It has been a long time since I watched/read Naruto. Lately, I’ve been feeling a strong urge to go back and experience it again. But I don’t want to spend the necessary cash to buy the complete manga series (I’m poor, leave me alone), and I’ll be fucked if I’m going to dig through the 60/40 ratio of filler crap to watch the show again. Luckily, I’ve had a great alternative sitting in my Steam library for a long time now!
Thus, my quest began! I’ll be reviewing all four Ultimate Ninja Storm games, one by one, week by week. When all four of them are done, I’ll decide which one best retold their sections of the story, which was the most fun to play, and whether or not they’re worth playing, or you should just read the manga.
Because I will never in my life tell someone to watch any of the Naruto anime.
Today, we’ll be talking about the first game in the series, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. So how is it? Well… it’s rough. While it does have several great ideas, they are all half baked and roughly executed. As a retelling of the first major chunk of Naruto, this one is great at times, and poor at others.
Story: Zabuza Who?
Did you enjoy the arc with Zabuza and Haku? I don’t blame you! It’s an incredibly solid story with some great characters! In my opinion, it’s one of the strongest story arcs in early Naruto, as well as the series as a whole!
Shame the game skips it over entirely.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is rough in the story department. The first major chunk is just Team 7 training and doing nothing (where’s my boy with the big sword?!) before the Chunin exams start. From there, it covers the story up to the Rescue Sasuke arc. Unfortunately, the story isn’t retold super well.
Each arc is divided into several missions, in which you participate in one of the fights, or go through a pursuit (which we’ll get to in the gameplay segment). When you enter a mission, you get a block of text telling you what’s happening from Naruto’s perspective. Then, at the end of the arc, you get some very gorgeous cinematic cutscenes, which put the games nigh flawless visuals on display! They capture the magic that made the scenes they recreate so good in the first place.
Unfortunately, they only have real impact if you’re already familiar with it! They remove all the scenes that build up to them, which have their own gravity and emotion! Rather than experiencing a story, you have to read poorly written essays from the protagonist, and then you get to be part of the story right at the end!
Worse yet, the story doesn’t flow together at all! After you beat a mission, you’re sent right back to the open world! Then, if you don’t have enough Mission XP, guess what? You can’t go to the next mission and keep going! You need to do pointless filler side quests and earn the right to move on!
HOW DID YOU CRAM THE STORY FULL OF MORE FILLER THAN THE ANIME ALREADY HAD?!
Visuals: The Best 3D Anime Visuals of All Time
Or at least they would be, had Fighterz not come out last year. Or the later games in the series. But it’s still strong as hell!
The art style of this game is absolutely incredible! Each area and character are beautifully rendered, as if they were ripped straight out of the manga and anime! Granted, certain camera angles don’t make them look so hot. But they certainly look better most times than not.
This is especially so for the Ultimate Jutsu abilities. These are when the combat goes full cinematic, featuring some of the strongest, hypest, and funniest animations in the whole game! Here, the character’s personality and abilities are put on full display! They are absolutely delightful!
Even if they are sometimes a pain in the ass to pull off.
Gameplay: Oh Shit, There are Kaiju Fights?!
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is a simple 3D fighting game. It is pretty easy to pick up, and pretty fun to play once you’ve got the hang of it. Sadly, it is bogged down by shallow mini-games, a lackluster open world, and pathetic side quests. Unfortunately, the game is often more painful to play than it is fun.
The combat is really simple. Each character can charge their Chakra to bolster their attacks, dash around, throw shuriken, and chain combos with the right-most button. Each character is armed with one Jutsu, one Ultimate Jutsu, which sparks open a button timing mini-game between the players on contact to see if it hits, and four consumable items on the d-pad to help them out.
Sounds fun, right? Well, it is! It is a simple and satisfying combat system! But then you have the other gameplay systems. Including:
- Hide and Seek with Konohamaru and friends
- Tree Climbing Racing (shitty Mario Kart)
- Racing through the forest
- Kaiju boss fights, featuring Quick Time Events
All of these breaks in the gameplay are lackluster at best. They’re decently fun upon the first time playing them. But then you need to play them over and over again. It stops being fun, and it becomes a slog. One that you need to go through in order to get back to the fun.
That is a complaint I should never have to write while reviewing a game.
Out of all four of those, the Kaiju boss fights are the strongest. Sure, they boil down to ‘dodge attacks, throw shuriken, and wait for the monster to become vulnerable’. But the QTE segments are cinematic and fun to watch! They feel like prototypes to the QTE segments we’d get in the later games in the series.
Sadly, we’re not talking about those today.
And then there’s the open world. Jesus Christ, I hate this shit! In this open world, the Leaf Village, you run around, break shit, grab scrolls and other currency, then buy collectibles. You talk to side characters to get side quests, then go run around the village some more. Unfortunately, all the scrolls spawn in the same place, all the side quests are just more crap mini-games, and simply running around the village is simply too repetitive and boring.
All in all, there is a good game in here! Unfortunately, it’s buried beneath layers and layers of mediocre crap! It can be fun to play at times. But most of it is simply too annoying, repetitive and boring to play.
If you want to relive the first, and best, major story arcs of Naruto, this game is not the right pick. The story is presented really poorly, and the gameplay is bogged down by the unnecessary elements that fill up the time between the fun part: the combat. It’s a good first step in the right direction. But sadly, it is a misstep nonetheless.
But hey! At least they didn’t step off the cliff.
I can’t say I’d recommend Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. If you want to relive the first few arcs of Naruto, just go read the manga. If you want to play a fun 3D fighting game, just play the later games in the series. There is no real reason to go back and play this one.
The best reason I can think of is to see all the Ultimate Jutsus. But guess what? You can just look those up online if you really want to see them.