Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Review: A Pretty Good Start

After two years of languishing in ninja-less void, the PlayStation 3 finally gets its very own Naruto game with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm.

The latest in the Ultimate Ninja series from developer CyberConnect2, Ultimate Ninja Storm has been making fans drool with its anime-topping cel-shaded graphics ever since the first screens slipped onto the internet back in April of this year, so good that many internet dwellers called bullshots. Then the trailer came out, and everyone just sat quietly and watched.

Now the waiting and watching is over, and Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm has made its PlayStation 3 debut. We've taken a spin through Hidden Leaf Village to see if the game is as enjoyable to play as it is to look at.

Loved
Living The Anime: As advertised, Ultimate Ninja Storm features some of the best cel-shaded graphics I've ever seen in a video game, at times rivaling the anime itself. Between the graphics, smooth animations, and dynamic camera angles, at times it truly does feel like you're playing the show. Special moves in particular are extremely impressive, making it worth playing each character in fighting mode just to see what they can do.

Kung-Fu Fighting: Combat in the Ultimate Ninja series has always been relatively simplistic, and Storm is no different. While more traditional fighting fans may scoff at having one button for attack, one for jump, and one to throw, it really works for Naruto, allowing for a nice variety of moves without having to memorize huge move lists.

Epic Boss Fights: The scale and splendor of the few giant boss battles in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm almost makes me wish they had created a game consisting solely of these epic encounters. Instead of feeling like fighting game baddies, the enormous monster bosses feel like something out of your better action adventure titles.

Chock Full O' Ninja: While the roster doesn't come close to approaching CyberConnect2's last PS2 Naruto title, the 25 characters and extra support only characters do a fair job at fleshing out the story of Naruto's pre-time jump storyline.

Hated
Real Ninja Don't Load: After a 12 minute, 4GB mandatory install, I wouldn't think a game would still need 10-20 seconds of loading between scenes. It is a lovely loading screen, but if CyberConnect2 really wanted us to look at it this much they should have packed in a print.

Repeating Tree Games: While the three mini-games present in Ultimate Ninja Storm are initially entertaining, repetition soon sets in once you find yourself playing hide and seek, tree climbing, or tree racing for the umpteenth time. Earlier games in the series contained much more variety. Why couldn't this one?

Village Of The Dull: This isn't the best time I've had in Hidden Leaf Village by a long shot. Dull and lifeless NPCs populate the streets, voicelessly sending you on quests to bring them X number of Y, while between mission activities are really limited to collecting scrolls and breaking items to find coins needed to purchase extras. There are even vendors who never sell anything, only placed so that you can sell off extra mission rewards you don't need. It's not enough to simply build the village...you have to give it life as well. Otherwise it just feels like you're running through a model.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm seems to suffer the same problem as many last generation titles do when they make the leap to the current generation of consoles. The developers, just getting used to creating games for the new console, spend so much time on the technical and graphical aspect of things that some of the more entertaining bits get left off. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 for the PlayStation 2, also from CyberConnect2, contained 42 characters, a wide variety of mini-games, and an RPG-style story mode on top of the mission mode. Having completed that game just two months previously, Ultimate Ninja Storm, with its slimmer roster, three mini-games, and two game modes is a bit of a let down.

Still, it's a very lovely game to look at, and highly enjoyable despite being a watered-down version of its PS2 predecessors. It isn't perfect by a long shot, but it definitely hints at good things to come now that CyberConnect2 has gotten the hang of PS3 development.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm has a lot to offer beyond the stunning visuals, though fans of the series will have to deal with a serious drop in content to go along with the pretty new face.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm was developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Namco Bandai, released in North America on Nov. 4 for the PlayStation 3. Retails for $59.99. Played through entire mission mode story arc, completing a majority of the non-required side missions. Played every character at least once in fighting mode.

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