Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy Review

Fighting games can be a challenge for people who consider themselves on the outside of the genre’s fan base. You can see why some might wonder about certain people’s decisions to learn endless streams of combos and fighting styles and master overly complex fighting systems just to win at a video game. Luckily, there exist games out there whose combat systems have an underlying level of simplicity, which means that both average gamers and super hardcore combat experts can get enjoyment out of them. The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series consists of games that easily fall into that category.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy is a bundle which includes all four Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm games in one neat little package, and it’s not to be confused with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy, another bundle being released at the same time which includes only the first three games in the series. Confusing? Naaaaah…maybe a bit.

Once again, we’re going to split the four games in the package into separate review sections and then tie it all together with an overall conclusion of the thing as whole. Let’s get started!

 

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm

The first game in the Ultimate Ninja series to have the ‘Storm’ suffix, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is the basis for everything that came after it. It follows the story of the first section of the Naruto anime, and you play as Naruto and his friends as you smash and destroy your way through 5 different arcs taken almost directly from the TV series.

Unlike the previous games in the series, during a battle you inhabit a fully 3D explorable arena, as opposed to a few 2D lanes to switch between. This opens up the fights and changes the dynamics from the classic ‘tournament fighter’ style of such games as Mortal Kombat or Tekken.

The actual combat commands are very simple, and they’re very easy for new players to pick up. You have a single button for throwing weapons, one for punches, one for charging energy (or chakra) and one for jumps or dashes. Different combinations of these buttons perform different abilities, and mainly these combos rely on you pressing the chakra button followed by another button to perform a more powerful version of that button’s action. This allows for certain actions like a longer range dash, a more powerful ranged attack or one of your ‘jutsu’, or ninja, techniques.

You can also block opponents’ attacks for a limited amount of time; as they attack you while you guard, the colour of your aura changes from white to red and eventually breaks, leaving you open to further attacks. If you attack while blocking, you perform a grab and throw attack, and if you block just as you’re being attacked, you perform a substitution and appear behind your opponent to attack them from behind. The timing on the substitution is very precise and requires you to get down your button presses to the split second.

As well as your normal combos and special attacks, you have an ultimate jutsu, which is basically a huge finishing combo which does an insane amount of damage. To do this, you simply build up enough energy then double tap the chakra button and press the attack button. You’re then put into a battle of button prompts with your opponent until one of you comes out on top. If you press the right buttons fast enough, you will unleash a huge attack on your opponent, but if your opponent was faster than you, then they will end up avoiding the attack and take no damage.

The last part of the battle system on the game’s menu is awakening mode. This mode is achievable when you have taken enough damage and then overcharge your energy until you’ve gone over the normal limit. The amount of health you have to lose before you can awaken varies depending on how strong your awakened mode is, meaning that you have to get very close to death to activate an awakening mode which makes you overpowered, giving your opponent more of a chance of winning. In awakening mode you have a stronger version of your different jutsus, and you also do more damage in general with your normal attacks.

As was stated earlier, the combat system in this game is pretty easy to wrap your head around, meaning that after about an hour of playtime, most gamers will be able to get a handle on the combat well enough that they can play reliably with their friends. Having said that, there are a few elements that give massive advantages to certain types of gamers.

While at first the ability to dodge an ultimate jutsu by tapping buttons fast enough feels like it should even out the playing field a little, it simply means that people who can input instructions quickly and reliably are never likely to get hit. It’s difficult to get caught out by a single mistake when it’s so easy to recover and overwhelm your opponent with exceedingly fast input.

Similarly, the substitution system is hard to use, but once mastered, people who can do it are always going to triumph over people who can’t. While this is pretty par for the course for fighting games, it doesn’t help the game stand out.

The game has two main modes: free battle, the place to go for random fights and 2-player modes, and the other mode is ultimate adventure mode, basically the storyline. Throughout the course of the storyline, you explore the central hub of the Hidden Leaf Village and complete various missions of different difficulties.

Not all of the missions included in the story mode are simple fights with other ninja. A lot of the missions include things like racing other people, jumping through the forest or running up giant trees. You also have to play hide-and-seek with 3 small children in the village, and there are other missions which involve you using your movement abilities in different ways.

The variety in the gameplay is pretty good considering what usually happens with the story mode in fighting games. Instead of having a string of one-on-one fights loosely connected by cutscenes, you have an explorable hub area with some exclusive abilities which help you get around or bust down barriers to new areas. Having this area to break up the gameplay gives the game a much more lasting impression compared to many of its contemporary peers.

This overworld also has several shops that allow you to buy items to use in battle and new abilities for your support characters, as well as collectable items like music and dioramas. These collectable elements don’t really offer you anything other than something nice to look at or listen to, but they’re a nice inclusion nonetheless.

Overall, the first game in the series has a lot to offer, even if the games that came after it refined the formula to perfection; however, none of them ever managed to recapture the overall magic of the overworld presented in this title.

 

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Moving on to Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, is it easy to see that while things have changed from the first game, there are also a lot of common elements. The basic combat remains unchanged, all the buttons and actions are the same, and you still have ultimate jutsus and awakening modes.

The story in this game starts where the last game left off, 2 years after Naruto left his village to go and train with his new master. Now 2 years older and considerably stronger than before, Naruto has returned to help his village and find his wayward friend, Sasuke, before he gets himself killed for being an emo git.

The first thing players will probably notice is that the story mode has seen a major change to its mechanics. You no longer freely explore a hub area between missions in a fully explorable 3D environment. Instead, the game functions more like a JRPG, having pre-rendered backgrounds and a fixed perspective.

The trade-off for this loss of movement freedom is an increase in the size of the explorable area and the amount of detail given to the actual environments. Firstly, the Hidden Leaf Village feels a lot bigger and varied than it used to previously, and on top of that, you can actually leave the village and explore more of the surrounding areas, including the Hidden Sand Village and the desert in between the two villages. While this does mean the gameplay loses some variety, it also means that the world feels bigger and much more alive.

Some of the biggest combat changes are differences with your support characters. In the previous games, your assigned supporters could quickly drop in to perform a helpful attack, as well as be called on to either save you from an enemy’s combo or to extend your own combos.

In this new game, the supporters have variety of different actions. As you summon them repeatedly in battle, their ‘support drive’ level goes up and they get an increased suite of features depending on a few factors. As you play through the game, you unlock different support styles for each character: attack support, defence support or balanced support.

At level 1, attack supporters will help you out during your combo attacks, defence supporters will guard you while you charge your chakra, and balanced supporters will help block incoming ultimate attacks and throw weapons along with you. At level 2, you can perform a team ultimate jutsu by triple tapping chakra then attacking, doing a devastating amount of damage to your opponent.

Fortunately, the need to perform rapid button combos when doing an ultimate jutsu is no longer present, so it means that you need to actually avoid the ultimate jutsu performed by your opponent in the first place. Having said that, the strange timing for substitutions remains, so there is still a pretty wide gap between hardcore players and normal gamers.

Overall, the second game expanded on the success of the first one, making a lot of changes that would improve the series and a few that may have seemed strange to fans of the previous title. However, the increased number of characters and battlefields gave fans of the TV series a lot more to enjoy.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 – Full Burst

Arguably, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is when the series hit its full stride. An increase in the amount of playable characters and fighting arenas, as well as some areas becoming more interactive, makes the game feel much more polished.

Story-wise, we once again pick up where the last game left off, with one major difference. The story picks up with the different leaders from each country meeting to discuss what can be done about the recent terrorist attacks, but the ending is a non-canon one written specifically for this game. The reason for this is that the ending of the game’s final event hadn’t actually taken place in the TV series yet, so the game makers had no idea what was supposed to happen next.

The major change to the gameplay which helps improve things is a change to the substitution system. It no longer relies on split second timing, instead it can be performed any time by tapping the substitution button. This might sound like it’s too easy, but there is a caveat to the ability to substitute any time you’re caught in a jutsu or combo, and that is the fact that you only have a limited number of substitutions before you have to just take the beating. This means that the fighting becomes much more about learning when is a good time to use a substitution and how to capitalise on the advantage that substitution gives you, instead of just learning how to do it in the first place.

Other than that, there have been some minor changes to the support characters in that they can actually take damage themselves, and if badly damaged enough, they will become unusable for the rest of the battle.

The story mode is very similar to the previous game’s, similar to classic JRPG titles with pre-rendered backgrounds instead of fully explorable environments. Once again, this does mean that a higher level of artistic quality and detail can be achieved, but it loses something from the gameplay side of things.

There is a new type of battle available, however, known as a mob battle. These basically just consist of a fight against many other weaker opponents with your one strong player character. These fights are interesting enough but don’t add or subtract much from the game.

 

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 – Road to Boruto

So we have approached the final entry in the bundle, and coincidentally, the time when the name started to get far too long for its own good. The reason for the added subtitle is because the edition available in this collection includes special content that concerns ‘Boruto: Naruto the Movie’, a movie set after the ending of the main series about Naruto’s son.

The story mode is a little swapped around here. Instead of a main adventure mode which follows the events of the series, the adventure mode here actually takes place at the end of the storyline. The game even warns you to select the main story first to make sure you don’t get any spoilers from the adventure mode. The main story in this case goes back to the genre mainstay of a series of unconnected fights with cutscenes in between.

When you do get around to the adventure mode, you’ll find it much the same as it was in the last two titles. It consists of a wide open world to explore while taking on a variety of missions usually flashing back to other important points in the series.

The ‘Road to Boruto’ DLC consists of a secondary story mode which details the events that take place in the movie. This story mode follows the adventure mode style rather than a string of battles and is better off for it. It is interesting to battle with some of the new characters, and seeing some of the older favourites come back as adults is a strange trip for series fans.

There has been a really interesting change to the main gameplay in that you can now swap between your support characters, giving you access to the move sets of up to 3 playable characters. When you swap between these characters, you share a chakra meter, meaning you can charge with your main character then quickly swap to perform a different ultimate jutsu. The drawback here is that you also share a health bar, meaning that even if you take a beating as one character, you can’t swap out for someone with a still full health bar.

It is also possible to damage armour, weapons and clothing depending on the type of damage you’re dealing. It’s not clear whether this actually changed anything mechanically, like decreasing attack or defence, but it certainly is a nice feature visually and is a first for the series as a whole.

 

Overall Review

As a complete package, there are many reasons to buy this release of the series. Firstly, it’s a great opportunity to own all of the games (well, most of them) in a single package, and you’ll be able to follow the entire story of the anime series from beginning to end in a game series which has an amazingly simple and addictive fighting system. Secondly, these versions of the games are nothing short of definitive. The first three have had their graphics revamped, and they’re all upscaled to 1080p for a smoothness that just wasn’t around for the earlier versions of these titles.

In short, you will not find a better looking, better sounding version of any of these games anywhere. Add to this the fact that they include pretty much every added piece of DLC that was ever made available for the games and you’ve got yourself a killer game collection for both Naruto and fighting game fans.

Developer: CyberConnect2

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Release Date: 25th August 2017

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