One of the most prudent purchasing policies during the ‘90s and early 2000’s was to deliberate before purchasing a game based on an anime. In retrospect, the era was filled with lackluster licensed cash-ins, which habitually transformed rousing properties into feeble fighting games. From Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22, Zatch Bell! Mamodo Battles, to Mobile Suit Gundam: CROSSFIRE, players were swamped with a steady supply of software which only vaguely captured the fundamental aesthetic of an anime and routinely played like a two-stringed guitar.
Of course, that notion gradually disappeared as developers like CyberConnect2 raised the ante with the Naruto Ultimate Ninja and later, the Ultimate Ninja Storm games. Not only did these titles faithfully emulate the look of the series, recreating Masashi Kishimoto’s beloved characters and iconic locales, but the developers also delivered enjoyable fighting and exploratory mechanics that evolved across the fourteen successive entries.
While the release of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, CyberConnect2’s game isn’t quite the extensive transformation that the title implies, it is a solid sequel that succeeds, improving the franchise’s combat system and providing a massive roster of personalities. Save for the game’s aloof approach toward Naruto newcomers, Revolution’s collection of game modes is fated to gratify fans, even if the title isn’t quite capable of reaching true Hokage status.
Continuing the trend to excise the button-mashing mechanics from battles, Revolution pushes the series a bit closer toward legitimate fighting game, mending elements like combo-breaking teleportations. Now, guard breaks allow you to crack open defending adversaries like piñatas, to deal devNaruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution devastating amounts of damage. Although counter-attacks require precise timing, the outcomes can have a significant influence on a battle, with opponents temporarily unable to call on ally support.
Another fundamental change is the inclusion of three different combat specializations, which are all tied to the Storm meter. ‘Drive’ allows combatants to call in support ninjas with greater frequency, potentially generating a defense against incoming assaults, while ‘Awakening’ endows players with transformative abilities, capable of issuing offensive punishment. For players fond of impressive finishers, ‘Ultimate Jutsus’ are the way go, bestowing dazzling cinematic sequences that capture the spectacle of the source material.
Despite the presence of these adjustments, character positioning and chakra management continue to be just as crucial as the ability to generate overwhelming melee combos. But what Ultimate Ninja Storm still lacks is balancing- as evidence by online competitors repeatedly selecting the same characters from Revolution’s sizable roster. And save for randomized tips which appear during load sequences, novices are destined to become frustrated by the lack of any true tutorial. As online competitors often reply an imbalance exploits, and there’s no physical or even printed instruction guide, the budding ninja’s journey is driven by sheer determination and self-reliance. Ideally, the title would be a bit more welcoming, explaining the elements which have become fundamentals for the prolific franchise.
As such, neophyte ninjas will want to begin their trek in Revolution’s Ninja World Tournament, a gameplay mode which mixed the explorational elements of past entries with an Enter the Dragon-style island-based tournament. After progressing through character selection, players are allowed to comb the isle, grabbing odd jobs, meeting allies that can be brought into battle, or buying items like bentos that can be used to augment a characters stats during a battle. While navigation is a bit lifeless and NPCs don’t offer character specific dialog (meaning a person speaking to the title character will refer to Naruto in the third person), there is no shortage of tasks for players to tackle. Since progress opens up other parts of the island and even more undertakings, the mode offers a continual string of rewards to goad gamers along.
As the moniker implies, the highlight of this mode are tournaments, which present an interesting variation on Ultimate Ninja Storm’s traditional rules. Replacing the usual one-on-one confrontations are hyperkinetic rumbles for a quartet of characters. These ranked contests eschew health bars for orbs, which routinely spill out with every attack, making matches recall Power Stone’s frantic battles. Although players are free to thrash on any ninja or samurai, the camera stays locked on one opponent at a time- with a flick of the right thumbstick changing the highlighted character. Initially, it can be challenging to keep track of the action, but the tournament’s difficultly rises compassionately, allowing players to get accustomed to the pace of each clash.
Completing the first tournament, opens up the Mecha-Naruto story, which offers a non-canonical, comical plotline build around the mechanized character. Discovered embedded in a pile of rocks when Naruto and Hinata go exploring, the robot knows little about his part, prompting the pair to enter the tournament in hopes of winning a memory shard that will help him uncover his past. While it’s yet another contrivance to goad gamers into ascending the ranks, the mode is likely to please players between its humor and Mecha-Naruto’s maniac moveset.
One of Revolution’s cooler features is the Network Clone, which allows a premade character to customized and equipped with up to five items that shape their battle tactics. Following creation, the avatar is unleashed online, where it will show up in other player’s Tournament Islands, and challenge them to a fight. Periodically, the character returns home, bestowing any battle dividends with the player.
Revolution also provides Ninja Escapades, which provides the cycle of combat and cinematics without the roaming and extracurricular activities. Three episodes extend expositional elements from the anime and manga, detailing Akatsuki’s origins, Shisui’s backstory, as well as a recollection on Kushina Uzumaki, Naruto’s mother. While these narratives are elevated by Studio Pierrot’s punctuating cutscenes, they are also a bit short, with two lasting between thirty and forty minutes, while the remaining story is less than half that. Despite their brevity, each Escapade has to be completed in a single sitting, as there are no save points.
Visually, Revolution retains the franchise’s stunning, cell-shaded aesthetic, offering a masterful recreation of the anime. Although load times are a bit long and the camera sporadically has a hard time keeping up with the action, the title demonstrates there’s still a tremendous amount of ability within last-generations consoles. Although the game shirks a dual-language voice-over, the English cast does a proficient job with the dialog. Revolution’s soundtrack is adept, offering a collection of rhythms than range from soothing melodies to stirring battle themes. Tracks repeat a bit too often, but one can’t fault the quality of the compositions.
As the fifteenth franchise entry developed by CyberConnect2, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution largely evades stagnancy, refining its combat model while giving players a sizable Tournament-based time sink. Although the narrative elements do little to emulate the expositional elements found in the Fourth Ninja World War, there’s enough on- and offline gameplay here to warrant a return to Hidden Leaf Village.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution was played on the Xbox 360 with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release date: September 16th (US)
Language(s): English voice/text