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March 2023

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2016


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PS4 Review - 'Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 26, 2016 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 delivers unbelievable graphics that go beyond anime-quality with blisteringly fast gameplay.

Buy Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

Naruto is a long-running anime and manga franchise that seems like it's been going on forever. The actual manga lasted almost 15 years, long enough for its original fans to have grown up and had kids of their own. The franchise had numerous video game adaptations, but none were as popular as its fighting game variants. The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja (or Narultimate, in Japanese) has been around since the PS2 and received updates almost annually to the events in the ongoing manga. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is the latest, and perhaps the last,in the Naruto series, covering the manga's ending and the start of the new sequel series, Boruto. Longtime fans may be sad to see it come to an end but will probably be delighted with the style, if not the substance, of this latest entry.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 picks up at the tail end of the Great Ninja War that dominated the series' last years. The mastermind behind everything has been revealed as Obito Uchiha and his mentor, Madara Uchiha. The two plan to unleash a massive spell that puts the world into a dream world where everyone involved can live out their greatest fantasies for the rest of their lives — in exchange for eternal imprisonment and isolation. Naturally, it's up to Naruto, with some help from his best-friend-turned-brutal-enemy Sasuke Uchiha, to stop them once and for all. It's an action-packed finale full of twists and turns that any Naruto fan is sure to know.

Understandably, the story is at once the centerpiece of the game as well as the most limited aspect of it. Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 covers the very tail end of the Naruto manga, since the previous game covered everything up to that point. As a result, the story is rather thin, since it tends to revolve around flashbacks to previous events, slightly different twists on existing fights, and a lot of fights against the same handful of enemies with the same handful of characters. Perhaps most disappointing is that the franchise's excellent CG scenes are largely downplayed. They still exist, and when they show up, they're phenomenal to witness, but many are replaced by low-budget still frames that look cheap compared to the glossy visuals in the rest of the game. It's understandable since the final story revolves around a lot of talking in between brief fights, but it still wears out its welcome pretty quickly. The story is mostly for the fans, since others will likely be bewildered by the constant twists that lead to a final foe who comes out of left field.

Fans of the franchise will be happy, since there are plenty of little touches that they'll appreciate, such as dialogue, hidden animations and quirky character interactions. There's a bit of quantity-over-quality to it in that the bonuses seem designed to draw attention away from the relatively minor gameplay changes, but this is probably the most full-featured fan service in the series to date.

The core gameplay in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 hasn't changed much from the previous title in the franchise. The bulk of the game involves fast-paced ninja battles between up to three enemies on each side. During the story mode, the battles tend to be pretty scripted and involve a lot of dramatic cut scenes and QTEs. In the Versus mode, you get a more traditional fighting experience, but both modes play in largely the same fashion. Characters have an attack button, a throw item button, a dodge button, and the ability to "load" their chakra to boost any of these. You can also perform a special super attack by double-loading your chakra and transforming into a powerful Awakening form that boosts your stats and sometimes changes your move set. Characters can also be summoned to aid you in battle and, in a feature that's new to Ninja Storm 4, can be changed in mid-battle to offer more flexibility in combat.

Fights in Naruto tend to revolve around playing cat-and-mouse to land a hit with one of your more powerful moves. Attacks can be instantly nullified by a ninja teleportation move that has the character vanish, leaving behind an object that instantly breaks any combo or stops any attack. However, vanishings are limited and take time to recharge, so fights involve baiting out enemy dodges and then trying to land a powerful hit while their safety net is down. Some characters are better at this than others. Slow-moving characters with minimal ranged capabilities have a much harder time taking down foes than speedy super-ninjas.

Unfortunately, combat has become rather simplistic and unbalanced in the franchise, mostly due to the overwhelmingly huge cast. Every character has basically the same move set, and they mostly vary on how that move set plays. One character may have a super-fast dash attack and the other a lackluster easily dodged energy beam. This isn't a game to play competitively since the high-end characters stand head-and-shoulders above the weaker — although there are some low-level characters with a move set that is so powerful that they can whoop enemies many times their strength. It's fun in a casual way, but even friends playing together will probably lose interest if anyone starts taking the game seriously.

The Naruto fighting games have almost always focused on over-the-top moves, but Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is more so than ever before. Most characters have animations that drag out too long. This is awesome for fans who want to see things pop in dynamic and high-quality visuals, but it can detract from the actual fights. When one character is throwing a large ninja star and another is creating a celestial-sized Rasengan powered by infinite energy as a basic attack, the latter tends to cover the screen.

It's also difficult to say that the new characters are particularly exciting. Due to the fact that it's filling in the very last pieces of the story, most of the additions are either minor characters or further variations of Naruto and Sasuke's seemingly infinite list of power-ups. Again, it's great for fans of the characters and franchise, but it's a tough sell for someone who's already played through each of the previous games and may find the roster additions to be fairly limited.

This may sound rather negative, but the biggest flaw in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is that it's more of the same. It's there to finish out the story, add a final roster update, and resolve the franchise, and it does so in a workmanlike manner. The fan service and delight that permeate the animations and voice acting aren't really found in the gameplay. This is arguably a flaw that can be attributed to the entire Naruto Ultimate Storm franchise, but it certainly stands out more here than in any other title.

There's a lot of content in the game, but most of it is for fans. The Adventure mode isn't really adventurous but is an excuse for Naruto to wander around a relatively well-modeled version of the world, talking to characters who were sidelined in the story mode, and flash back to some fights from previous games. Theoretically, it exists to give players a chance to see more development of the romance between Naruto and future wife Hinata, but the bland storytelling doesn't do much with that. It's treading material that's been covered multiple times in previous Ultimate Ninja Storm games, making it feel largely forgettable. Beyond that, there are some basic multiplayer modes that are a fun distraction but, due to the poor balance, won't distract you for long.

Visually, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is still a master class in how to translate cartoony anime designs to 3-D imagery. It's the best it has ever looked, and it's some of the best-looking animation out there. The graphics, especially for the heavy CG cut scenes, are mind-bending, and the characters are all lovingly rendered. A neat new feature is the "armor break" system, which actually means characters take damage while fighting, adding a real sense of drama to close fights and making one-sided victories look even more so. With the stakes higher than ever, the animators really get to cut loose. The simple Rasengan is well overshadowed by the absurd destruction of tailed beast bombs. The aforementioned complaint about the frequent still-shot cut scenes is the only thing that drags down the game in the visuals. The soundtrack and voice acting do their job admirably, and longtime fans should be quite happy.

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is an average but reasonable send-off to the franchise. It's not a game for casual fans who will probably be lost in the story of random villains and long-running plots, but those who've followed Naruto from start to will be pleased to see the stylish finish to the series. The gameplay isn't enough to justify upgrading from the previous game in the series, and even longtime fans may want to wait for a price drop before jumping in.

Score: 7.0/10

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