The music is pleasant and the voice work is superb, whether you opt for the original Japanese audio or English dub. There's little to fault here.
As close to recreating the art style of the anime as you're ever likely to get, Naruto 4 is a treat for the eyes. Character models are nigh-on flawless, while environments are remarkably pretty. Special Techniques and jutsus fill the screen with a riot of colour and epic effects. Beautiful.
Initially underwhelming, scratch beneath Naruto's surface and you'll find a deep and gratifying fighting game that's easy to pick up and challenging to master. It's fun too.
No shortage of modes and options, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is bristling with content that will keep you occupied for weeks on end, if not months. And it's all nicely presented too. The wealth of characters to choose from, each with their own unique move sets will keep you coming back for more.
A letdown. Half of the list is devoted to acquiring Story S ranks, while the rest is fairly bog standard stuff. There's an excellent spread and mercifully no online achievements, but there's little room for invention or creativity here.
February 04, 2016
Before playing Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, I had only a very rudimentary knowledge of the popular anime series and comic books. Now, having endured a long and convoluted story, I have a better understanding of the Fourth Great Ninja War than I do of real-life, actual wars that have taken place on planet Earth. I guess that's testament to how well developer CyberConnect2 tells its story, although for a Naruto noob like me, it can all seem rather impenetrable.
Thankfully, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4's narrative is propped up by some truly gorgeous anime-styled visuals, which are about as close to perfectly emulating the series as you're ever likely to get. The Story mode is just one of several, but serves as the backbone of the game, taking you through a variety of major events in the Fourth Great Ninja War, from Obito's downfall to Madara's increasingly manic grasp for power and beyond. It's typically over-the-top, overwrought and suitably melodramatic, but a lot of fun nonetheless. And you don't really need to have played the other games to enjoy the insanity and the spectacular boss encounters.
”Tailed Beast Bomb Rasen Shuriken!” Probably.
Once you've lived through the long cut-scenes and drawn-out battles of Naruto's Story, there's plenty more longevity to be wrung out of the game in its Adventure mode. Picking up where the story left off, Adventure begins in Hidden Leaf Village, where Naruto, Sakura and Hinata find themselves exploring an expansive world, helping people and completing fetch quests (there are several lost cats to find and return to their owners, for instance). You'll visit locales like the Land of Waves, the Village Hidden in the Sand, Village Hidden in the Cloud, Turtle Island and The Final Valley, as you follow the 'Trail of the Gale' across Naruto's world.
Adventure is a nicely fleshed out mode, with 54 collectible Memory Fragments and 'conglomerations of thoughts' to find that unlock flashback battles from throughout Naruto's history, as well as 50 Ninja Tasks to complete in addition to the range of missions on offer. It all unfolds at a nice, leisurely pace, interspersed with battles that'll test your mettle. Some are tough, some are pretty simple. Adventure turns out to be a nice expansion to the main story mode, though less cinematic in presentation and far less dramatic in its narrative scope.
Beyond the core Story and Adventure modes, you can also cut your teeth in Free Battle where you'll find an array of match options, from straight-up VS Battles to Survival, Tournaments, or Leagues. Here, you're able to choose from the game's roster of 100+ characters and take part in 3v3 or 1-on-1 bouts, unleashing big fireballs and other flashy, retina-scorching moves and pyrotechnics.
These Free Battle modes also offer the perfect opportunity to get in some practice with Naruto 4's fight mechanics, which at face value can seem rather basic. You have simple projectile attacks, strikes, and if you keep your blue chakra bar charged by holding down Y, you're able to let rip with devastating ninjutsu moves, including screen-filling Secret Techniques. Fights can be tactical affairs too, with judicious management of your substitution jutsu, quick dodge, guard and well-timed counterattacks utterly essential if you want to emerge victorious.
Oh, Sasuke. What are you up to now?
And once you've dispensed with what Story, Adventure and Free Battle has to offer, you can confidently stride into Naruto 4's Online Battle mode, safe in the knowledge that you're a ninja master. Or not. You can play Ranked or Player Matches online, and it all works just as well as the game's offline modes, although matchmaking (at time of writing, at least) can take a little while. The action remains smooth and stable while you're connected, although the selection of online options are quite limited.
As for the achievement list, Naruto 4's is one of the least imaginative we've seen in a long time. Half of the list is dedicated to acquiring S ranks in every single one of the game's story chapters, which is not only a tall order, but remarkably dull. Other achievements task you with completing various moves in battle and beating certain milestones in Free Battle modes. You'll also bag a couple of achievements for doing everything in Adventure mode too. A shoddy list that evidently has had very little thought put into it. No online achievements is a plus though.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 isn't exactly a huge stride on from the previous titles in the series, but it's all wonderfully presented and clearly a labour of love for CyberConnect2. Its fighting mechanics are deep yet intuitive, while the bold and colourful visuals replicate the look of the anime series impeccably. A must for Naruto fans, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is also an enjoyable fighting game for anyone unacquainted with the anime.