Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is here and if you have no idea who Naruto is, or if the words rasengan, tailed-beasts, Rinnegan and Tsukuyomi mean nothing to you, this game is probably not for you.
A story told through the ages
Ultimate 4’s story mode, the meat and potatoes of the game, follows the events of the Fourth Shinobi World War. A lot of your time is spent watching the story unfold, with full voice overs and a score. Sadly most of the video for talking sections is made up of still-frame cut scenes, but for the action based sections, fully animated sequences dominate the screen. Sometimes the game will switch to the in-engine graphics and you will help the action along with QTEs. Enter in several prompts correctly and you will see the stunning conclusion of your attack. Its engrossing, but completely unnecessary and I felt that at times the prompts detracted from the amazing, massive attacks happening on screen. However, it did turn normal fights into cinematic boss battles, with combat ending to show off a new attack or something suitably overpowered finishing off the combat, instead of a lame jab or weak shuriken attack finally defeating the boss.
CyberConnect2 went all out here, making for some massive levels and increasing the scale to handle the massive spectacle. With the likes of the Ten-Tails and its near planet shattering power in the game, things have really ramped up. The camera zooms out to show explosions that dwarf mountains, with some fight modes showing off destructible terrain as you unleash ultimate attacks on your foes. There are even a few levels where you leave the normal 3D arena, flying inside a Susano’o taking on something just as giant and powerful.
The detail isn’t all about grandiose scale though. Outfits continue to burn after being caught in fire attacks and enough damage will cause them to eventually break off completely. This isn’t just purely cosmetic either: broken weapons are discarded and lost armour drops defense for the rest of the fight. The action is fast-paced and newcomers will find everything rather bewildering in this 3D arena fighter. A large emphasis is put on speed, with lightning fast attacks, counters, substitutions and blocks making room for slow but incredibly powerful attacks.
In team fights you can either call in a friend to support you with a special attack, or switch to one of them if you need someone else’s moves to deal with a foe. This doesn’t change the health pool that you have, making the change more about using a fighter you are comfortable with, or moving to as fast fighter when up against a ranged menace. With over 60 fighters in the roster, the similarity in combo strings is a huge benefit. Imagine learning all the moves for that size roster?
Speaking about the roster, there are many characters locked at the beginning of the game, waiting to be unlocked in the story or in adventure mode. If you enjoy the old days where you could unlock characters, outfits and the like, there is a lot to be done here.
This is my ninja way!
Once you are done with the story, Adventure mode takes a much more relaxed pace. Run around Hidden Leaf doing quests for friends and have a few fights along the way, and explore further afield on a mission to drop off a letter. It adds a few extra hours of fun and you get to choose who fights all the time, meaning you can play with characters you want to, instead of being Naruto all the time. (Yes he is the main character, but the others need some love too!)
The move to a new generation of console has allowed a lot of room for growth, which has been taken advantage of. While the character models are mostly rather simple, the use of shaders and improved ninjutsu effects are readily apparent. This is a really good looking game and even when everything is getting crazy with explosions everywhere, the engine handles it without stuttering.
Solid voice acting, as well as being fully voiced in English and Japanese is sure to please fans of both subs and dubs and after watching the show in Japanese, I was really impressed with the calibre of voice actors. I still love watching in Japanese though!
When all the singleplayer content is done, it’s time to take the game online for some multiplayer action. At which point you will realise just how bad you are at the game compared to the fans.
Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 had moments where it made me want to shed a tear. Naruto’s journey is moving, his ability to forgive and to love others despite all the pain they cause him is his most powerful talent. By the time I finished the story mode of the game, I was back to watching the anime, something I haven’t done in years. If that isn’t an indication of how good this game is as homage to Naruto, I’m not sure what else to say. This is the ultimate love letter and fans should not skip this title.