Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Review
CyberConnect 2 is walking away from their Naruto Shippuden series of games with the release of Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. The last entry in a series that has spanned multiple console generations, Ninja Storm 4 says goodbye at the top of its game, with upgraded visuals due to the more powerful hardware of new-gen consoles (or PC) and a story that sees itself come to a conclusion that covers the final story arcs of the Naruto storyline. However, if you’re expecting huge deviations from the popular formula, you won’t find it here. What you’ll find in Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is what you’ve come to know, love, and expect from this fighting series.
This is hands-down the best looking and best playing Naruto experience that we’ve seen to date. A combination of a beautiful art-style and the ability of new consoles to sharpen the visual fidelity is mind blowing at times. The larger than life boss battles, free flowing combat, and visually stunning special moves for the 100+ characters of the game are a sight to behold. There have been very few titles that have captured the essence of Manga source material the way that the Naruto Shippuden games have and as a result fans of the Naruto Manga have been incredibly pleased with the series of games. Beautiful and adherent to the source material as it may be, this is a fighting game, however. While I’ve always thought that the Naruto games were fun to play, they’ve never had the balance or strategy of the Street Fighters or MKs of the fighting game genre.
If you’ve played any of the Ninja Storm games since Ninja Storm 2 you kind of know what you’re getting into here, but there are some new features being introduced for this entry in the series. While the main, and only real gameplay system here is in the fighting, which is done on a 3D-plane, there are quite a few different ways to do that. There’s a story mode, which is the real main draw. There’s online battles, an adventure mode, and a ton of stuff to collect. There are also many characters to learn, which includes combinations and special moves for all of them. Depending on which mode you play, you can even customize characters to fit your specific play style or preference. The fighting is fast paced, faster than most fighting games, actually. Between all of the visual effects on screen and the fast pace of it all, it’s easy to lose track of yourself at times.
This has kind of been a problem in these games, and CyberConnect hasn’t made it much easier with some of the new additions for UNS4, but the core fighting of the game is still alot of fun to play and probably the most dynamic that it’s been in the series. Dynamic Environments is one thing that changes things up for the series, which has some levels featuring destructible elements. Add that to the ability to switch between leader characters in 2v2 and 3v3 battles, and things can get real hectic, real quick. Characters can also use the battlefield to their advantage. Depending on the terrain, Earth Attacks, Lightning Attacks, and Water Attacks will either be stronger or weaker… so there’s that to keep track of as well. While it does seem a little superficial at first glance, Naruto does have some additional added depth in the Armor Break and Fire Effect aspects of the combat. Armor Break can happen due to an overwhelming attack on a player, and when this occurs the player whose armor has been broken will take more damage. Fire Effect, on the other hand, can burn opponents over time, setting their clothes on fire until they can use the environment to extinguish the flames.
The story mode of Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is the crown jewel of this release. While it’s main goal is to shepherd you from each gameplay encounter to the next, it’s as enjoyable as a watching some of the very best in Anime. A beautiful art-style is tied together with impressive stills, cutscenes, and voice over work that really form one of the most cohesive single player experiences for the series. There are multiple chapters to explore here, in a branching story path that will have you controlling many different characters from the Naruto universe. You’ll go from the birth of the Hidden Leaf village, to the 4th Great Ninja War, on to the reuniting of Team 7, to the final showdown between Kaguya and the Ninja heroes. You’ll always end up in some form of the 3D battling for each level, whether that’s a boss fight, a one on one or tag team brawl, or in an instance where you’re mowing down enemy minions. The only unfortunate part about this is that there never really feels like there’s a fail state. You can easily mash your way through UNS4’s story mode, with the ability to revive yourself with an enemy having the same amount of health as when you died. It makes the game feel a little on the easy side, but the presentation and completing optional battle objectives more than makes up for that.
When the story bits have been completed, there’s still more to tackle in UNS4. Adventure mode allows you to play as Naruto in the events that follow the Great Ninja War, giving you quests in iconic places from the Naruto Shippuden World to obtain unique rewards. These rewards are many, and they range from cosmetic items and combat buffs, to other collectibles like storyboard art. Adventure mode doesn’t have quite the attention to detail that story mode does, there’s far less voice over work, and it functions more along the lines of a simplistic RPG, allowing players to explore an overworld and interact with NPC characters in an explorable overworld as limited of scope as it may be. Adventure mode can have its moments, they’re just not quite as big as the Story mode, but there are plenty of tasks to accomplish in this facet of the game, and the item rewards and Ninja Treasure Packs to earn that come along with that.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Prologue Gameplay
If you’re not into the story or adventuring and just want to get down to the combat, there’s plenty of that in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 as well. There’s a free battle mode, which you’ll be introduced to while the game is installing (at least on the PS4 it was available). Here you can get a handle on many types of fights, character customization, and a feel for the massive roster of fighters this game boasts. When you’re feeling confident, heading into online battles is also an option. We tested a handful of online matches and found the game to run quite smoothly online. While lag can be big enjoyment killer in online fighting games, UNS4 felt really smooth, at least in the pre-launch conditions on the PlayStation 4.
The online aspects of Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 are fairly straight forward, but there are a handful of options to choose from. These include ranked and non-ranked matches. League play, tournament mode, and an endless battle which pits you in combat until you lose. There will also be Limited Time Events, though none of those were available to play during this review. There weren’t any hints as to what these may be, but it’s probably safe to assume that these events will earn you exclusive items or feature game mode variants. Characters can be completely customized to take online. You can equip Substitution Items as well as edit Finish Cut-In images. Your online persona is presented to other players as a Ninja Info Card. These cards display your profile to the world, and they can also be customized with different images, skins, titles, and voices that play before the battle begins. Completing battle objectives, quests in adventure mode, and other facets of the game will earn you these. There’s also the Bingo Book for online play, which lists characters that have a bounty on their head. If you battle Bingo Book characters, you’ll earn special rewards as you do. This book is updated everyday, so there’s some reason to log-in and play everyday.
The Ultimate Ninja Storm series goes out on top with the fourth and final game from CyberConnect 2. Taking what they’ve learned in the past from previous releases and expanded on it, gameplay has been fine tuned with some new features that fans will surely appreciate. It all compliments a presentation package that’s never looked better. Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 rounds out the story for fans in one of the best looking and best playing entries in the series.
Naruto Shippuden UNS4
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco
- Developed By: CyberConnect 2
- Genre: Fighting
- US Release Date: February 5th, 2016
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 rounds out the story for fans in one of the best looking and best playing entries in the series."