Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, as with the previous games in the Storm series, offers a great entry point into the world of beat’em ups. The games core mechanics are approachable enough to the point that anyone who lays eyes on the game in action could reasonably pick up the game and play, yet deep and versatile enough to reward anyone who puts some serious time into practicing the games aggressive, rhythmic paced combat. Button bashers can breathe a sigh of relief, you will be catered for here, upon first sight the game may appear a complex and strategic affair, but once you get your hands on the controller you will realise this is not the case. Moves are fast and simple to pull off and the controls are responsive and tight. If you however enjoy becoming deeply proficient in your fighters you will still manage to find a game that is deeply strategic with no entry barrier on learning pages and pages of moves. The game has a distinct rhythm. You’ll know when to dash in, when to evade and when to pull off a special, all to the beat of the game and those who master the beat will master any battle.
The Naruto story line by this point has been bountifully fleshed out throughout the course of the Anime, Manga and previous video game entries. Generations’ single-player story mode attempts a new approach, consisting of eight or so isolated storyline components. Each of these components start with introduction style clips from the Anime series. After enjoying these beautifully drawn scenes you are introduced to the games main form of storytelling, story board style scenes with voice over narration by the shows cast. These scenes are used purely to set you up for the next battle. These scenes are good at bringing people up to speed with the series, if not in a rather brief manner. An in-game encyclopedia of sorts would have been great for those experiencing the series for the first time. This could have provided insights into characters and their motives, however, unfortunately, this is absent.
Gameplay wise Generations’ is very much the arena fighter that we have seen in the series’ previous encounters. You can pick from a whopping 72 playable characters ranging across the entire Naruto saga. Once again, this game is no technical fighter so most move sets are the same. The real diversity comes from the characters individual special moves. There’s no deciding between when to use a high kick or a low kick here, it’s all about getting out as many special moves, fireballs and explosions as you can, with the correct timing of course. The game lacks from any kind of tutorial system which is an unfortunate fall back. Not having played any other game in the series before this I delved into the first single player mission hoping to get some kind of learning material forced upon me, what was instead forced upon me was a ninja’s foot to my face as it dumped me straight into a battle and proceeded immediately to give me a good kicking. Approaching the training mode does reveal a command list however this only provides the games basic function, some of the more refined points for more advanced gameplay remain hidden and must be discovered through experimentation.
The game is full of unlockables as most of the character roster must be unlocked, bar a handful you are given at the start. This includes both characters you can play and support characters that are unlocked through progression of the Story mode. Playing any kind of battle whether it is single player or multiplayer will reward players with in game currency to spend in the game store. The store includes in game items to aid you in battle, character art and title art to add to your character card. It is a shame however that the store does not contain character outfits or additional stages.
Generations’ is spot on when it comes to capturing the look and feel of the Anime. At its core is an art style mimicking the television show and it does a great job at doing so. The high contrast art style assaults your eyes with crisp, bright colours and smooth animations. CyberConnect2 have had a lot of time to refine the look of their Naruto games over the years and Generations’ is just as good a looker as any of the other games in the series.
Generations’ may reflect just a minor refinement over the previous outings of the series, however minor tweaks here and there, as well as the robust multiplayer component, which includes modes that range from one on one battles to 8 player tournament mode help provide a more complete package. Naruto fan or not it’s hard not to be impressed by the games simplistic yet strategic approach. Button bashers and proficient veteran ninja’s alike will find this a worthy reason to revisit the Naruto universe.