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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Review

by William Schwartz

After the success of Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, fans had high hopes for this numbered installment in the Naruto Shippuden series. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 launched recently, and it’s a tale of two games. On the one hand, Ninja Storm 3 does some things well. It delivers in the visual department once again, with CyberConnect2 crafting a beautiful world and telling a great story based on the popular Manga. But on the other hand, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 just isn’t very different from Generations, and the ways that it does separate itself are lackluster and don’t enhance the experience in any way.

That might be harsh, but if you were looking for major enhancements in the Naruto franchise with Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, you aren’t going to find it here. Instead, a weak decision path that has no outcome on the actual storyline, some bigger scaled boss battles, and a very well presented game are going to be the main draws. If you were pleased with previous entries in this popular franchise, you’ll probably fall right back in love with Ninja Storm 3, but only if you’re wholly content with this franchise becoming stagnant.

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While you don’t have to have watched the television show or played the previous games to enjoy Ninja Storm 3, it’ll certainly help. Picking up immediately after the events of Ninja Storm 2, this Naruto begins with Nine Tails’ attack on Hidden Leaf village and continues the story of the Great Ninja War. Naruto fans will quickly see CyberConnect2’s to attention to detail and their consistent adherence to the source material. If you’re thinking about hopping in this story mid-way through, there’s also a lenghty introduction to the game’s many colorful characters and overall storyline.

The attention to detail from the source material is absolutely incredible.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a beautiful game that really feels like it lacks substance. For every beautiful environment that begs to be explored, you’ll be met with very little interaction to be had. This isn’t an adventure game, Naruto Shippuden is all about fighting, but it really feels like there was a big missed opportunity to engage the player in more meaningful ways within the game world, and really expand this franchise in the process. This becomes even more obvious when you take into consideration that Naruto isn’t the deepest fighter on the market, and not many changes have been made to the battle-tested formula. It’s probably because there are expectations with the Naruto franchise at this point. With a wide fan-base that is expecting a similar experience as the previous, CyberConnect2 doesn’t take any real risks with this new title.

The single player side of Naruto is best enjoyed when sitting back and taking it all in. It’s a beautiful world, the art design is fantastic, and the attention to detail from the source material is absolutely incredible. The cel-shaded artwork and voice cast carry the game’s many cutscenes and make them continually enjoyable throughout the game’s entirety. You’ll find them sprinkled in between equally gorgeous fighting sequences, and the aforementioned exploratory portions of the game, which when combined, form the many chapters of the story mode. Cyberconnect2 goes heavy on fan service throughout, but as explained it does feel a bit superficial.

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The changes that they do introduce are fairly lackluster. A new decision path system gives players more stake in the outcome of a battle, but bears little if any effect on the outcome of the overall story. Some light RPG exploratory elements have also been added to the mix, and they too, are sadly nothing more than filler between the next big battle for Naruto. It’s here where the biggest let down is. Introducing these areas that just beckon to be explored, only to find that there’s very little to interact with. It’s a point of inflection that will likely have you wondering what this game could be if given room to grow. The introduction of bigger scale boss battles is one of the areas where Naruto shines the brightest though. It allows the art to really flourish, and coupled with the more finely tuned battling system, there are definitely some epic battles to be had in this latest installment. Combat is going to be familiar for those that have played previous Naruto games, but CyberConnect2 has also re-introduced the quick time system from games prior to Generations. For those that haven’t played a Naruto game, the fighting is a fairly simple affair. It’s not of the likes you’ll find in deeper fighters that require complex button combinations for big on-screen results. But there are systems involved nonetheless, and they are easy to learn and use immediately.

Unfortunately, CyberConnect2 feels like they are afraid to spread their wings

While the story mode is the bread and butter of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, there is plenty to do once you’re finished. A deep online component that features a roster of 80 characters rivals the beefy offering in Ninja Storm Generations, and the customizations and unlockables are plenty. There’s a lot to master in this huge roster, as each character has its own unique gameplay style. Mastering them all will take practice, and you can choose to play against the CPU if you aren’t quite ready for the competitive online scene. And if online combat isn’t your thing entirely, you can also head back into the story mode to round up collectibles or cash that are ironically used to customize your online persona.

The Verdict

Progress between previous games and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is measured in inches and not in yards. Fans with allegiance to the Naruto franchise already, will find that this is probably the best game in the library. The core strengths still being completely intact for the series; the beautiful artwork, the attention to detail, a presentation that Manga fans can only get from a developer with such devotion to the source material. However, at the same time, Ninja Storm 3 feels like a game that is only a slight iteration of previous titles. At times, CyberConnect2 looks like its taking the franchise to new heights, only to disappoint with new features that feel less fleshed out than they should be.

"meh"
meh

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
  • Published By: Bandai Namco
  • Developed By: Cyber Connect 2
  • Genre: Fighting
  • US Release Date: March 5th, 2013
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Progress between previous games and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is measured in inches and not in yards. Fans with allegiance to the Naruto franchise already, will find that this is probably the best game in the series, if only a slight iteration from previous games."
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