Reps from developer Cyber Connect 2 and Namco Bandai gave us a first look at the recently announced Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm at Namco Bandai's recent press event. Veteran developer Cyber Connect 2 is working on the original game, which will feature more than a dozen playable characters and offer players the chance to duke it out with a host of familiar characters, as well as explore Hidden Leaf Village, Naruto's 'hood. While we weren't able to play the game, we got a brief demo of the title from Cyber Connect 2 CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama.
Our demo consisted of a quick look at one-on-one fighting in a few locations and an epic fight against one of the game's bosses, Gaara of the Desert. The first demo focused on Naruto facing off against an opponent in an open grassy field. Matsuyama walked us through the game's control scheme, which looks simple but flexible. You'll use circle to attack, X to jump, and square to throw shuriken. Double tapping X will let you execute a stylish double jump that you can direct with the left analog stick. However, the key element of the control setup is the triangle button, which is your chakra and serves as a modifier to the basic moves you can perform. For example, Matsuyama tapped the button before throwing shuriken, which powered up the lone projectile to a volley for a cost on the meter. Holding the chakra button down will also let you charge up your chakra meter, while double tapping it will let you perform a powerful attack. Besides Naruto's own abilities, you'll be able to tap those of his buddies Sasuke and Sakura, by hitting L1 and R1 respectively, who'll jump out to perform an attack on your foe. Once summoned, you'll have to wait a bit of time before calling them out again, so you'll have to be smart about when you use them. The final bit of the control scheme is the item selection, which you'll use with the D pad. The system seems to pretty elegant and balances the ability to do flashy moves with an accessible control scheme.
The second part of the demo focused on Naruto fighting Gaara, who was putting the power of Shukaku (a giant demon sealed inside him) to good use. The start of the fight makes you think the battle is going to take a good long time as you see normal-sized Naruto facing off against the goliath and not doing much damage. However, the pace quickens as Naruto finds a weak spot on the boss, which allows him to do considerably more damage. Once the boss suffers a set amount of damage, a new sequence kicks up, a God-of-War-style button inputting game, which has Naruto hopping around on the thrashing creature. After a few sequences, Naruto is kicked back and calls out Gamabunta, shifting the whole scale of the fight to a much broader scope, which was really cool.
The visuals in the work-in-progress game already look pretty stunning. Naruto and company look great on the PlayStation 3. While it's not a tremendous accomplishment to capture the look of the anime on the PS3, due to its hardware muscle, we have to say we were mightily impressed by how the game moved. The camera movement and overall performance were already smooth, which was impressive.
Based on what we saw, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is going to be one to watch for this fall. The game is gorgeous and nails the atmosphere of the anime. The fighting, especially the boss fight, looks like it's going to be fun, and we're pleased to see the control is being kept simple for it. We're anxious to see how that system comes together and how the whole town-exploration segments are going to work. The game gives a good first impression, and we're hoping it delivers. Expect us to follow this one closely as its launch approaches. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is slated to ship this fall exclusively for the PlayStation 3.