Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a whirlwind of mayhem wrapped in a rich legacy of a treasured anime and it never stops for breath. You get to fight in glorious detail with an incredible sense of freedom and flow, and from the very first battle you have; you’ll be harnessing Chakra and walloping your opponents with Ninjitsu like nobody’s business.
If you’re not familiar with the Naruto Shippuden anime or manga, you’ll be drowning in plot and dialogue to fully appreciate it unless you’re well-acquainted with the series. The story carries on from where the previous title left off, with different story arcs from various time periods all coming together to bring the finale of the Ultimate Ninja Storm saga to a head. It has some wonderfully told narrative along the way, especially when it focuses on Obito and his apparent death during the Third Great Shinobi War. It does a great job of incorporating Naruto’s history in the game’s story and I doubt they’ll be any disappointment from diehard fans.
The game fuses its anime and manga cinematics with some of the best fighting mechanics I’ve ever seen, and if you’re not perturbed by overly long cut scenes or a story buried deep in its own mythology, be brave and dive right in. The flow of battle is second to none and the variety of moves and combos at your disposal makes for some special set pieces. At time it feels like glorified button-bashing, but there is definitely a skill involved in putting together the perfect sequence of moves, blocks and combos. Once more, there is so much to take in when it comes to utilizing every aspect of your arsenal, so heading to the practice arena is a good a place as any to start.
You’ll have one button that acts as the combo button and it’ll provide the main crux of your attack, but when you harness the Chakra things will start to get interesting. Chakra is a divine energy, much like the force in Star Wars, whereby your fighter will use this to control great power when inflicting damage. Fireballs, electric bolts and other flamboyant attacks will provide an edge in battle, but the more you use it, the more your chakra bar will deplete. Enemies will drop chakra for you to pick up and when you’re doing more damage to your enemy your chakra bar will fill back up as well.
Filling your Storm gauge helps to provide secret techniques in battle (which are absolutely insane to watch) and linked attacks which will bring out one of your teammates for some much needed double teaming, particularly when the going gets tough. It’s also cool that you can flick the right stick to select one of the characters you’ve chosen or been allocated to fight with. Health, chakra and other gauges transfer meaning a fair fight, but when you’re not feeling it with say Kakashi, Guy can come in and kick some arse instead.
In the very first fight, as part of the ‘Creation’ arc, I struggled to fight straight away, fundamentally because I was too busy marvelling at the way it looks. The fluidity between your movement and the way the game adapts visually is stunning; every colour and detail remains bold, never blurring with how fast the action unfolds, and all of the many moves you bust out look completely different to the last.
This is one of the best looking games I’ve seen so far on the current gen and as the game progresses, you’re introduced to new elements that add to its beauty, such as the ability to climb walls whilst fighting on them, other environmental effects and smart interactive actions (IA). Interactive actions are essentially QTE that pop up from time to time and give you a chance to unlock special scenes which you’ll get to see through Secret factors; you’ll earn stars from completing them as quick as possible so a necessity to react fast adds to the intensity of battle.
It’s worth mentioning that the amount of modes aside from the main story is staggering. After you’ve completed the main story (or before if you’re not bothered by spoilers), you can play in Adventure mode which is set after the events of Naruto Shippuden. You can freely travel around the Konoha and Suna villages completing various missions and events, much like Grand Theft Auto or Sleeping Dogs. It isn’t open world exactly, but it does offer a completely new dynamic to the game and a separate Naruto experience to the main story.
There’s also a free play mode that allows you to hone your skills in a practice scenario, or test your mettle in survival and tournament mode, but the real challenge comes in battling online. After doing reasonably well in the main story and getting top grades, I headed into battle with fighters from around the world. I had no trouble finding a match, and there is always somebody waiting for a rumble. The online fighters in Naruto are seriously tough, and with tournaments and endless battles (a Gaunlet-stlye fight that carries on until you die) to challenge you with, managing to find a win will feel like a tremendous victory. I’m still waiting to find that win, but the addictive nature of its fighting mechanics will have me playing for a long time.
A great flow and fluidity.
Tons of varied modes.
Very confusing for newcomers.
Cutscenes are too long.