With 523 episodes, 63 volumes of manga, 48 videogames, a spin-off series, and a ton of merchandise currently released, itâ€™d be amazing if you hadnâ€™t heard of Naruto.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (UNS3) is possibly the most in-depth fan service the series has ever received. CyberConnect2 are no strangers to the franchise, having released 13 of the aforementioned games, and their expertise and dedication continues to show through. As Ultimate Ninja Storm fans have come to expect, the game has the full cast of both the Japanese and English versions of the show and, with 80+ playable characters, the biggest roster yet.
While the game is a fighter at heart, Adventure mode - the area of the game youâ€™ll be spending the majority of your time in - doesnâ€™t seem to know what kind of game it wants to be. UNS3 wants to tell you everything that has happened since Konoha was destroyed and it does so in amazing detail. The story in UNS3 even manages to push past where the anime is up to, and will spoil some future events for fans of the series - but at least itâ€™ll be spoiling them in style.
Fights play out, for the most part, in a similar way to those seen in the previous iterations of the UNS series. Two buttons for attacks (strikes and kunai), two for defence (blocks and substitutions), and a button to enhance your attacks. While the fighting isnâ€™t overly complicated, itâ€™s frantic and a sight to see.
Thereâ€™s a new addition to the fighting that only appears in the story mode which allows you to take on a group of enemies at once. This transforms what might have been replaced with a cutscene with something more akin to the fighting sections of Asuraâ€™s Wrath. Theyâ€™re a welcome addition that should have been utilised a little more.
As always, the graphical attention to detail is second to none, making even the best Naruto episode look amateur; when UNS3 is at its best, itâ€™s amazing. Itâ€™s commendable to see a studio put in so much effort to ensure that every special move for every character looks just right. Attention to detail doesnâ€™t stop there, either, as even the important conversations held in the show are redelivered almost word for word with very few stones left unturned. For some, that may be a little too much.
For the first time youâ€™ll be watching more than youâ€™ll be playing; itâ€™s saying something when there are more variations of a cutscene than there are of gameplay. In fact, there are moments in UNS3 where your controller will turn off while you sit and watch an episodeâ€™s length of story unravel before your eyes.
For those who arenâ€™t up to date on the series, or who have stopped due to the amount of filler being thrown around, these cutscenes will be painless to sit through and, for the most part, are presented in a much prettier way. However, considering the game is retelling a story most fans have just experienced in the anime, they may seem a little too much. For those who arenâ€™t fans of cutscenes in their games, you may just wanna sit out this game entirely. The intensity of the storytelling doesnâ€™t let up for the 14 hours of game time, and it can be frustrating to have 60 - 90 seconds of gameplay before another 10 minutes of cutscenes.
With the previous UNS titles, youâ€™d pick up side-quests along the way, giving you some reprieve from the intensity of the story. Without these, in place CyberConnect2 have watered down some fights that should have been given a grand stage, and cutscenes are just something that happens instead of a reward for a job well done. For those in the know, itâ€™s disheartening to see Sasukeâ€™s fight with Danzo being nothing more than a single round, 60 - 90 second fight.
Itâ€™s strange to see, despite the amount of love and dedication that went into replicating the emotional and even political conversations from the franchise, that some of the major fights didnâ€™t get the same level of attention. Every fight you come across in the main story is deserving of the attention to detail the â€śbossâ€ť fights get, and in a larger game this would have happened. This game deserves to be an epic 80 hour game with the cutscenes and important large-scale fights as payoff for sidequesting and bettering yourself at combat.
However, with the 4th Ninja War playing a giant part of this game, thereâ€™s no time for side quests until after youâ€™ve finished the main story. It feels strange to finally have free-roam control after 14 hours of gameplay, and thereâ€™s not much incentive to follow through to completion unless youâ€™re achievement hunting. Thereâ€™s one extra story-based side mission to unlock by doing one of the side-quests, but itâ€™s nothing major and doesnâ€™t contain anything more than a glimpse into what another character is up to.
With a singleplayer mode that, including post-game side quests, will take 20+ hours, as well as on- and offline multiplayer options, fans of the series are going to find it hard to remove this game from their console of anytime soon. While the fight mechanics arenâ€™t Tekken or Dead or Alive levels of complicated, thereâ€™s enough going on in there to ensure you find your own style and strategy.
Itâ€™s hard to really pinpoint whoâ€™ll get the most of this game. Will it be the person who has dedicated themselves to the 500+ episodes of the show? A reader of the manga who has never seen the series in motion? Or possibly someone who picked up the first UNS title and fell in love with a franchise (s)he had never seen or heard of before?
Sadly, whoever picks this up will find something to dislike, from an over-reliance on cutscenes to watered down fights, or the fact that smaller details are only found in the anime. What we have here is a title that is trying to be the best Naruto game ever made, but is held back due to not knowing what kind of game it wants to be; this is made even more frustrating by the fact that it comes so close.