I’ll be honest, I went into Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 quite unaware of the lore of the Naruto series. I’ve seen a few episodes from early on in the anime, but nothing at all from the Shippūden series. While I was confused about whom certain people were and what stories lead them to why they were here. The superb storytelling and insane action kept me extremely entertained throughout this explosive fighting game.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 starts out on the overall brink of the 4th Ninja war, and the game indeed feels like it. It’s chaotic and it doesn’t spend long getting you up to speed with what has transpired throughout the previous entries. I am sure it is missing out on a few big events, but by the games’ conclusion I felt as if I was fed just the right enough information to finally make sense of it all. I will say that despite the excellent story telling this game does with both its in-game engine and motion comic style cut-scenes, the whole of it felt like the ending few chapters of a much larger game. I understand that this is the 4th entry in a series, but the game lacks any true ‘start’ to its story here.
It is fairly easy to pull off some flashy moves and devastating attacks, and I’ll say this: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 has some of the best special attacks I have ever seen. Each attack seems like something that would shatter a mountainside, or create a city wide crater. Dragonball Xenoverse tried to do something similar with its game last year, but failed at making both a compelling story and a superb fighting experience, Naruto excels at both here with room to spare. The controls are fairly easy to get the hang of, but one dual button press felt awkward to use. A+Y is used for a charged run, but I had to hold the right side of the controller in a weird way to pull this off as the buttons are not that easy to press together. I eventually got the hang of it, but it takes some quick timing to pull it off in the heat of battle.
The visual style for this game is fantastic as the cell-shaded graphics lend themselves to making this title look like a much brighter, more colorful version of the hit anime series. While I still believe Guilty Gear Xrd Sign is the better looking title in this graphical style, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 does more here with their visuals on a much grander scale. The only flay with the presentation here is the over use of the motion comic cut-scenes. While entertaining and well done, I felt that the game could have benefited from all cut-scenes being in-engine, as the ones present here are simply eye candy.
While the story mode is the real meat of the game here, you can slug it out in the vs mode either with the AI, your friends, or random people online. I didn’t find much lag here, at least not enough that made the matches unplayable, but I was privy to a few disconnections here and there. The mode features a staggering amount of characters to play as, and while a good portion of them are variants of other characters, it still may be the largest ensemble of fighters ever included in a fighting game. You can pick 2 other fighters to join your team and swap out to them during the fight or summon them for combo attacks as well. It makes for a vastly deep fighting game since the selection of cross partner attacks are almost endless.
If you are a huge fan of the series, then the collectibles will have some weight to them for you. For me, being a Naruto newb, most of it was filler and had no real importance to me at first. As I played through the 8-10 hour campaign, I started to really enjoy the cast of characters, even if a large amount of them had really nothing to do but fill a background. You earn Ryo, the games’ currency through the multiple modes offered here to buy said collectibles. You can customize a Ninja card with various items you’ve collected to give yourself a presence online, defeating other players earns you their card. You also get bonuses for logging in each day and various events to challenge yourself in order to earn more items and Ryo.
There is another mode that takes place after the game that is similar to older Naruto games like Broken Bond but on a much lesser scale. You’ll visit a few places and do missions for people that range anywhere from finding someone’s cat or delivering someone’s lunch. This mode is lackluster and fairly pointless. After going through the epic campaign, this brought the games pacing to a screaming halt.
Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is very much meant for its existing fans as the over the top action and deep history of its vast cast of characters are on full display here in a no holds barred special move smackdown of epic proportions. Each fight is thrilling and the story is remarkably well told, despite the use of the motion comic style slide shows. While the adventure does feel like it belongs at the end of a much longer game, it is still an enjoyable action packed game with some incredibly well animated and expressive characters.