I’ll admit that I’m a fan of the Naruto series. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t, but I’ve followed the manga faithfully for several years; reading each new chapter as it comes out. In fact, I probably know enough about the series that were I not the fit, cynical, well adjusted individual with good hygiene that I am, I’d probably be classified as falling prey to what one of my ever eloquent colleagues describes as “that weeaboo bullshit.” Yes, I’m aware that’s an unfair stereotype.
No I don’t care. If you don’t believe that stereotype has a basis in fact, then you’ve never been to an anime convention. That said, I really didn’t like the story mode for Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. And considering how the story mode is such a key component of the Ultimate Ninja series, that’s a pretty big blow against this game.
The story mode or “Ultimate Adventure” – which seems like hubris now – starts with a brief flashback of the Nine Tailed Demon Fox’s attack on Konoha Village, before then covering the events from the Five Kage Summit all the way to the Fourth Great Ninja War. Incidentally, if the above terms mean nothing to you, I’d suggest you either steer clear of the game, or play UNS Generations to recap. There is a lot of stuff going on, a great deal of history will be thrown at you and if you have no idea what the hell is going on, you’re unlikely to get anything out of it. It’s an accurate distillation of the events of the anime/manga, but the pacing! Oh lord the pacing. This is my primary qualm with the game. The mode consists of brief tidbits of gameplay amongst a sea of cutscenes.
I’m not joking. Running through the main plot takes about ten hours and a majority of that is non-playable. Therein lies my problem really. The pace is tedious in the extreme and what I share in common with people who don’t know a ninjutsu from a bloodline limit, is the fact that I got nothing out it. I already know all this stuff and being spoon fed it at an incredibly slow pace was more torturous than nostalgic. If anything, me being such a fan of Naruto actually harmed my enjoyment of the game. And really, multiple lengthy cutscenes broken up by 30 seconds of walking down a pathway? What is this, Metal Gear Solid 2? Why bother giving me the illusion of control at all? Completing the plot will unlock the open world and multiple side quests, but most of it feels like pointless busy work and endless backtracking. It doesn’t help that for an awesome ninja, you lack the ability to move at a decent pace. Still it’s not all bad. The epic boss battles of UNS1 and 2 make a reappearance, even if there could have been more. Honestly, Sasuke vs Danzo should have been a boss battle in this game.
The gameplay is largely unchanged from previous games, with the same focus on style over substance. One button to combo, items to use, substitutions to get out of trouble and some really flashy attacks. There are a number of new additions though. Team members now have health bars and if sufficiently damaged, are rendered useless for the rest of the fight. There are now ring outs in the game, although they’re not particularly easy to pull off. Awakening – the power boost that characters can access when sufficiently damaged – has now been split into two different types, with most characters operating the same way as before, but specific characters being able to activate their awakened form at any time at the cost of continuously draining chakra.
The story mode also has “mob battle” sections where you’re pitted in battle against multiple opponents. These are even less fun than Dynasty Warriors and are hopefully a gameplay feature that won’t be kept in future instalments. Little else has changed with the core gameplay and while it’s quite a sight to see and very entertaining at first, it soon loses its novelty. Apart from the Story mode, there’s also quick battle and online modes, although given how laggy the latter can be and the inherent lack of balance amongst the roster, it might be a frustrating experience.
- Reviewed On