The Naruto series of anime and the video games based on them can be described as ones which have a certain appeal – if you don’t ‘get’ one, then you’re pretty unlikely to be pulled in by the other. This is no more evident than in the latest Naruto video game: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. The title alone is perhaps daunting and befuddling enough to those grappling to understand the Naruto universe. In the end though, Generations is still a fighting game, and the story of a fighting game is by far one of its least important aspects. And Generations does have a lot going for it as a fighting game: polished mechanics, a super-slick presentation and loads upon loads upon loads of characters, but fans of the series will enjoy it a lot more than anyone else.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations will see players experience both storylines from the main series and some entirely new happenings. It’s not at all surprising that this double aspect is present, as duality proves to be a big theme of the game. A selection of playable characters come in both youthful and older forms (because it’s Generations, geddit?), and thus exhibit changes in terms of appearance, fighting style and character development across the series. A bit of a problem for newer fans, however, will be the feeling that you seem to start stories right in the middle of developments. There’s nothing that really helps you ground yourself in the world of Naruto, so some may get a feeling of continuity lockout. But again, it must be stressed that people should remember that they’re playing a fighting game based on the anime and not necessarily viewing the fighting anime proper.
While you’ll encounter several characters to duke it out against across the various storylines, the real character explosion is in the exhibition mode. There are loads and loads of characters – in excess of seventy, though again it should be noted that some are doubles given the old/young dynamic in the story mode. Controlling all of these warriors tearing into one another is a different matter, and there’s a definite learning curve involved. The controls themselves are responsive, married with some great hit detection, but pulling off moves can be a different matter. No button seems to have been spared in order to get the most variety of moves. The face buttons will pull off some simple punches and kicks, but more powerful versions will require some greater fingering skill, as you’ll be required to combine these with other buttons.
If you can master the controls though, you’ll be pleased to find out that there’s a new way of fighting known as ‘Beast Mode.’ When your character is low on health and on the verge of being defeated, they will undergo a physical transformation and be able to pull off some more dangerous attacks as a last resort. It can really make or break a fight, but by no means grants invincibility or makes you less susceptible to enemy attack. Given the fast-paced nature of the game, it’s possible that your fighter will hit the ground before they even have a chance to power up. Or, on the flipside, you newly-powered up character can unleash torrents of abuse and win the match. It all comes down to how fast your own reflexes are, and is a firm but fair alternate mode system.
After your story mode fights, you will be given a grade and unlock cards which can ascribe to you new abilities to take the upper hand in fights, as well as other content to be accessed outside of the main game. While the items that are unlocked can be useful, the way the game displays them isn’t very slick. The game will flash up title cards with each unlocked item and they’re not readily skippable. It can really slow things down, and waiting for every unlocked card to flash up can be really tedious. A more streamlined way of indicating what you’ve unlocked after fights or an easier way of skipping through would have been much appreciated.
The quality presentation of Naturo Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is something that almost everyone can agree on, regardless if they’re a newbie or hardcore fan of the Naruto universe. The title screen eschews conventional menus, opting for a fully animated experience replete with vivid colouring of the anime characters and environments, which are also reflected in the gameplay itself. The graphical standard is very high and accurately takes its visual cues from the anime. The gameplay and menus are buttressed by full cinema sequences which are identical to watching the anime in terms of their visual splendor. Likewise, a full complement of sound effects, music and voice acting is present in Generations, rounding out the presentation quite nicely. It’s not quite as striking as the game’s visuals, but appreciated nonetheless.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a game that fighting fans will be able to enjoy for its fine-tuned controls, solid fighting foundation and super-slick presentation. However, to truly appreciate and get the most out of Generations legion of characters and storyline, it’s nigh-on essential for you to have been a fan of the Naruto universe prior to playing. But if Generations ends up appealing to you without having being previously immersed in Naruto, then you may very well find yourself dipping your toe in its conflict-filled waters.