The Nartuo anime series is set to turn 10 years old this year. As anime starts to become more mainstream and cross over into other forms of media, no other can claim the success that the Naruto series has had (well, save for Dragon Ball). This is especially true in video games, where the series has had eighteen games released in the US, the newest title being Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations.
I am going to assume that those who are reading this review know something about the Naruto series, either through the anime or the manga. I am also going to assume that those who do know about Naruto are fans, and are up to date on the current arc that the anime is in and the manga is in (at least those who read Japanese and subscribe to Weekly JUMP). That said, I’ll try to keep important story/plot spoilers to a minimum.
Anime Cliff’s Notes- As with the past two games, Generations follows the anime almost to a T, with some slight alterations. While other perspectives are given, and this will be touched on in a bit, the story still revolves around Naruto and his continuing mission to bring back Sauske. This is a good starting point for those who want to know more about the anime but are not yet sure of investing time watching it.
70+ Fighters and Support Characters - Generations is boasting on of the biggest rosters in a Naruto game to date. Over 70-plus fighters and support characters enter the brawl, spanning the last two games and new additions from both the anime and manga. Ever wanted to know who is stronger between the Hogakes? Or which version of team seven is the better version? Or for all you fangirls out there, which version of Sasuke is better?
Other Character Perspectives Shown - One of the major changes in Generations is that it doesn’t follow a main story mode. Instead the story mode is divided up among different characters, each either showing their perspective of events or giving additional back story. Here we get to see more about life-altering events for each character, such as Sasuke’s fall from grace and Naruto’s journey. We also get to see additional events explained such as Kakashi’s early years, Minato’s life before sealing the Nine Tails, Zabuza and Haku’s partnership, and even get deeper into Madara’s hate for Hidden Leaf and the formation of the Akatsuki. We learn why Itachi did what he did, the pain Gara felt, and we are given a sample of what’s to come as the Five Kage declare war and prepare for the Fourth Shinobi World War
New Animation - Generations has over 65 minutes of new animation that the producers of the anime have created exclusively for the game. These new pieces of animation show some new insights that the anime does not. Scenes include Naruto’s and Sasuke’s fights, Jiyara’s encounter with Pain, the fight between Madara Uchia and Hashirama Senju the First Hokage. Just a reminder, a majority of these scenes have ties to the anime and some that haven’t been touched on yet, revealing plot spoilers for the show.
Streamlined as a Fighter - The first two games in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series were hybrids of an RPG/ adventure game and a fighting game. While they were a really great way to explore and expand the story of the anime, the main attraction was the fighting sections of the game. So Cyber Connect 2 streamlined the game to be more fighter than RPG/adventure. Game mechanics were changed, such as substitution jutsu now having its own meter, Awaking Mode being added in, and using a password found on the Naruto TCG unlocking extra content and other added advantages. A tournament mode was also added in to allow players to run 8-player tourneys without having to swap players when a match is over.
Story Elements Condensed - One of the best parts that got condensed from the game while it was being streamlined into a fighter were the story elements. While story is secondary when it comes to fighters, this isn’t the case with Naruto. In a majority of the battles that Naruto gets into there is a recurring theme about The Ninja Way. The Ninja Way are the dreams and ambitions that each ninja has and strives for. In Naruto’s case its being accepted by the villagers of the hidden leaf and becoming Hokage. This drives Naruto to never give up no matter how dire the odds are against him, and in turn inspires those around him to give it their all. All of it was recreated amazingly using the in-game graphics engine. Generations gives a “Cliff’s Notes” version of the events, with static images and intro and outro animations. While the static images and the animations are drawn very well, it doesn’t convey the story the same way.
Boss Battle Cinematics Cut - In addition to the story elements being condensed, the boss battle cinematics that went along the story elements were cut as well. During boss battles, cinematic actions (ie QTEs) would appear in the middle of a fight. Here, players would input the prompts as fast and accurately as they can in order to receive a damage boost. These cinematic actions and the story elements combined together to expand the game’s concept of The Ninja Way. With both taken out, it weakens the story.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a fairly decent fighting game and is a fitting tribute to the 10 year old anime series. Generations streamlines itself to focus more on the fighting aspects of previous games while having a massive 70+ roster of characters to choose from. It also gives fans new and old a condensed version of events that happened in the past two games and new perspectives from characters vital to the anime and manga for the first time. However, the wonderful cell shaded 3D animations that fueled the story elements and the boss battle cinematics have been cut down to reflect the game’s cliff notes approach to the story. Yes, most fighting games tend not to focus so much on the story, but with a property such as Naruto, the story is a key factor in the anime’s success. Regardless, fans of the series will enjoy the game and anime fans that are intimated by other fighting games will be able to play without feeling intimated.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*