I’ve never considered taking on the immensely popular Naruto anime. However, after spending some time with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, I feel compelled to at least give it a try. My interest was sparked by some fantastically tight story telling. For fighting game junkies, however, Generations will likely not impress with its shallow fighting mechanics that lack in complexity and have a low learning curve. Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is the ultimate Naruto fan treat, and is extremely accessible (and welcoming) to franchise newcomers looking to dip their feet in one of the biggest anime fandoms of all time.
The tightly woven narrative of Naruto Generations was the game’s most impressive feat. It managed to take years of detailed anime story and condense it in a way that newcomers are able to catch up, and the series’ fans won’t be bored by recaps of things they already know. Following several paths attributed to the game’s most important characters (such as old Naruto, young Naruto, Sasuke and Kakashi), players are treated to a well-paced collection of cutscenes, images, and exposition that goes over the key aspects of that character’s story. You will fight major fights that character fought in the anime series. All covered by fantastically voice acted narrators from the game’s official Japanese and English voice cast. Naruto just may have one of the most entertaining story modes of any fighting game to date.
In fight graphics are a bit underwhelming in comparison to anime cutscenes. Character models feel slightly dated. Everything else, however, is great on the eyes. Anime cutscenes are beautifully rendered in HD. There is a certain grace when watching your character “float” across the stage as you deliberate your next move.
Naruto is one of the most unique fighters in terms of style. It is 3D, much like the Tekken series, but instead of being locked in place and sidestepping, characters are free to roam around as the camera flies about catching all the action. This is both refreshing and sometimes annoying. The camera does not always follow the player around and will sometimes put itself behind the opponent, making it hard to see what you are doing.
The fights themselves leave a bit to be desired, but are still fun nonetheless. The major complaint being that Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations has little to no learning curve, and leaves little room to perfect the game’s shallow fighting mechanics. You mash one button to combo, with predetermined animations that seem to be longer or shorter completely randomly. You can throw ninja stars, but those are more or less useless. The deepest aspect of any given fight is keeping an eye on your dodge meter and chakra meter. You are allotted 4 dodges (or substitute jutsu) which allow you to escape hairy situations and counter attack. The chakra meter allows you to charge up and pull off special moves such as Naruto’s Rasengan, or perform ultimate jutsus. When your character is at 25% or lower, holding the chakra button will transform the character into their unique “awakening” form. In this form, they will have a pretty decent chance of pulling a comeback. The awakening mode is hardly practical (or even necessary in the single player), though. Well timed combos and patience is key in matches that can last much longer than any standard fighting game.
Despite being shallow, it never ceases to be enjoyable. With a ridiculously huge roster, reaching towards 70+ characters, there is never a shortage of new things to try. Some characters are just move-set swaps of others, but it is still exhilarating to see so many options. This does go unnoticed by the fact that fundamentally most characters are very similar.
Online mode is a great time in Naruto. Especially with tournament modes you can set up with friends or strangers. There are endless possibilities for active and support combinations, making Generations a very tailor-able game.
Offline, Naruto still has more than enough to keep anyone busy. Playing survival modes, free battling, and spending your hard-earned “Kyo” in the in-game shop are just some of the things that one can do. Beating story mode unlocks tons of extras, such as videos, changeable substitution jutsus, player avatars, and more. Though this material will cater more to the Naruto fans themselves.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is one of the most comfortable anime to video game adaptations I’ve ever seen. Even without being a fan of the series, I was drawn in by the powerful narrative and addictive gameplay. As a fighting game, however, it is lacking in-depth. More hardcore fighting game fans would be more at home with the recently released Street Fighter x Tekken. Naruto caters to the more laidback fighting game group, those who want something completely different, and of course Naruto fans. There is just so much here for Naruto fans that I can’t help but recommend it. I just hope they do something like this with some of MY favorite anime.