Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution Review
CyberConnect2 has had quite a good career with Naruto, with over sixteen games under their belt the team is going to be nearing the end of their run with the series quite soon seeing as the manga will have its official finale next month. In the mean time though, they’re trying to tide fans over with Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution which takes some steps away from the traditional format in the series in the hopes to deliver something different. Sadly it doesn’t come even close to its lofty goals, instead leaving us with a game that feels very stagnant.
The biggest draw of the Ultimate Ninja series has been the excellent way in which in chose to deliver the story of the anime. While the player had to slough through cumbersome dialogue trees far to often, the pay-off was always worth it as the battles that followed still stand as some of the best presented boss fights I’ve ever seen in game of this type.
Each of them was a spectacular showcase of the game’s excellent visual and sound design and the very well implemented quick time events actually served to make turn a previously annoying gameplay device into something that made the whole experience quite gripping. I actually turned to this series as a way to keep up with the story since I don’t really have time to keep up with the manga or anime and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the previous two titles.
Revolution forsakes this aspect entirely instead choosing to deliver the bulk of its content through the Ninja World Tournament mode which sees your chosen character competing in a massive tournament on an unnamed island in the hopes that you’ll be crowned as the ultimate ninja.
The tournament features a unique battle mode where players drop tiny collectable orbs when they’re damaged that can be collected by other fighters to score points. The character with the most points scored when the timer runs out is crowned the victor. What could have been an excellent new direction to take the series instead becomes a tiresome trudge which loses any sense of novelty almost instantly.
The main problem with the World Tournament mode is that all its battles are 4 fighter free-for-alls and its dreadfully clear that the game was never designed to accommodate so many players at once. CPU fighters either stand idle until provoked or gang up on whoever has the most orbs at any given time. With more than one fighter attacking you the block/dodge system becomes nearly useless and the balance between characters (which has always been quite shoddy in this series) becomes an even bigger issue.
There are five tiers if the tournament to progress through and I’ll admit that the game that it handles the difficulty curve really well here. There’s zero narrative reason to stick with it though, in fact it becomes dreadfully obvious very quickly that the dialogue is recycled in the tournament cutscenes for each of the five tiers.
Outside of the main tournament you can also recruit other ninja to use in team battles by doing several menial tasks for them or defeating them in combat. These missions are painfully tedious and are more of a chore than anything else and the rewards aren’t really worth it as your more than capable of fighting your way to the top spot alone.
Once you finish the Ninja World Tournament mode a secondary variant of it is unlocked: the Mecha Naruto Mode. Set in a non-canon timeline this mode follows the story of new, bizarre character called Mecha Naruto and its very much a return to form of the story mode of the previous games complete with cutscenes and a fully realized mini story arc.
But it still doesn’t hold a candle to the previous games’ storylines. The writing is downright bad and Mecha Naruto’s story is nowhere near compelling and relies on some of the series’ worst tropes. There are some amusing lines every now and then but not enough to ward off the desire to just skip the majority of the cutscenes.
There’s another separate narrative driven mode in the form of Ninja Escapades which features three storylines exclusive to the game, complete with mini episodes put together by Studio Pierrot themselves. The first two clock in at about 30 minutes and the third at about 5 minutes.
The first story deals with the creation of Akatsuki and has some quite fun fights but its mired in some of the laziest writing in the entire series. The second offers up a very compelling tale of the Uchiha clan and serves to be highlight of the entire game. The third features no battles at all but the story which it plays out is still one of the series’ better ones.
If you’re simply looking to engage in the standard battle mode against friends or the AI this is most definitely the best game in the series to go for as it boasts a staggering roster of more than a hundred characters including every fighter if each previous instalment in this series. Judged purely as an incarnation of its source material its still near perfect in its portrayal of the characters.
The core gameplay has gone completely untouched save for a new dodging system that allows players to escape combo chains and teleport behind their attackers. This moves uses up a limited energy bar though so you won’t be able to constantly escape danger.
The character specialisation system from before has also undergone a big change. At the beginning of a fight players get to choose between three character variants: Ultimate Jutsu, Drive and Awakening. Ultimate Jutsu serves up the vanilla character variant which has access to each character’s ultimate move that deals an immense amount of damage while Awakening allows you to power up your character for a short amount and Drive enables you to chain attacks with team members and disable the enemy’s moves.
Outside of those small changes its still the exact same game as before, right down to the character balance. Half of the roster is still either unplayably broken or woefully overpowered. The core gameplay feels like is begging for some innovation right about now as the series hasn’t seen any real change since the second game.
Outside of the very welcome new dodge system, Revolution is a near carbon copy of the previous games but with the best parts of its lineage stripped away to make room for a campaign mode that is lackluster at the best of times.
The visuals, music and large character roster are all as impressive as they’ve always been, but at its core this feels like a severely misguided attempt to keep fans engaged until the final chapter of the series. If you want to give this series a spin I would much rather recommend either Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 or 3.
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Ever so slightly unhinged, this one spends most of his time playing or writing about video games. Also dabbles heavily in tabletop, comics and the occasional bout of music creation.