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March 2019

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2014 (US), Sept. 19, 2014 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


Xbox 360 Review - 'Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution'

by Brian Dumlao on Nov. 4, 2014 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution contains tons of new techniques, a never-before-seen number of playable characters and a new character designed by Naruto’s author: Masashi Kishimoto!

After more than a decade, the Naruto manga comes to a close this month. We've followed the adventures of the orange-clad ninja, from his start as an outcast to his rise as a hero and his desire to become hokage, and the legions of fans will miss it. Before the games chronicle the end of the saga, publisher Bandai Namco Games and developer CyberConnect 2 wanted to release one more title before offering their take on the official ending arc. The result is Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution, which is rather uneven compared to the rest of the games in the series thus far.

The fighting system remains the same, with characters being able to move around in full 3-D environments while using basic distance and melee moves to crush their enemies. These are one-on-one fights, but the player can call on the supporting cast to inflict a special move or take a hit while you prepare to counterattack. Instead of just unleashing a barrage of combos, the simplified move and combo systems mean that fighting is more about spacing, chakra management, and knowing when to use your limited amount of tools. The fighting also emphasizes flash, with the final move in a combo always highlighted by a closer camera angle. Special moves are also given lots of particle effects, dialogue and other flourishes.

The system has a few new options to make the game more interesting. The first is the addition of a counterattack system. Much like the substitution technique, you can sacrifice a portion of your chakra to place yourself in a defensive stance. Should the player hit you while you're in this pose, you can stun them and immediately unleash a counter. The "tell" for the stance is obvious, so it's really meant to punish overly aggressive players while more patient ones won't fall for the trap. The second change is the ability to choose a fighting style. Of the three types, Ultimate Jutsu is the most familiar since it mimics the special moves of past games. This time, your team members can get in on the act, and certain specials are only available if you choose characters that complement each other. Awakening mode sacrifices team attacks for increased solo power. Finally, there's Team mode, which produces fewer powerful team special moves but lets your team members get involved in long combo chains to balance things out. In the heat of battle, the different modes aren't immediately noticeable.

These don't seem like huge changes, but they add up when you realize that you can choose from over 100 players in the Naruto universe. While the game has a decent amount of players available from the outset, unlocking more fighters is dependent on how much cash you earn, rather than requiring that you complete all of the modes. It can be a bit slower to unlock new fighters, but the option is there for those who pick up the game and only play against their friends.

Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution sports quite a few modes, but the Free mode houses plenty of submodes. Versus is a standard one-on-one fight, with the option to go solo or play as a team. Survival is a standard endurance run to see how far you can go before being beaten, while Practice lets you try out all of the moves and combos to your heart's content. Tournament places you in bracketed fights until an overall winner emerges. New to this version are Leagues, which are specialized versions of tournaments. The standard version pits four players against each other, one at a time, with each victory awarding points to the victor. Once all of the matches have concluded, the overall winner is determined by points. There's also a variable version of this, where special circumstances are given at random, such as disabling help from teammates or starting with a reduced timer. Finally, for those who want a more automated approach, there are Leagues with preset fighters in place according to the difficulty level you've chosen.

By comparison, the online mode feels more bare-bones. Players have the choice between playing ranked and unranked matches. As before, the online performance is great, even though the load times for each match are quite lengthy. One welcome addition is the ability to place a clone of your character online, where he or she can show up in other people's games to challenge them. The obvious benefit is that you'll get an extra source of XP and money, but it's also a nice way to get simulated matches going. It would be nice to see other fighting games adopt this feature.

Unlike most of the main modes that the series has done so far, World Ninja Tournament isn't focused much on story, canonical or not. Here, the tale focuses on a tournament where all notable characters from the universe compete to claim the title of the world's strongest ninja. Since the user can select from any unlocked character in the roster, the game doesn't zero in on any particular tale, so all of the cut scenes and activities are the same and don't change based on your selection.

The mode features tournaments from the D rank all the way to the S+ rank, but instead of letting you go through the ranks from the beginning to the end in a continuous quest, each rank is split up into separate tournaments. You're forced back to the title screen at the completion of each rank, so the process feels cumbersome even though it affords you the opportunity to select a new fighter when you start a different rank. Also, each ranked tournament is rather short, with only three stages (preliminary, quarterfinals, finals), so you tire of the scenes quickly enough and want to skip them.

What makes World Ninja Tournament so interesting is how much mechanics have changed for this mode alone. The first big change has to do with the battles. While there's a good number of traditional one-on-one battles, most of the ones you participate in are free-for-all melees with a maximum of four players. These timed matches replace each fighter's standard life system with power orbs that can be gained or lost when players hit and get hit. To win these matches, the objective is to be the one with the most orbs at the end. In matches where teams are created, the objective remains the same, but the orbs that everyone possesses at the end of one round are transferred to the next player instead. As you progress through the ranks, the fights throw in extra elements, such as traps and rails.

At its core, the battle royale format works with the series' fighting mechanics. The simplicity means it won't be that hard for new players to pick up, and the targeting system is helpful even if the fast-paced action causes issues with picking someone closer to you. The sizes of the arenas are good enough to handle the chaos, and the emphasis on orbs adds some variety to the fighting. The inclusion of traps and rails also livens things up and gives it more of a Super Smash Bros. feel and infuses some much-needed personality into the stages. For those who played the Clash of Ninja series on the GameCube and Wii, it's reminiscent  of the four-player brawls there.

That last part stings since it isn't included anywhere but this mode. As good as the fighting system is, introducing one that involves four human players would be a nice alternative. It was featured prominently in the trailers, so it's disappointing to learn that bouts against humans are still one-on-one affairs. The other fault of the fighting system is in the enemy AI, which moves from being unaware of your existence in the early ranks to ensuring that everyone is always against you in the later ones. There's no middle ground. It isn't impossible to beat the game, but it can quickly get annoying to see enemies ignore each other.

The other change in this mode concerns the exploration segments. As in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, you explore the island from a third-person point of view with a free-form camera. The island feels small during the early ranks, as most of the interesting entrances and routes have magical barriers, but it becomes rather vast once you go up in rank. The perspective is the only change here, though. The various side-quests and challenges add some padding to the story and give you some extra activities to do in between the various rounds. It's enough of a welcome change for those who played the first PS3 game.

Beyond the tournaments, the mode also introduces the Mecha-Naruto story arc, which was made specifically for this game. You start off with Naruto accompanying Hinata for a mission on Tournament Island. When left with some free time before the event starts, you discover a robot that eerily looks like Naruto, but part of his memory is missing. Since the tournament's prize is an artifact that can restore the robot's memory, you set out to win the tournament and get that artifact.

The extra mode does a good job of mixing up the different battle systems and fetch quests into a condensed version of what would normally be the main mode for a Naruto game. The problem isn't with the gameplay but with the writing. As evidenced by the games on the PSP, which normally favor original stories instead of following the manga and anime, the stories crafted specifically for the games just aren't as compelling. The tale is rather predictable, and the writing feels uninspired. Almost every anime trope you can imagine is thrown in, and even the resolution is predictable. Thankfully, it is a short mode and worth going through to unlock Mecha-Naruto, who is a very exciting character to play. It still feels like a slog, and you're very thankful to see the credits roll.

If the World Ninja Tournament feels devoid of story (Mecha-Naruto mode notwithstanding), then Ninja Escapades feel like the developer's way of balancing that out. You're presented with three different episodes that deal with the backstory of important people and events in the universe. The first episode, Creation of the Akatsuki, deals with how the original members of the group (Konan, Pain, and Tobi) recruited the rest of the members to form the current version that faces off against Naruto and company. The Two Uchiha episode deals with Sasuke's older brother and how he came to walk the path that he did. Finally, The Far Reaches of Hope features Naruto's parents and their hopes for the future. Each episode acts as a stand-alone story and features original animation from the same team doing the TV anime.

The episodes are enjoyable because you get more insight into the characters. The story pace is well done, and the quality of the animation is excellent. The smaller episodes are so good that you wish the game featured more. The problem is that each episode has more downtime than playable time. During the Creation of the Akatsuki episode, there are only five fights, and none of them are difficult. The same goes for The Two Uchiha, which only features two fights. The Far Reaches of Hope is even worse since it's not only a fraction of the length of the other episodes but has no fights at all. If you're planning on watching it all, these are great. If you're planning on actually playing something, they feel rather empty.

By now, the overall presentation is pretty much set in stone, and while it doesn't look like the development team is interested in changing it or performing any tweaks, it remains a benchmark in how anime-based games should look and sound. The game maintains a more mature cel-shading style, as it sports lots of colors and a good lighting system while maintaining a bright and bold look. Animations remain fluid, and the on-screen special effects look great and don't ruin the smooth frame rate. There are some lingering issues, however. There are jagged lines, which are immediately apparent during cut scenes that feature characters with closed mouths. The second comes from Tournament Island, where there are numerous instances of pop-up. Unless the engine goes through a massive overhaul or the series moves to the current generation of consoles, expect this to be prevalent for any future games on the legacy consoles.

As far as sound goes, the voice acting is excellent thanks to everyone on both the English and Japanese sides reprising their roles from the series. Acting is only limited to some scenes, as most only go for grunts and sighs instead of full-on voice acting. The sound effects hit hard and make good use of surround sound. The music also strikes a nice balance between energetic and thoughtful, with a nice blend of music from the show and original compositions. Like the previous games in the series, the sound is worthy of turning up the volume.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a stopgap title that feels a bit repetitive. On one hand, the fighting remains solid with some good new mechanics and the largest roster in the series thus far. On the other hand, the story-based elements fail to conjure up much excitement, and the group brawls feel like they don't reach their full potential. Fans of the series will still be pleased, and those looking to get into the series without feeling lost can do so with relative comfort. For those who want some story to go along with their fighting, it might be best to wait for the title that deals with the inevitable conclusion instead.

Score: 7.5/10

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