|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CyberConnect2||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Naruto has definitely had an illustrious video game career so far. Between the frenzied Clash of Ninja series and the portable Clash of Ninja and RPG titles, it seems that the Naruto franchise is quickly becoming quite a powerhouse in gaming. The Ultimate Ninja series has definitely been regarded as one of the best series in the Naruto game franchise and has spawned blockbuster hits on both the PlayStation 2 and PSP.
We've had to wait quite awhile for Naruto to pop up on the PlayStation 3, but now that Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm has arrived, it is safe to say that this title was certainly worth the wait. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is a complete departure from previous entries in the series in both format and structure, and there is plenty here for fans of the series, or fighting games in general, to relish in.
The biggest change to the Ultimate Ninja core format in this title is made to the single-player mission mode. While Ultimate Ninja 3 had a semi-open world, with some extra mini-game style missions, Ultimate Ninja Storm takes the open world format to the extreme. The format of the game is still mission-based, but instead of following several linear mission arcs, you are able to determine your own progression through the game by selecting from either "flashback" or "free" missions.
Flashback missions are the main story-based missions and are accessible through the pause menu. The material here should all be familiar to fans of the series and follows Naruto from his first days as a Genin all the way up to the Sasuke Retrieval story arc. However, to play through these different story-based levels, Naruto will have to earn a certain amount of mission points, which can be gained by performing different free missions. The free missions are a little tougher to find, and you'll have to go around talking to the Konoha villagers in order to find and unlock these missions.
One of the best things about the free missions is that they are a lot more varied than the story-based levels. For instance, some free missions involve collecting or interacting with certain items you find around town, some are timed challenges, and some even involve how many steps you take around town. The free levels definitely add some much-needed variety to the gameplay and are a welcome addition to Ultimate Ninja Storm..
But the format is not the only thing that is different this time around. The combat has also been overhauled in Ultimate Ninja Storm. Although the core mechanics are still the same, the combat system has deepened quite a bit. For instance, you now have access to unlockable special attacks and can customize each character's move set. You can also customize how you trigger special chakra-based attacks, and you can choose between a buttonmash, command-based, or spin input method.
Ultimate Ninja Storm also uses a brand new tag-team system that allows you to press a button to summon other characters to do a single chakra move. The tag team system is not as deep or involved as the one in the Ultimate Ninja Heroes spin-off series, but it is a nice alternative to doing the same old chakra attacks and can be used very strategically in battle.
In addition to these new elements, a new chakra state has also been added. Fans of the series will recall that previously there was only one chakra-consuming state, which was signaled by the press of a button and a blueish color change. However, a new "Awakening" mode has been added, which is triggered when your character finds themselves in dire straits. The awakening mode can be unlocked by holding the chakra button, and then waiting for your character's appearance to change. This mode temporarily makes your character stronger, but this momentary strength comes at a price, as the character will have increased vulnerability after the awakening period ends.