Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations review (Xbox 360)
Will Naruto fans be disappointed or thrilled with this latest digital outing?
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (Mercifully referred to as just Generations hereafter) could be a candidate for the longest video game title ever. Generations is the successor to Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, and quite a few changes have been made to both gameplay and narrative setup. The most noticeable of which is that Generations has done away with the open world hub featured in the previous game, both a blessing and a curse. The inclusion of all story arcs, a bolstered character roster and the signature visual roller-coaster make for an appealing installment in the popular franchise.
The story follows Naruto, the blonde spiky-haired ninja and his friends on various adventures. The non-combat sections of the story are presented through an attractive combination of original anime-style footage and still images that serve as an informative narrative between fights.
In previous games the story mode followed the Anime almost exactly, which could be a confusing experience for newcomers. This problem was solved by splitting important characters’ stories into separate chapters, which are unlocked as the player finishes the main chapters. Playing through a single character’s chapter makes it easier to understand where they fit into the complex Naruto universe, instead of trying to follow all the sub-plots right from the start. The more condensed storytelling of Generations manages to capture the heartfelt story of the Naruto franchise while excluding confusing or somewhat irrelevant aspects.
The gameplay is very straight-forward for a fighter: Attack, ranged weapons, jump, etc, are each assigned to a face button. Combinations of these buttons will execute different attacks, ranging from simple physical combos to spectacular special move animations. Charging up your “chakra” bar allows the special attacks to be used, each of which has an impressive animation to showcase these attacks in all their glory.
Characters have a few simple combos and even less special attacks, so the same moves will be making appearances quite often. Items can be assigned to the D-Pad that have various effects, such as recovering health or boosting attack for a short period. Support characters offer a little extra depth; the use of a shoulder button will call an ally to either defend or attack, and can be used to extend combos.
Just like the previous Ninja Storm titles, Generations truly shines in terms of its graphics and visual presentation. Everything from the larger-than-life boss fights to the anime cut scenes are stunning and make for a very involving experience. Even though there aren’t any minute expressions to convey or environmental detail to expose, the look of the game captures the bright and upbeat nature of the series brilliantly. A minor fault could be the battle environments; although visually attractive they’re not interactive at all, and the different settings offer no unique features.
A much lauded feature from the Ninja Storm series is the appearance of several voice actors from the anime. Generations continues this feature and many characters from the game share their voice actors with the TV counterpart. This lends it a lot of credibility and helps solidify an authentic experience of the story. The musical score assists in conveying the gravity of epic battles as well as the comedy of more light-hearted moments.
Generations really delivers fan service and unlockable content by the buckets. Scrolling down to “Shop” in the main menu opens a cartload of content that can be bought using the game’s currency. Still images and videos, battle items and online player titles are but a few of the things available to purchase. There is also a gallery mode where special moves, cut scenes and replays of online battles can be viewed. The developers really went out of their way to include a variety of content for the Naruto faithful, and it won’t be wasted on those new to the series.
The offline modes are quite vast by themselves, but they’re accompanied by an equally impressive online offering. Ranked or unranked one-on-one battles, 4 player fights and 8 player skirmishes keep the online interesting and varied, with the added feature of being able to save replays to the gallery. Input lag is almost a non-issue and the connections seem quite stable across the board. Beware though, the majority of the players online know what they’re doing; a good grasp of the mechanics are necessary to come out with self-esteem intact.
The game isn’t without faults though. Established fans might feel that the more succinct narrative style fails to explore all the sub-plots and relationships between minor characters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Ninja Storm 2 may have tried to include too much and felt overwhelming at times. In all departments the game is better than average, although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there isn’t any one feature that can significantly detract from the overall package. Generations has quite a lot to offer, and will dispel any assumptions that Naruto is just another immature anime with a story walking in the shadow of its epic fights.