Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is not a welcoming game for those not familiar with any of the previous 14 iterations and, in all honesty, it doesn’t need or intend to be.
The game is under the huge assumption that you’ve played at least one of those games and are familiar with it’s strange mix of fighting, world roaming, item grinding and mission based distractions. It takes a LOT of wading to just to understand how the hell you’re supposed to play the bloody thing effectively.
Chances are if you don’t like, or even know about, the insanely popular Naruto manga/anime series then this game won’t have even touched the periphery of your awareness. As such, this review is written from the view of someone who has never played a Ninja Storm game and will possibly be of more interest to those who also have never played one rather than the fans of the series who have had it pre-ordered since it was announced.
What it boils down to is this: If you’re not a fan, don’t bother. There, that was easy.
You’re still here? Hnnnn, alright, alright.
It allegedly continues the story from the third Ultimate Ninja Storm game, but in what sense it’s difficult to tell as the main mode doesn’t have a story as such. The premise is you’re partaking in the Ultimate Ninja Tournament, where you chose from an initially small roster of characters (which expands to 100+) and you battle to determine who is the Ultimate Ninja. The battles are ranked, and split into Qualifying, Preliminary and Main. In between the battles you roam the limited open world to unlock characters, collect money, items, do a little shopping and play the lottery, which gives you costume, customisation options, videos, online card borders, titles and other trinkets to scratch that gambling/hoarder itch.
Around the free-roaming space are characters who ask you to complete tasks for them, and in return they’re generally unlocked and are able to be chosen as playable or support characters, which can also be used as Network Clones. The network clone is a customisable character with moves and items that you leave for other players connected to the internet to fight against, which is a pretty novel and interesting feature.
The Ultimate Ninja battles take place as a 4 person free for all rumble, whereby you beat the snot out of your opponents and collect the Orbs they scatter like confetti. Whoever has the most orbs at the end of the round is declared the winner.
There are also one on one battles (it’s usually this type of battle during the missions and ‘Jobs’, another of the myriad distractions in the game) where you choose two support characters (a little like in the Marvel Vs Capcom series) and one of 3 fighting powers; Ultimate Jutsu, Awakening and Drive, each of which perform in different ways but all consume your Storm meter. You build the Storm meter through various means of collecting dropped Chakra or generating it while holding the Y button, but this method leaves you defenseless as you charge the meter.
The first large problem with this game is it doesn’t have an ‘easy entry’ tutorial to guide new players in. In this day and age Tutorials are a given at the beginning of any game, and many people bemoan the fact there are tutorials that slow down the pace of getting into the meat proper, but in this instance a clear and comprehensive tutorial would have been welcomed with open arms. Fanfare even. A parade would have been thrown for it, in all honesty. As it is there are tips and minor pointers on the loading screens which are also available in the start menu, but they aren’t nearly comprehensive enough to make sense to a complete newcomer. For example there’s instruction on how a Chakra Dash is effective in battle, but doesn’t actually tell you how to do the Chakra Dash.
There are other confusing design decisions, like the actual tournament. Complete the battles in a rank and the game seemingly ends. Then you load it up again and it welcomes you back to the tournament, unlocks more of the free roaming world, adds new items to the store and unlocks challenges where you have to fulfill certain criteria to win, but you can do all this with a completely different character to the previous rank. All the customisation unlocks are still there, all the items, but the game doesn’t differentiate between which character you pick. None of the NPCs call you by your characters name; there’s no contextual speech in that respect at all. It was odd reading a character refer to Naruto in the third person while being stood there playing as Naruto.
Then there’s the combat itself, which at first seems incredibly skill-less and after a while seemed just as skill-less. Each character seems to have minor variations on the same move set, the only differentiation being their Jutsu (special ninja moves to you and I). It seems the abundance of characters is simply to provide people with the opportunity to play as their favourite from the series. In the matches where you can build a team there are benefits to joining up characters which share certain keywords (Originals, for example, are the characters from the very beginning of the series), but it’s never really explicitly explained how it works.
In the four man battles there’s a toggleable lock on, but it’s not as spry as it needs to be and you frequently find yourself locked onto a character on the other side of the arena while trying to figure out which way you’re supposed to flick the right stick to lock onto the guy that you’re aiming to clobber.
The AI is erratic as hell as well. Sometimes one of the opponents will attempt pound the tar out of you, or all 3 of them gang up on you and attempt to pound the tar out of you, or they’ll just stand there like a bump on the lawn and do absolutely nothing at all.
Looking at it from a purely objective, newbie, non-fan point of view it’s a pretty bad video game. The combat systems clash and jangle like a vehicular pile up, each one grinding against the others and making little sense on their own. There are so many items to choose from you can’t tell what’s useful in battle and what isn’t, and that’s before you get to things like Bento, food items which act as a buff during the battle, raising your attack, or chakra generation, or increasing your defense. The inventory is confusing as well, as there are a finite amount of items you can carry and should you go over that limit (which isn’t displayed anywhere, at all, ever) the items gained in, say, the Lottery are immediately sold. Or so the game says, it’s just another example of it being obtuse and ill thought out.
There’s also so much stuff crammed into the game intended to add distractions and means of unlocking and collecting stuff you can’t help but wonder if they’d spent less time on the fan service and more on the actual game and mechanics they could have made something ‘outsiders’ could enjoy. As it is, this game serves no other purpose than to give Naruto fans exactly what they want.