A couple of years ago I was given the chance to play Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, which inadvertently led me into delving deep into the story and lore of the series. I awarded that entry a 9/10 for an excellently designed combat system and story mode. Now, in 2018 Bandai Namco have released the first three games in the series for my new favourite, the Nintendo Switch. Can these three treasures transfer to Nintendo’s flagship or is it a lazy port-job?
This collection of three games gives you the chance to follow the journey of Naturo Uzumaki from his beginnings as a humble troublemaker, through his initiation as a ninja and up until the Tobi’s Reveal plot. It’s an amazing story that has been pulled mostly wholesale from the anime and manga, though it’s disappointing that the fourth entry wasn’t included in the package in order to round out the series narrative. It does, however, cover most of the major arcs of the narrative and it’s no wonder that it’s been such a popular series.
The three games are included separately within the same program; you simply choose which to enter in the menu.
The gameplay in all three is split into a variety of different scenarios; with some entries having minigames, but all have a very similar fighting core which combines hand-to-hand combat and item usage with the manipulation of spirit energy. One issue with the trilogy is the lack of a tutorial within the first entry; which is probably where most players will start the pack. You will need to explore the move-lists of the game in order to learn basic moves, but after a few minutes perusing you’ll be up to scratch in no time.
The first game is split into a series of missions based in a small open world. You are given the chance to enter a variety of flashback and side missions to experience the story of the Original Naruto series. Whilst exploring the town you can accept a number of tasks from civilians and search for scrolls and hidden items. Main quests are triggered from the menu, and can only be accessed after you have earned an appropriate amount of experience from side missions. Most have a number of conditions which must be fulfilled before completion, which make them incredibly challenging at times. The missions are presented incredibly well, with some having multiple parts and plenty of comedic jaunts. You mainly take control of Naruto himself but have the chance to change character at times and play around with other members of the cast.
The second game is a much more linear affair, with the story taking a heavier influence. Vastly improved from the original, the mechanical evolution and shift in focus make this a much more streamlined experience for the better. The story takes place in a series of locations stitched together almost like a point-and-click adventure game, with fixed camera angles viewing the myriad of locations. Battles are much as they were in the first, but with the addition of new systems and quick-time events which spice up the combat a little.
The third game is by far the best of the three, with huge evolutions to the formula which makes it the most explosive by far. The stakes are upped drastically, leading to a swathe of vast boss battles. Like its predecessor, the game is mostly linear, but with a story like this, it doesn’t really matter. This is, however, the easiest of the three. The online mode is well populated, however, and provides the chance to face off against a variety of better fighters.
The soundtrack of the trilogy is excellent; from the wonderful English voice acting which is consistently of high quality throughout to the standout musical design. The music evolves throughout the series with the best probably being in the third entry, but all have their standout tracks.
All three entries have been excellently remastered to the point of looking native on the Switch. Whilst the first doesn’t hold up quite as well I was impressed with how wonderfully the three have been brought to the switch. Granted, the art style, which borrows heavily from the anime, is timeless, but in both docked and handheld the games all look fresh and crisp. They also perform surprisingly well, with a stable 30fps in both handheld and docked modes.
Whilst this all sounds good, I do have a couple of quibbles. Why did they port these three, and neglect to include the fourth entry? Both the Trilogy and Legacy (including the fourth) version were released last year for Xbox One and PS4; presumably so that previous purchasers of NSUNS4 would have the option to just buy the trilogy. It is, however, a little bizarre that they chose not to port the final installment and just release together as the Legacy version. It wouldn’t surprise me if they simply released it separately at a higher price later down the line, but that’s just conjecture.
My other issue is with the pricing. In the UK it costs £44.99 both physically and digitally. In the US, it’s $39.99. Taking exchange rate into account, that’s around £29.60. Yet again, we across in the UK have received the short end of the pricing stick. If you are purchasing digitally, I’d definitely recommend popping over to the US E-shop.
All in all though, The Naruto Ninja Storm Trilogy is an excellent collection of titles, beautifully remastered, which are a great buy for both new and old fans alike.