Forget about this Naruto lad summoning all kinds of ninja spirit things, because as a scummy games writer like me, sometimes it can be difficult summoning the enthusiasm to attack yet another anime tie-in fighter. But then every year CyberConnect2 end up enticing me in with a worthy set of improvements, more ridiculous cutscenes, and another review is born. This is the fifteenth instalment of the long-running series. Fifteen! Blimey. Is it worth your time and investment? Of course it probably is.
Because what sets Revolution apart from its predecessors is the fact that CyberConnect have decided to catch up with some of the trends that reached other fighting game franchises yonks ago. You still have the usual team of three, in-battle items, and choice of two jutsu attacks so bombastic they would make Shaggy blush. But there are new elements going on here. Focusing on improving the button mashing nature of gameplay is most welcome. After all these years, there is a semblance of a proper hardcore fighter at play here. Finally you are able to utilise techniques like guard breaks and a more sophisticated counter-attack mechanic.
The former allows you a limited number of opportunities to open up your opponent like a tin of beans with a crushing blow that leaves them a sitting duck to have their face rearranged. Counter-attacks can be employed with a well-timed action that knocks your foe out, and prevents them from calling upon their allies temporarily. Like the break attacks, using the counter is limited and will drain your Chakra.
Also given a much needed overhaul is the way that you use your support characters. You now get a choice of three ways to play. Drive drags your support ninjas into the fray to protect your main character, creating an effective sealing barrier that prevents your opponents from hitting their jutsu specials. Awakening lets you trigger your enhanced awakened state from the kick off, whilst the excellent Ultimate Jutsu option sees your trio combine to carry out a stunning Ultimate Combo Jutsu – an attack that is different depending on which combination of the staggering 118-strong roster you have chosen to enter the fray with.
There are loads of possible permutations for these team-up combos, and while they aren’t necessarily any more powerful that your standard Jutsu, seeing your old anime favourites combining in the way nature intended is a thrill and excellent fan service. I particularly liked Gaara, Kankuro and Temari triggering the painful sounding Scorching Heat Sand Binding Coffin ultra, with an honourable mention going to Obito and Madara’s Heavenly Insertion Hammering Star.
Speaking of characters, while there are admittedly a fair few palette swaps, one of the new entrants to the roster is of particular interest. The creator of the source material Masashi Kishimoto has got on board and engineered a bonkers new form for main man Naruto: his completely awesome Mecha form which combines a Three Tails guise with a moves-laden Mecha variation, offering you the chance to mess around with a two-tiered awakening. This may not mean much to the bystander on the street, but for fans this rad Naruto mash up will be big potatoes.
The actual gameplay itself is undoubtedly enhanced by these new bits and pieces, but they would be irrelevant without some interesting modes in which to test them out. The newly added and excellently named Ninja Escapades mode takes you through three specially-created stories (complete with some all-new cutscenes) via a series of set-piece battles. Ninja World Tournament brings back the popular free-roaming style from Naruto games of old. It’s a huge playable story set upon Festival Island, with a series of ranked battles, including dust ups where the environment plays a part, and characters brawl over collectable orbs which grant status enhancements in a throwback to the mighty Power Stone. Working your way through the battles opens up new places to explore and new missions to embark on, including the all important Mecha Naruto chapter which allows you to unlock him as a playable option.
Online is, as always, a bit of a mixed bag. Fights can be a tad laggy with everything that is going on, and you will get beaten quickly if you venture outside of Europe in search of an opponent. The inclusion of Network Clones is a curious new accoutrement, however. During your time on Festival Island you will encounter NPCs that are representative of other gamers’ online personae. You can create your own clone and send it on its merry way, and it will fight other Naruto fans around the globe, returning with experience points and even some handy items.
VERDICT: It would have been easy for me to have written a one-liner for this review:“It’s Naruto again!”. But hell, they have delivered once again – not only to the core audience but also in a manner to start attracting fans of more sophisticated beat ‘em ups. It is still miles away from a BlazBlue, but it is much more intuitive to play. There is a ridiculous amount of fan service going on, including more original movie sections than you can shake a nunchaku at. CyberConnect, don’t you ever change.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.