Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (PS4)

NarutoShippudenUNW4_04The story of Naruto Uzumaki, an orphaned adolescent boy longing to be a great and powerful shinobi, came to end two years ago after 15 long years. It’s spawned many games over the years but CyberConnect2’s Ultimate Ninja Storm are arguably the best as they cover the main events of the series and feature some robust fighting gameplay. Despite the number the number on the box Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is in fact the sixth game in the franchise, and the last. So can CyberConnect2 send the series off on a high note?

Like the previous title in the franchise Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 continues Masashi Kishimoto’s story of Naruto Uzumaki, Jinchūriki of the Nine-Tail Fox. As this is the last game in the series the chapters cover the concluding events of the manga. In fact it kicks off with one epic showdown between two of the world’s most powerful shinobi. These opening action-packed fights make for a gripping opening to what is a solid and faithful retelling of the series events. Split into 5 chapters the whole experience will take around 11-15 hours to finish. It sounds rather short on paper but there’s more than enough replayability with a large number of unlockables, and option of going for S class rankings. Obviously if you’re new to Naruto or if you’ve fallen behind on the manga’s 72 volumes or anime’s 400+ episodes, (I started to drop off around the Pain arc conclusion) then you’re obviously going to get lost with the narrative, and generally the lore surrounding the shinobi world.NarutoShippudenUNW4_01

Naruto’s combat is fast and free-flowing with a large bank of mechanics readily supporting it. The story contains three types of battles single versus, team versus, and mob battles, in which you must take on large quantities of weaker units at once. Mobs are the weakest of the group only because, with so many enemies on screen at once, you’ll find drops in frame rate performance. As for the combat systems, firstly theirs the new leader-change system, where by flicking the right analogue stick you’ll switch out your character for that of a second or third shinobi in your party. It’s a fun system to play around with as not only get to try out building your ultimate ninja team, but it’s effective when used for switching mid-combo to create longer attack strings. The source material has always preached about the importance of team work so to actually engage more with this aspect is a nice addition to the game.

At first you may find yourself rushing straight into the fight doling out as much damage as you possibly can, but it’s actually not what this game is all about. The key to victory is more about patience as you sit back and wait for an opening in your opponent’s attacks to launch a counter. Substitution jutsu, essentially teleportation replacing you with a wooden log, supports that as you can quickly move out of harm’s way, or cancel out a mistimed combo at the cost of one pip. Once you’re away you can then come back with special jutsu at the cost of chakra, to deal a considerable amount of damage. The large number of systems available can be hard to wrap your head around, and until you get a handle on it you’ll be mashing every button trying to get something to happen. When it does all click into place though you’ll find the setup fluid, and easily accessible.

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Even after you’ve seen the story through to its epic conclusion, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 still has a hefty selection of additional modes. Adventure offers an original story that takes place after the events of the main scenario. It plays out a lot differently from the main plot as you get to freely explore several ninja villages including the leaf and sand settlements while taking on a fetch quests, finding event conversations, and partaking in several fights. It feels a little rough around the edges but the RPG elements and exploration make for a nice change. Beyond that mode there’s also Standard Versus, Free mode with challenges, tournaments and league battle to complete, plus you can challenge people around the world in Online mode. Taking the fight online can obviously mean you’ll find tougher battles then any you’ll come across in the offline options, and it all works out very well with relatively quick matchmaking.

In just about every mode you obtain a form of currency which can be used in the in-game shop to acquire titles, backgrounds and characters to spruce up your online presence. Completing tasks in story nets you more unique items used to purchase some rarer rewards such as character costumes. This latest game actually features the biggest character roster to date, despite a number of them being a different variation of a single character (Naruto – Sage Mode, Kurama Link Mode, Tailed Beast Bomb, etc.). All of the characters fight very similarly, the only real difference being the visual flourishes each one possesses. It can then feel like fights are repetitive, but it also means you can switch characters easily with little practice needed in between.

The pre-rendered cutscenes look truly fantastic, CyberConnect2 have been doing this for quite some time now and they’ve perfectly managed to capture the style of the show. The PS4 graphics add something extra to it as character models feel more polished and they move smoothly during the action-packed fight scenes. Not everything is animated though and at times we’re left with nothing more than a couple of shots and dialogue ripped straight from the anime. It can make it feel cheap but they do efficiently convey the series events well when there’s not so many large action-less scenes. As someone who’s fallen behind on the plot these scenes helped bring me right back up to date.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 really embraces the style its anime roots. The frantic combat is very enjoyable, despite an initially steep learning curve, and there’s a multitude of modes and scenarios to duke it out in. Combine that that with stunning, flashy action packed scenes and you don’t just get the best looking Naruto game but possibly the best looking Anime style title.

7.8
Positives
+ Faithful retailing of the Naruto Shippudens conclusion
+ Stunning visuals perfectly capture the anime’s style
+ Solid controls make for an enjoyable 3D fighter
Negatives
– Story will lose those new to the series
– Large number of mechanics can be confusing at first.

This review is based off a review code of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment

This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.

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