Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is another attempt to translate the popular anime into game form. Our previous time with the game so far has left us with a good impression. Publisher Namco Bandai recently showed us a bit more of Ultimate Ninja Storm to give us a better idea of what to expect from the promising action game.
The new elements we saw were the Story mode and the game's various missions. The main single-player modes will be the "Ultimate Mission" mode, which will include two sets of missions, five story arc-specific missions, and various side missions, which will have different difficulty levels. The story arc missions will hit a bunch of key moments in the series. Fans should be pleased to see these playable missions will include the Genin training, the Chunin Exam, the Leaf Destruction, the Tsunade Search, and the Chasing Sasuke story arcs. Three of the arcs will get some extra visual flair, courtesy of cinematics that will add some kick to the storytelling for three of the arcs.
If you've played the Xbox 360 Ubisoft Naruto game, you'll have a good idea of what to expect from this new game in terms of structure. You'll take control of Naruto Uzemaki, ninja-in-training and demon receptacle extraordinaire. The centerpiece to the story and mission modes will be Naruto's home of Hidden Leaf Village, which is being re-created in rich detail for the game. You'll be able to roam the village and interact with the residents, some of whom will send you on missions. As you go through the game, you'll collect specific items that will serve as the ingredients for dishes, which will enhance your abilities once you take them to the local ramen shop. Naruto's abilities will be key to exploring the village, which is a dense area chock-full of nooks and crannies. You'll gain a superjump ability, along with a special attack to let you knock down obstacles that will open up secret stashes of items to collect. While the moves look cool, the most important upgrading you'll be doing will be increasing your "chakra" gauge, which powers all your special moves. When you start the game, it will be modestly sized, but as you go about your business, you'll be able to upgrade to a longer one.
In our time with the game, we watched a bit of city exploration, but focused on a story encounter that showed off the game's impressive art style and over-the-top action. In this particular scene, our boy Naruto had been taken out and was being defended by Tsunade. A short cinematic set up Tsunade and Jiraiya facing off against Orochimaru, who summons Manda, king of snakes. In response, Jiraiya summons Gamabunta, the toad king, and Tsunade summons...slug queen Katsuyu.
While you'd think a battle between the three wouldn't end too well for anyone who isn't a snake king (since slugs and toads aren't known for their deadly nature), good eventually triumphs. The fight was an engaging mix of action and cinematics. The battle was broken into different chunks as Manda's attack pattern changed. The action was your usual mix of dodging and attacking with projectiles. However, there were also special attacks that flowed into cinematic sequences showing the game's crazy, over-the-top fighting maneuvers, which would either be hands-off sequences to watch or hands-on sequences that required you to press buttons in a certain sequence. At its core, all the combat is pretty simple, but the presentation goes a long way toward making it a cool, flashy spectacle. Fans should also be happy to hear that the game will feature English and Japanese voice acting, along with subtitles, for the complete Naruto experience. Once Manda got a beatdown, a closing cinematic showed Orochimaru and Kabuto bugging out and leaving everyone to tend to Naruto.
In addition to watching the single-player Story mode demo, we were also able to get our hands on the free Battle mode. Namco let us mess around with four new characters, Kimimaro, Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro. Kankuro was a blast to play thanks to his aggressive use of puppets, which, let's face it, we don't see enough of in fighting games. The action bordered on being too crazy in spots during combat, which made it tough to keep track of what was going on at times. The total madness of some of the special attacks didn't help matters much, but they sure did look cool.
The look and sound of the game continue to shine thanks to the art direction and audio that stays faithful to the anime. The characters look and move just like their animated counterparts. The game's animation continues to impress us with its stylized motion, which really captures the kinetic movement from the anime. We also have to call out the game's scale, which gives the action an expansive feel. The fight with Manda benefitted from this attention to detail--in fact, the battle was right out of the anime. The only rough spot that stood out was the sometimes-awkward camera angles during battle.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm continues to impress us as we see more of the game. The Story mode is coming along nicely and the additional side missions should offer a decent helping of content outside of the meaty Story mode. The visuals really nail the anime's look while the character animation is good and smooth. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is slated to ship this October for the PlayStation 3.