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Naruto Ultimate Ninja: Storm


Hey, who would have thought...another Naruto game! I swear, when it comes to anime properties Naruto is edging Dragon Ball Z out in terms of sheer number of releases. I honestly think I've lost track of how many games I have played starring everyone's favorite child ninja. If you're the kind of fan who simply can't get enough, or you simply have been waiting for the franchise to land on the PS3, then your ship has definitely come in with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm.

In the latest Naruto game, fans will undoubtedly feel that the plot is old hat. Quite honestly, the story here offers little that is actually new since it follows the anime right up to the point where the crew heads out to retrieve Sasuke. It's all been done before in countless Naruto games and we've all seen it in the anime format. Then again, if this is your first Naruto game then you'll have one heck of a time digging into the back story of the plucky ninja and the village hidden in the leaves. That being said the story here is very good, but depending on your exposure to it prior to this game you may feel under whelmed.

Gameplay


First and foremost it's important to point out that this is latest Naruto effort presents an open-world environment much like some in the past, including the 360's Rise of a Ninja. This means you're going to be exploring Konoha Village to your heart's content and because of that the game will feel a tad redundant based on your Naruto gaming experience. It's also worth noting that while the gaming environment may look fantastic and you can essentially go anywhere you set your little ninja heart on, there are limitations. You can only run up certain walls, interact with certain characters, things like that.

As you run through the village you'll be prompted to undergo scripted events and you also have the ability to take on side missions galore. To the game's benefit there is a plethora of missions to undertake, complete with different objectives and themes. Sometimes you'll be fighting, other times there will be a boss encounter, while sometimes you're just going to be playing a mini-game of sorts. One nice thing about this feature is that there are several missions that require you to gain more experience before you can attempt them, so there's definitely a feeling of progression. The variety is there and the way with which the missions are produced encourages multiple plays in order to get everything right. Then again, that kind of gameplay is suited more towards the younger audience members rather than older fans looking for something more in depth.

The aforementioned boss encounters are a highlight of the mission mode's single player campaign. Tackling a monster that fills the screen has an epic feel and if you enjoyed the boss battles from the previous Ultimate Ninja game, then you're sure to love what's here. Sure these play out as quick time events much like the God of War franchise presented, but it's all very fun and very satisfying.

It's worth noting that as a Naruto game, the main draw here is the fighting, which is easily the best of what I've played so far in an anime title. Sure the combat isn't very in depth and there aren't a lot of nuances, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a faster, more brutal, and easily accessible anime game around. Anyone can pick up this game and play, though there are some levels of depth that come after a few matches as you learn to balance your chakra better.

Though some strategy comes into play I'm not going to deny the fact that you're basically just bashing buttons to get things done. Some of the most powerful, coolest moves in the game can be executed by simply pounding on one attack button. Despite that the fighting system here is very satisfying, especially for fans of Naruto, which I assume you are if you're reading this review. You'll really want to go through and see every character's chakra attacks just to see how insane they are. Developer CyberConnect2 really got the feel of Naruto down perfectly.

Apart from the Ultimate Mission Mode, which serves as the main single player quest, there is a versus mode that allows you to just fight. Here you can select the main character you wish to use as well as support characters to assist you in battle. All around the game is a hoot and if you have a friend over who enjoys Naruto just as much as you do, then you're going to undoubtedly stay up all night beating the snot out of each other. It's simple, addicting, and loads of fun. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is easily the best Naruto game to be released on any console and it even trumps the 360's Rise of a Ninja ever so slightly. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Graphics


Without a doubt Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is the best looking anime game to hit a console, ever. I've never seen graphics so closely resembling the source material before and you'd swear that you're watching an episode of the anime at times. The colors are spot on, the lines are clean, the environments (in the town at least) are detailed, and all around the animation is fast and spot-on. The fighting stages are a tad disappointing with a lackluster amount of detail and considering that's really the only flaw substantial enough to mention, that says something. CyberConnect2 really deserves praise for the work they did here, and it simply has to be seen to be believed.

Sound


If you've heard one Naruto game, you've heard them all it seems. This latest installment in the franchise sounds exactly like you'd expect it to with sound effects, music, and voiceovers ripped from the anime. It's an authentic sound that will keep fans happy, but it's also worth mentioning that both the English and Japanese languages are available here to select. There are occasions where the sound cuts out and some other instances lack fine polish, but all around it's a decent audio effort.

Conclusion


Considering there are so many Naruto games on the market, it really says something that Storm actually stands out. Granted the gameplay isn't anything new or complex, and in some cases it can feel a tad redundant. However, the fighting engine is easily the most fluid out of any Naruto game and it's probably the most authentic experience you could ever hope for. Combined with the fast-paced gameplay, the graphics REALLY impress. Cel-shading technology has come a long way and this title stands out in almost every way when you see it in motion. The bottom line is if you're a Naruto fan and you own a PlayStation 3 you absolutely must play this game. Just don't expect a revolutionary experience in terms of gameplay or combat.