Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Review: Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm Generations (360)

Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm Generations has to have easily taken over the mantle for most unwieldy title to try and say in casual conversation. Being a huge Naruto fan, I have always gravitated naturally to these titles – I mean who wouldn't enjoy playing as your favorite character and really cutting loose on some baddies? Featuring a staggering 87 playable characters (some replicates for different ages of Naruto and Sasuke) all manner of combinations of opponents can be set up to scrap. Combat takes place in 3rd person perspective with the camera shifting based on where you are facing. Each character gets a support character to summon during the fight to try and turn the tide of combat.

Stripping away a lot of the fluff from previous games, Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm Generations is much leaner in approach – reducing the experience to a basic fighting versus fighting game. This approach is what most fans would want anyways – dispense the formalities and just start swinging. When first starting out, you are pretty much expected to start using the Story Mode so you can start unlocking the myriad of characters that are playable. 3 campaigns are playable – young Naruto, teenage Naruto, and Uchiha Sasuke (SQUUEEEE!) where you get to replay the major fights of the story from the series.

In order to keep things equal, all characters are pretty much interchangeable – with any character possessing the strength and skills necessary to fight on equal standing with any opponent (as completely unlikely as that is with the continual power-creep that goes on during the Naruto storylines – but I completely understand why this was done). Keeping things basic, the gameplay is pretty much just a handful of buttons – block, attack, shuriken, jutsu, and jump. The simplified control structure is a boon to the new or casual gamer – you can learn the basic controls in a few games. Like most games, true mastery is much more difficult to obtain – especially without a tutorial mode to demonstrate some of the more complicated skills (took me over 10 hours to actually start getting the substitution to work reliably). With such a streamlined approach to execution of moves and skills, characters lose their individuality and you can use anyone without a learning curve.   

Fights between 2 skilled opponents tend to devolve rather quickly – both spam shuriken to disrupt any quick motion. Someone tries to sprint dash and gets countered… then both move to close range. Once there, it becomes "who will connect the first successful attack?" and then "will the other person use one of their 4 substitutions to escape this sequence?"… Pretty cookie-cutter after a while.

Visually and aurally the game delivers. The cell shading animation continues to look even more seamless than previous versions – not perfect all the time, but certainly less jarring than what we've seen from previous anime-based games. The voice work has my most important feature – the option to switch to Japanese mode! Now it sounds like the animated series to me. Thanks Namco, that's easily my biggest pet peeve when left out. Progression through the story mode has animated cut-scenes to frame each fight – very cool! This method allows both the uninitiated and the rabid fan to appreciate the context of each fight, instead of just assuming that it is yet another ninja-based fight over paying the cheque.

All in all – Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm Generations is moving in the right direction – giving fans the chance to use all of the favorite characters and making it accessible to as many people as possible. When making parity though you have to be careful that you aren't watering down all the characters too much which is what ended up happening.

- Tazman

The Good:
- Highlights all the must see fights of the franchise
- Ton of characters to choose from
- Ease of pick up and play

The Bad:
- Definitely could have benefited from a tutorial mode
- Fights degrade into a rock-paper-scissors button slamming exercise

Score: 6.5 / 10