by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
The battle will never end...
Or so says the prophecy which is told at the beginning of the story. Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (from this point onward will be referred to as Ninja Storm 4) places gamers in the role of the title character Naruto Uzumaki and his Ninja friends as he attempts to overcome the forces of the legendary Madara Uchiha.
I’ll admit to not being a huge anime fan, and as such, wasn’t up with the story. But Ninja Storm 4 comes with a wonderfully told back story, giving novice Naruto Shippuden gamers a chance to see how the major characters have come to be where they are now. The back stories are told via a series of liner branches, each progressing the story from the viewpoint of certain characters. In order to progress, gamers must take control of one (or sometimes more) of the characters and prevail in the battle that takes place. Completing each chapter of the story mode garners special equipment and currency known as Ryo depending on how well gamers perform. Much of this ‘loot’ is only good to trade in for more Ryo.
More than just a story
Apart from the Story Mode, Ninja Storm 4 comes complete with a plethora of game modes, as you would expect from a fighting game. The Adventure mode allows gamers to replay various sections of the story mode, giving them the opportunity to improve on their initial performance and gain the better quality ‘loot’ in the process.
Free Battle is actually rather fun, and in itself, comes with a number of play modes, giving gamers the chance to perfect their skills in a variety of manners. Survival mode lets combatants take on one opponent at a time until their health bars deteriorate. Vs Battle lets gamers play as any character on the roster and compete against any other character. I found that this was a particularly good way of learning each of the characters special combo moves whilst still in a combat scenario. Practice does pretty much the same thing, albeit with nothing on the line. Tournament and League round out the Free Battle options, requiring gamers to take on multiple opponents in a test to see who comes out on top.
And if AI competition is not to your liking, there is always the opportunity to jump online and test your skills against other human challengers. If, like me, you’re new to the Ninja Storm series, it is definitely a good idea to hit the practice modes in Free Battle first (or play through a large portion of the Story Mode) in order to get yourself up to speed with each of the characters and their strengths and weaknesses.
Although each of the characters have their own unique jutsu (techniques) that they use in battle, many of the button combinations are similar and in the end I often found that in many cases, I was button-mashing the attack button. As a result, many of the battles had a familiar feel about them. Luckily, there is enough variation in the battles to keep the gameplay reasonably fresh. The storytelling that often occurs within the battles – somewhat like an intermittence – also keeps the combat interesting. And the fact that opponents behave differently, also allows for a change of scenery.
The music used in the game has an authentic Japanese sound and the rock music intro is rather cool even though it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the game and the time period. Actually, audio on the whole is rather good. The characters are wonderfully voiced, and although some of the voices don’t seem to match their characters (some younger characters sound middle aged, for instance), they each bring vibrancy to the character they’re playing. The visuals are vibrant too, with loads of colour splashed about the battles whenever a special combo is enacted. For the most part, the story progresses via still-shot anime which seemed a little lazy, but does not hinder the storytelling at all.
Despite the combat in the battles being fairly similar no matter which character you play as, I found myself continuing on through the story mode, because I wanted to see how the story progressed. It is a compelling story told from various points of view, similar to the way George R.R Martin does in Game of Thrones. The anime visuals and great voice acting complete the story amazingly well. And Ninja Storm 4 has enough game modes to keep gamers interested, enabling players to build up their repertoires when it comes to battling the various combatants. And while console gamers have an overabundance of fighting games to choose from, Ninja Storm 4 is one of the few AAA fighting games that has transitioned to PC, so that in itself gets a thumbs up from me.
Heaps of game modes, wonderfully told story
Combat can just be a button mashing fest, especially against the AI