Last year had a certain surprise in store for me. A certain long-standing manga series that I’d devoted one long summer to reading was to get another big-budget game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Though the orange-clad Ninja had starred in dozens of games already, this was the first time I’d have both the opportunity and the willingness to brave a genre that often never quite lives up to the original content. Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 happily proved me wrong – at least somewhat – so I came into the sequel to the game – Revolution – expect well… a revolution.
Now, for those who don’t know, Naruto is a decade old shonen manga/anime series that has since become one of the, if not the, most recognisable Japanese series of its kind worldwide. Telling a long tale about a bullied boy’s struggle to find his place in a world built on war and combat, Naruto overcomes a lot of internal struggles to aid a place that was nothing but cruel to him growing up. There’s lots of fighting, and there’s lots of feelings. A constant balance of the two are what has kept the series running strong for so long. And the last game pulled all the right notes to keep that momentum flowing.
Rather than the 10+ adventure mode included in UNS3. The mode that had you fighting near-impossible battles through the the later-half of the Shippuden story. Instead, we get a an hour’s worth of “Ninja Escapades”. 2 tiny chapters of anime sequences with a few battles inbetween and a third and final anime short disguising itself as one last fraction of the adventure mode I expected to find when booting up the game.
The best part of the last game was the fact that whether or not you see yourself as a fan of fighting games, you could go straight into the story and find a fairly simple beat em’ up system joined onto a small, but effecting excuse to immerse yourself in the colourful world of Masashi Kishimoto’s ninja universe. You don’t get that here. Not to that same degree, anyway.
Just like all the times before, battles within the Ultimate Ninja series are conducted in a 3D space. Making use of simple B button combos, grabs, substitutions and items you chip away at your opponent’s health while finding the perfect time to build up, trigger and release special Chakra powered jutsu and tricks.
In all honestly, it feels a little like how Ryu Hayabusa would play Dead or Alive if they didn’t have to tone him down for the rest of the crew. It’s a system that, while fairly simple, keeps things interesting with its pacing and amount of character’s available. It doesn’t take a professional to figure it out, but it feels just as rewarding to pull off.
Thankfully, not much has changed with this version of the game other than the removal of combo cancellations. A move that will hurt those who see themselves as ‘professionals’ in the field, but it’s another step to keeping the game accessible to the core Naruto fanbase. Other than that, you’ll notice the main segment of the game asks you to switch three play-styles upon entering an online fight – the ability to use Ultimate Jutsu, ‘Support Characters’ and ‘Awakening’ boils down to selecting a single style and cancelling out the rest.
Once you’re done with the Ninja Escapades, now’s about the right time to delve into the Ninja World Tournament. A self-explanatory mode that while does offer hints of exploration and character interaction, it’s merely a small hub of menial sidequests to blow some time between rounds of 4-on-4 battles with and against a roster of your choosing.
You’ll pick your main character and then stroll the island to recruit familiar faces into your squad through the D to S rank tournament. Rather than straight up deathmatches, however, you’ll be fighting against 3 others in a free-for-all battle to reap ‘orbs’ from the other fighters. Reduce their orbs to 0 and give them one final punch to knock them out of the round. Accumulate the most before the timer ends and you’ll move up the ranks. It’s a quick-fire method of getting straight into the action, but it’s still a far cry from the adventure mode of the last game.
Overall, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is by no means a worthy follow-up to last year’s release. The full-price game feels like a small fraction of its predecessor was stripped back and sold with a few more anime sequences thrown in for good measure. The two worthy ‘Ninja Escapades’ could have easily sufficed as substitutions to the missing Adventure Mode should they have just been expanded on a little, but it seems all the time and effort was dumped into the simplistic tournament mode with some extra bells and whistles. Don’t go into this expected to fight world-changing battles.