Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3

August 10, 2013

CyberConnect2 have been producing games based on the highly popular Naruto manga and anime franchise for almost 10 years now, and they’ve made a good name for themselves during that time. Starting out with the successful PlayStation 2 game Naruto: Ultimate Ninja in 2003, their Ultimate Ninja fighting game series has endured over the course of 12 releases so far. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is their fourth release for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and it covers a new part of the Naruto story, which has just been adapted into video game form for the first time. So, what does the latest entry bring to the table?

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 may be a fighting game, but the biggest focus is on its expansive story mode. The story picks up from exactly where Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 left off, right after Sasuke attacks Bee, and some huge events unfold from there. Without going into too much detail, the ninja world ends up in a full scale war, and epic action packed battles are abundant. Players are treated to highly detailed cutscenes as they progress through the story mode, which follow the manga very closely. Compared to the sparse efforts of the previous game, Ninja Storm Generations, this telling of the second half of the Shippuden storyline is a huge improvement. Even those who haven’t read this part of the manga will come away with a good idea of what is going on, which is definitely a good thing, considering that the game covers some very recent events which neither the English dubbed or original Japanese version of the anime has touched on so far. The story mode will take around 15 hours to complete, and it’s a very entertaining ride. There’s group battles (new to the series), one-on-one battles, boss battles, and even a couple of giant scale battles. After the story mode is completed, players are given the option of exploring the ninja world by running around a series of maps. There’s various side quests to take part in, and although it’s a fairly shallow experience, its presence is still appreciated.

Unfortunately, the game tends to get a little too carried away with its story telling. Although it’s good to see this much effort being put into the cutscenes, they can tend to overstay their welcome. They can last for up to 20 minutes, and while they do a great job of telling the story, they will become fairly tiresome. This is especially apparent during some of the quieter moments. Fortunately, if you do feel the need to skip a cutscene that is dragging on too long for your liking, you can do so at any time. The long cutscenes are only part of the game’s apparent need to make you play for long periods of time, however. The story mode’s battles and cutscenes alternate as you go, you’ll watch the story for a while, then get to fight a battle or two, then go back to watching. It’s a rather cinematic experience in this way, but the catch is that opportunities to save are very limited. You have the option to quit the story mode whenever you’re not watching a cutscene, but unless you’ve managed to reach a checkpoint, you’ll lose all of your most recent progress if you do so. As such, you’re basically forced to play the game for at least an hour at a time, since checkpoints are scarce. Unless you skip through the cutscenes, playing the story mode in short bursts is simply not an option. It’s a mystery as to why CyberConnect 2 didn’t allow players to save manually, thus allowing them to have some true control over how long they play the game for, without having to skip scenes. The setup they’ve chosen hurts the game, unfortunately, so you need to know what you’re getting into before you start playing.

Enough with the negatives though, the good news is that the combat is better than ever. The fighting mechanics, well refined over the course of four current-gen games, are tight and responsive. The Ultimate Ninja series has always been about bringing accessible fighting games to the Naruto fanbase, and they do a good job of this. They’re not overly technical, with no long strings of button presses to memorise, and the controls are standardised between characters. For example, a mere two button combo will launch a characters’ signature special attack (called a Jutsu), which will deal a significant amount of damage it if connects with the opponent. However, there are some sightly more complex elements worked in. You can charge some Jutsu, which will change their effect and range depending on how long the button is held.

A new addition in Ninja Storm 3 is that some Jutsus can now be performed while your character is in the air, opening up some new possibilities. Some characters also have access to a new Instant Awakening mode, which allows them to power up and/or transform, at the cost of a large amount of their chakra. In previous games, it was only possible to activate a character’s Awakening after they had lost most of their health, and this change to the feature allows for more strategic use of this temporary boost in power. Hit detection is spot on, and you’ll never feel as though your character failed to hit their opponent due to awkward timing or overly long animations. Battles are at the very core of the game, and they’re a lot of fun.

In addition to the story mode, the game also features a Free Battle mode, and an online mode. These modes are where the fighting really takes the center stage, since they’re all about the action. You can challenge a friend to a series of battles in Free Battle mode, choosing from a huge roster of 80 characters to play as. A few of these are alternate versions of the same character, taken from different parts of the story. Each one has totally different moves though, so they’re not simple clones designed to fill out the roster. Meanwhile, the online mode offers both ranked and unranked battles where players can take on anyone in the world, but there’s a couple of new modes this time around, along with a decent Tournament system. Lag during matches is almost non-existent, as long as you stick with players who have a strong signal. Even at its worst, you can expect a 1-2 second delay in your actions, which isn’t too bad in a relatively casual fighter such as this.

The game’s presentation is top notch, with some great use of colour, fluid animations, and the choice of full voice acting in either English or Japanese for the entire story mode. Character models are highly detailed, instantly recognisable, and look great most of the time. The main exception is seen during certain story mode cutscenes, where there’s a noticeable lack of anti-aliasing, resulting in some unfortunate jaggies. Generally speaking, though, the game is a visual treat. There’s some clever use of post-processing effects during Ninja Storm 3‘s stunning QTE segments, and they really add some extra impact to the action. The various Jutsus make good use of particle effects during battles, and there’s some impressively large and detailed Awakening modes on display.

Overall, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is a strong entry in the Ninja Storm series, and a solid fighter that all Naruto fans will enjoy. All the fan favourite characters are present, the battles do justice to the source material, and everything is beautifully presented. The game would have easily received an 8 from me, but unfortunately, my frustrations with both the pacing and saving system of the story mode soured an otherwise positive experience. As such, I felt that it didn’t quite reach the heights of the excellent Ninja Storm 2. Nevertheless, Ninja Storm 3 is a big improvement over Ninja Storm Generations, and a big step in the right direction for the series. For the Naruto fans, as well as anyone who enjoyed Ninja Storm 2, there’s a really good game here.


Detailed story mode with lots of content | Combat is fun and accessible | Great presentation


Very long cutscenes | Saving in story mode is difficult

Overall Score: