melee attacks making the entire experience miserable at times as you desperately try to counter and attack amidst the chaos.  The extra events on screen are tough to see because you are constantly trying to attack or avoid being attacked by foes and when you do get a brief reprieve you need to immediately be on the attack again or risk being blind sided by an off screen attack.

It's a shame really since the mode looks amazing in the gameplay videos and the potential is there for some great multiplayer matches but the AI is too cheap by simply ganking the player and never attacking each other outside of briefly punching each other in the first round.  Even the sub par WWE games have their AI attack each other in multi-man matches effectively.  Also the round length is too short, just as you begin to get to grips with the hazards of the arena and are fighting the round will end.  Targeting is a nightmare.  Changing targets is done by moving the right stick toward opponents but it will inevitably become confused and randomly target the wrong character and as such snaps the camera in the wrong direction which more often than not causes you to get your ass kicked.
The arena hazards are inventive but the rounds are too short
The map itself is a rabbit warren of pathways and loading screens that become more and more complex as you unlock higher level tournaments.  The many side quests and missions are spread out across this map and some missions require you to run all over the map to complete them in what sometimes feels like needless padding.  The best missions pit you in interesting battles that ultimately unlock characters for future playthroughs or as new supports for your team but a majority of them will simply chip away at your soul to complete them.  Needless fetch quests, timed missions and hide and seek become boring quickly and the map is near useless outside of seeing where you are in relation to other locations.  It has zero markers to highlight quest characters or items leaving you to run around aimlessly looking for people or items with vague hints about their location, sometimes being as helpful as "somewhere with a great view" which isn't helpful since everywhere on the map has a great view on it.

That aside the more regular Ninja storm combat is working fine and as mentioned earlier has some fine tuning.  Now you can select which type of group you want to run, choosing from a ultimate jutsu, awakening or drive types.  The first two are self explanatory with the drive type being the ultimate in support use.  Charging chakra brings your supports to protect you and activating will allow you to bring them in for a combination melee attack.  However you now can only choose one of these three so if you choose awakening you cannot use ultimate Jutsu attacks.  A new guard break and counter attack function allows players who time it right to basically block a foes strikes and stun them temporarily.  Outside of that the combat is the same as before which is a good thing since tweaking a formula too much only serves to ruin it.  The newly added team ultimate jutsu are a gimmick, a fun one but ultimately a gimmick none the less.

Team ultimate jutsu look awesome with CC2's visual flair
Multiplayer is the same as before with the new tournament battle mode thrown in for good measure.  You can also select a character from the roster and send them out online as a kind of training bot to earn experience, gain levels and bring back items for you.  These bots can be upgraded with new skills to make them more powerful and eventually they can become a challenge for you to fight.  From what I could tell the lag isn't an issue online outside of the occasional hiccup here and there, but expect certain characters to pretty much dominate the entire field.

New characters are few and far between also.  After the bait and switch of storm 3 not having playable Edo Kage they do finally become playable here but it feels a little too late to be a welcome addition.  More recent anime changes have been brought in to spruce up the roster so playable Obito and later forms of Minato, Madara and other reanimated characters turn up in the roster.  We still lack playable sound four members but for some reason we are given Konohamaru and Ebisu?  It's pretty random and in the grand scheme of things the character additions feel half arsed and not all that well planned out.  Don't expect any DLC characters either since the entire list of content is purely costume related and costs a small fortune to own in their entirety.

The addition of mecha Naruto created by Kishimoto himself is an odd choice.  Having it's own mode it serves as another slice of original narrative content that while amusing at times to see a robot version of Naruto fight with a robotic voice and mannerisms, just left me wondering why this time wasn't spent in adding a character who is in the story instead of which there are many.

So overall Ultimate storm revolution is like Generations before it a stop gap addition that brings some interesting mechanics and plenty of things to do but ultimately feels hollow and short on content.  Get it if you are a die hard fan or really want to play Kushina Uzumaki.

SCORE: 6.5/10


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