Naruto is arguably the most popular anime/manga of the past decade, and it enjoys a large and loyal fan base. CyberConnect2 has produced two previous iterations in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, which did well to placate the fanatics. However, it is Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (NSUNSG) that will finally be satiate enthusiasts. NSUNSG is an immersive title that decompresses a fighting game into simple, undeniable fun, while offering the best videogame adaptation of an anime/manga. Simply put, I cannot stop playing this game.
Recreating the authenticity of Naruto is a key component in NSUNSG’s success. It was critical that CyberConnect2 portrayed the source material with the utmost respect and accuracy. The developer built upon the previous iterations and roundly outdid them.
Straight away, I was taken aback by the presentation of Naruto’s story. As a fan, I am well versed in the universe and mechanics that created the series’ lore. NSUNSG understands its own vastness and focuses heavily on describing different perspectives and the impact that relationships have on the central plot of the manga. This is exemplified by the partnership with Studio Pierrot, the studio that animates the Naruto series. The team worked diligently to recreate the “Naruto” aesthetic in the central story mode.
Studio Pierrot’s imprint is in every facet of this game: the opening and ending cutscenes, the character models, the animations, or the overall art style. Cel shading gives NSUNSG an overwhelming anime aesthetic. The environments and stages feel familiar, as if I’ve lived in several of these areas – iconic locations from the series, with music taken directly from plot-defining moments. Each time I enter a platform for a battle, the overlaying theme triggers a distinct memory from the anime. Newcomers to the Naruto universe will find a well-orchestrated interactive version of the story, while veterans will be pleased with the attention to detail in this re-imagining of Naruto lore.
The preciseness of this adaptation is never more evident than with the featured character models. I am not just commanding the mysterious Uchiha Itachi, I am Itachi. Every step, feint, stare, and jostle mimics the Itachi of the anime. His voice is exactly as I remember, whether in English or Japanese. I hear the strains of battle, frustrations, doubts, arrogant taunts, and final words. What’s even better: he controls just like I envisioned.
The battle system in NSUNSG is simple and addictive. CyberConnect2 has crafted the combat for the Ultimate Ninja Storm series as an interpretation of the action sequences in the Naruto anime. It is the most accurate interpretation of an anime since Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 on the PlayStation 2. Battles are fluid, quick, and rewarding. The button input is similar to the previous versions of Ultimate Ninja Storm, so all actions are streamlined and straightforward. This allows players to control characters as they are presented in the anime. Maneuvering away from a jutsu and countering with one of your own is a breeze. Launching a string of combos, while calling in allies and finishing with a gloriously animated ultimate jutsu is nothing short of epic and effortless.
It is undeniable how much enjoyment NSUNSG produces because of its battle system. However, at times it feels too simple. In comparison with other renowned fighting games made by developers such as Capcom or Arc System Works, NSUNSG comes off as shallow. Movesets are limited, with little variation between characters. The “advanced” techniques are almost non-existent, save a basic cancel function that can be used sparingly to disrupt a combo’s pattern and mix-up an opponent. NSUNSG as a fighter is roundly underwhelming.
CyberConnect2 created NSUNSG not as a competitor to other fighting games but as an adaptation of the source material. Instead of emphasizing complexity, the title focuses on accessibility so that fans of the series can enjoy playing. That accessibility allows NSUNSG to have a robust online community. The community thrives because of how clear-cut the fighting system is. At any given time, I can find a match. Whether I am eking out a win or getting thoroughly whipped, I am very happy that there are opponents I can test my abilities against. With the sheer vastness of the Naruto fanbase, the primary prerogative for NSUNSG is to maximize its fun and remain faithful to its source material; there is no doubt that CyberConnect2 succeeded in spades.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a must-have for any Naruto enthusiast. Players will spend hours trying to master their favorite characters and assert dominance over their peers online, hopefully fashioning classic moments that are evocative a memorable sequence from the show. For fans who have never played a Naruto game, this is a great place to start. Most of the fan-favorite characters are included, the battle system is very easy to learn, and CyberConnect2 recreates the lore impeccably. Just don’t go into the experience expecting an advanced fighting game with a battle system that is 12 layers deep.
Review based on PlayStation 3 release.