The Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm games have always been fantastic accompaniments to the Shonen Jump series, breaking down the main plot points of the series and making them playable. With voice acting from the series, excellent cel-shaded graphics and more characters than a Dynasty Warriors game, Ultimate Ninja Storm is the epitome of fan service for Naruto lovers, and this, the fourth title in the series, is certainly no exception.
So let’s dispense with the most obvious conclusion of this review right now: if you’re a fan of the series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is another superb addition to the franchise, offering up a slice of just about everything related to the Naruto mythos. The number of modes, characters and content on offer here is fairly remarkable, with over 100 recognisable characters battling it out in over 30 locations, with a plethora of available modes.
Granted, a lot of these modes (Survival, Tournament and League), are just different variations of the “fight a series of opponents” mechanic, but it’s nice to have the options. Some fighting games don’t even have that. So, the real question is: how does it function as a game? The answer isn’t quite so positive.
The meat of the game comes in the form of the Story mode and Adventure mode. The story mode is the conclusion of the Fourth Great Ninja War, showcasing the Ninja World uniting to take down Madara Uchiha. Similar to previous titles in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, you’ll take on a series of opponents in a range of scenarios, including boss battles, big group fights, giant creature matches, quick-time events and, of all things… two bullet hell shooter levels. Don’t ask, I have no answers. All I know is they all look gorgeous.
And while that variety is great (and needed; half your fights are either against Madara, Obito or both), there’s no sense of actual challenge. If you die, you just respawn with full health while the opponent doesn’t recover at all. Failing a quick-time event only means that you get a lower score once the level is complete, so if the only real penalty is to your score, the game itself offers no difficulty. Bosses will eventually fall if you throw yourself at them enough… Basically like Naruto’s fighting strategy, though I doubt the link was intentional.
This would be fine if the gameplay itself offered some depth or complexity, but that’s the portion of the game that really falls flat. All 100+ characters have universal command lists, due in part to the fact there’s only one attack button. Just mash the B button while holding a direction to produce some combos, and maybe press Y occasionally too, to throw out some special moves.
Granted, there is resource management systems in play from charging your chakra, or “special move juice”, and defensive capabilities in the form of substitution jutsus that teleport you behind an attacking opponent, so there is some strategy at play, but when moves are inputted the same way for every character, it just becomes boring.
No doubt it’s a purposeful choice on the behalf of development studio Cyber Connect2, but it emphasises the mindset behind the Ultimate Ninja Storm series: this isn’t a Naruto game for fighting game fans, this is a fighting game for Naruto fans. Anyone versed in the idiosyncrasies of games like Killer Instinct or Mortal Kombat X will likely view Naruto as simplistic, possibly even childish.
Perhaps the worst inclusion, though, is the Adventure mode. Taking place after the events of Story, the Adventure mode seems to act like some fan-fiction-come-gaming mode, with Sakura acting as a wingwoman for Hinata and Naruto’s relationship… Again, fans will find some joy in this mode, as you get to explore all the iconic locations from Naruto, take part in flashback battles which focus on other important parts in the Naruto timeline, and interact with your favourite characters.
Non-fans, however, will find a sub-par open world with occasional slowdown issues, boring and tedious quests and sub-quests that would be the bane of any RPG, and just a lack of anything substantial other than more fights. I think even the most die-hard of Naruto fan would come to a conclusion that a collection of fetch and carry quests is unrewarding at best.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 offers a ton of content, and as mentioned throughout this review, fans of the series will lap it up, but all that content can’t mask the fact that the actual gameplay isn’t up to scratch as a genuine fighting game. Suppose it goes without saying, but if you’re not a Naruto fan, you’ll find little of merit here.
Check out some gameplay below, and let us know in the comments whether you agree or disagree.
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Naruto fans will enjoy, but fighting game fans will be disappointed.
On the surface, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a beautiful game that effortlessly captures the feel and soul of the Naruto series, and doubtless fans will love it. As a fighting game, however, it can’t go toe to toe with its peers, with simplistic combat and limited challenge.
A case of style over substance; Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 looks cool but plays poorly.