I like anime. Most is usually pretty exciting, made by obviously talented artists, and most has a pretty good story, or at least they have in my experience.
Spoiler alert; until recently I hadn’t had much experience. When I was younger I’d usually be found watching either Dragonball Z/GT or some iteration of Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, but from what I’ve been told they’re essentially the anime equivalent of what Fifty Shades is to literature; a quick and dirty bit of fun with no real merit within the medium itself. Junk food Anime, if you will.
Now, I always heard better things about Naruto, but at the same time I was always daunted by it. Even when I was knee-high to a Jōnin I was a bit scared to fully get into it, because of the existing fandom and amount of lore already out in the world. But funnily enough, at the age of 23 I’m finally getting into this strange show about a hyperactive blond ninja.
Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. That’s why.
Naruto? What’s that? – STORY
NS:UNS4 is, as you can probably guess, a game based on the hit manga and anime series’ Naruto and Naruto: Shippūden. Focusing on the young (at the start) ninja Naruto Uzumaki, the series followed his evolution as a ninja throughout the years and the development of the ninja world.
The game itself focuses on the last few arcs of the entire manga/anime series; starting from “Tobi’s reveal,” rounding out the plot and providing a true end point for the Ultimate Ninja Storm game series, and Naruto itself. In short, it’s incredibly complicated to explain everything about it, but after 15 years’ worth of Manga and Anime the series has a massive amount of lore and more confusingly named characters than you can shake a stick at. It’s no wonder that it’s incredibly difficult to get into the manga/anime series as a newcomer in 2016, and this leads me into my first point about the game itself. If you don’t know Naruto, you WILL struggle to understand the plot at first!!!
That may sound reductive; I mean, it’s a pretty obvious point to make when you think about it, but having played other anime-related games I’ve often found that they try to cover the entire series in one; or at least, the Dragonball games do, making any game a potential point of entry.
In contrast, in terms of plot this IS a difficult game to serve as an introduction to Naruto; there’s no way to avoid that. There are countless important characters and confusing specialist terms to know which all tie together for this final entry and arc, and as a newbie, until I’d spent a few hours on Wikipedia I seriously didn’t have a clue.
However, if you’re a long-time fan of Naruto and it’s overarching plot, you are almost guaranteed to be a fan of NS:UNS4. With 61 different playable characters; 86 including variants from throughout the entire series, veterans will be in absolute heaven with the sheer range available.
On the flipside however, the plot is presented in an incredibly interesting way. Story mode is presented as a series of shorter arcs, made up of many little episodes. Some arcs are split into multiple paths, but each and every episode is tied to some part of the anime or manga. What truly makes it engaging for me is the inclusion of anime sections within the game itself. Rather than providing loads and loads of in-engine cut-scenes, UNS4 shows short, condensed clips which give just enough information without overwhelming the player. Yes, they can often be lengthy, but due to the overall quality of the Anime and plot itself I never minded. The game may come down to a series of fights strung together by cut-scenes and “secret factor” quick-time events, but it’s delivered with such enthusiasm that it just works.
In fact, it engaged me so well that I have now begun to watch Naruto myself, from the very start.
The exception to the rule is in Adventure mode, set after story mode. This seems to be much more of a “filler” section, but it allows you to explore a variety of locations from the show and re-enact a variety of important battles. This mode isn’t quite as well executed, but is still very fun overall and adds loads of extra content beyond what would be immediately apparent.
Hidden Jutsu? – COMBAT
The combat flows in a very similar fashion to previous Ultimate Ninja Storm games. Your character has a health bar, a chakra bar (used for special chakra attacks,) a guard bar (which shows you how many substitution dodges you have left,) and a support bar. The combat style is different from most similar titles, as you only have one physical attack button, but the skill is all in combining this with well-timed blocks, substitution dodges, ninjutsu and special attacks. It’s all very fun; simple to learn, but incredibly difficult to master, and the relatively similar controls of all characters allows any of them to be controlled to a basic level without too much prior research. It’s a great idea, which just works for newbies to the series, though I don’t know how more serious fighting-game enthusiasts will feel.
The Chūnin Exams – ONLINE
The final large component of the game is the online mode. Whilst pre-release there weren’t a huge number of people playing online, after the most recent patch it was working pretty well; despite the fact I’m absolutely rubbish in general. There are a variety of different modes, including Ranked, Unranked, and League, and since the patch there isn’t that much noticeable lag, so I can see it having a pretty good community post-release.
BELIEVE IT! – CONCLUSION
In short, I absolutely love Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 as both a game in its own right and as a swansong to the series as a whole. Whilst it would have been nice to have a condensed version of the entire series included in the story mode, I can see why they chose to focus intensely on just the final few arcs, lending them a true sense of quality beyond that seen in many other anime-inspired titles. The music and art style are absolutely fantastic, feeling like a truly faithful adaptation and evolution of the anime, and frankly I can’t find much to fault with it as a whole package.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the ultimate Naruto videogame for fans, and a damn good excuse for others to get into the series. As of writing, I’m on episode 50 and not slowing down, and that initial excitement and choice to start watching was all down to NS:UNS4 and how confidently it presented it’s narrative.
Now I’m going back to watch Naruto whilst simultaneously playing Naruto and eating ramen.
Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 releases on February 5th 2016 in Europe, and will be available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and Steam.