Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Life and Times of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja

With the ever popular Naruto manga continuing steadily at chapter 597, there have been a number of games to follow suit.  I mean, who doesn't like relaxing and beating up children with old ladies (or beating up the old lady, if that's more your thing...seriously, you can.)  With the great number of video game adaptations, ranging from games for the Nintendo DS, PSP, to the PS3 and Xbox 360, my FAVORITE series by far, is Ultimate Ninja.   

Gameplay from Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
The first in the series to be released was for the PS2.  It was in the classic side scrolling, 2D type environment most fighting games are produced in.  Featuring characters from the original run of Naruto, or Part 1, it was a GREAT game.  This continued up until Ultimate Ninja 5, released in 2007.  Now, these are good games, but enter....

PS3 box art for Ultimate Ninja Storm

In 2008, they breathed new life into the series, with the release on Ultimate Ninja Storm.  This game didn't only come with a new name and a shiny new cover, it brought new aspects and new elements to the game to really immerse the player.  The biggest element introduced, is the 3D environment.  The player can take full control of the character within this area.  With this addition, this allowed players to run in any direction, jump around, and even dash to an enemy, or stay back and play at a distance.  The maps themselves, were also beautiful.  Not to mention the character line-up.  Stocked with a full roster of characters from Part 1, you could re-enact some of your favorite battles.  The story mode was great as well, featuring a fully explorable Konoha.  Playing as the number one knuckle headed ninja himself, it was pretty fun to explore around.  Though, this story mode could get repetitive pretty fast.  Over all, this game just had it.  
My score - 8/10.
Box art for Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
Newest addition, Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations.

Exploration in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.
With the overall success of Ultimate Ninja Storm, two sequels were inspired.  The first was, of course, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.  Being the first Naruto game to be released on both PS3 and Xbox 360, this Naruto game just improved on what was already great.  Covering a big portion of Part 2 of Naruto, or Shippuden, it spans from the return of Naruto all the way to the Pain Invasion.  New features were added, as well as a FULL roster of new characters.  We saw improved graphics, and the introduction of an RPG element.  That did, however, cut down the free roaming aspect from the first game.  While you can no longer explore Konoha completely, they do offer a very linear path based exploration allowing you to navigate between different areas by following a small map.  They did add the ability to find and use things throughout the story mode, such as picking up a flower on the ground, or old kunai out of a chest, or old tags out of some paper.  The story mode, though, did feature an abundance of new cinematic boss battles appearing as if they were taken straight out of the anime itself.  These cinematic scenes really immersed you into the story.  
My score - 8/10.

Jiraiya in a battle with Pain
Naruto vs. Sasuke

Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 art
  After Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 was released in 2010, a spin-off entitled Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations found it's way to the shelves in 2012.  This game was released to hold us fans off until the upcoming release of Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, in Spring 2013.  Now, Generations had fans split down the middle at word of it's announcement.  One half of the fans were ecstatic about it's adding characters from both Parts 1 and 2, however, the other half were weary about the new features they'd heard about.  One rumor they had heard about, was the removal of movement in story mode.  Unfortunately, that turned out to be true.  In Generations the story mode from the previous two received a drastic change.  The option to explore and attain items had been removed, as well as boss battles.  In change, we got multiple story lines in which you could play for different characters.  It was a series of fights, separated by anime sequences and voiced scenes.  The anime scenes were very well done, though.  They were completely new, never before seen animations created specifically for the game, featuring the majority of the original voice cast.  It was a very artistic way to have done things, though I would liked to have seen the exploration option stay.  Does that mean I was disappointed by this game?

Japanese character selection game play
 The stocked full roster of characters was more than enough to make up for that.  This roster of ninjas featured Genin, Jonin to Hokage after Hokage spanning the length of Part 1-2.  We even saw characters such as all four Hokages, The elusive Masked Man, Akatsuki, and even Part 1 characters such as the original 12 Genin and the sand siblings.  Even the five Kages made an appearance.  With this full roster of characters featuring over 72 playable characters and 15 supports, even though it's more like 40-50 considering most are just alternate costumes/jutsus, who can complain?  They also upgraded the fighting system considerably making it faster paced, and adding such features as the ability to chakra dash in and out of combos, and limiting substitutions to 4 for a limited time period.

Game play of Japanese version in Tournament mode
(Thank God for that. Seriously.)

Two new modes were added that made this game all the more fun.  They are survival, which allows the player to test his ability against a wave of ninja with one health bar for the whole wave, with health being restored by amounts dependent on how well you did after each fight.  The other that was added is tournament, which as the name suggests, is a tournament.  In this mode players can set up a roster of ninja to fight, or play against a pre made roster.  This roster features preliminaries, semi-finals, and finals with the winners of the previous match facing off in the next round.  With all these new modes, and the numerous amount of characters, this game is just too great not to love.  Especially with the new features implemented in this game, the fights are so much fun.  Except online.  Expect broken TV's and controllers if you take that route.  Fair warning.  Overall, Generations is a great game I highly recommend buying if you are a Naruto fan or even if you aren't a fan.  It's such an easy game to get into, and really user friendly.  My score - 9/10.

With the success of all the Ultimate Ninja Storm games in the past, it makes me really wonder how Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 will be.  I am definitely looking forward to the next sequel with high expectations.  I just hope that this doesn't turn into a Halo: Reach.
So, overall, if you are a Naruto fan, a fan of fighting games, a fan of anime, a fan of ninjas, or even just a fan of games in general, I recommend this series to everyone with a game system.  This has to be one of my favorite series of all times, and with luck it will just keep getting better.

That's it for this time.
sayonara, mina-san.



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