I really liked the first season of Naruto. Unlike the only other anime I knew at the time, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto didn’t fall into the trap of making one event span over twenty episodes. The narrative flowed in a natural way, and every action undertaken by the characters revealed something about them. The show also didn’t rely solely on ‘who has more power than who’ to resolve combat scenarios, each character having their own special abilities and aptitudes, the clever use of which deciding who won.
Disappointingly, these tactics haven’t made their way into Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations in any way. While you can take four different items into battle, such as bombs, special shuriken, and things that will boost your strength and diminish your opponents defense and so on, they’re all immediate actions based around reflex rather than strategy, and skill-based strategy was the most alluring thing about the Naruto series.
The combat of Naruto is fairly simple: throw shurikens, perform special moves and mash circle to combo. To avoid your opponents combos, you can either block or do a special ‘replacement’ move to appear behind them. Fortunately, you can only use this replacement technique four times before it has to recharge, meaning you won’t get caught in a constant state of ‘combo, replacement, combo, replacement’ until you decide The Sims looks like a more interesting alternative. While the combos and special moves are awesome looking, they get old quickly, and after you’ve seen the majority of the characters use theirs, there’s no thrill left to be had.
It’s the complete lack of distinction between characters that makes the combat so disappointing. Playing as Gaara, someone whose fighting style revolves around standing in the same spot and using the sand to fight for him, plays no differently from Lee, an over-excited ninja that specialises in martial arts. While I could choose to live out my fantasy being Gaara and fighting like a unmovable bad-arse, doing so was tedious rather than fulfilling.
If there’s one thing I would definitely change about the game it would be the camera, which can get plain frustrating. Sometimes it will focus just behind your opponent so you’re in the background, or position itself in such a way that all you get is a shot of the scenery (just check the video), or even refuse to pan out so you can see everything that’s happening on the battleground at once. Had you not been able to see for tactical reasons, say your opponent has left a trap somewhere, that would have been brilliant, but when you’re trying to call your team-mate in to do an attack, and you have no idea where they’ve gone to, you’re unable to attain the necessary control to truly outwit and outfight your opponent.
The saving grace of NS:UNSG is the story mode, which brings anyone new to the Naruto series up to speed in a fast and fun way. You play as several characters, being introduced and carried out by footage from the anime, and the narration throughout tells you who you’re fighting and why. Due to the length and depth of the Naruto series, there’s a lot they skip in terms of narrative, but what they have included effectively communicates the themes of the series and the souls of the characters within it.
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