Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also available on: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
I used to be mean-spirited as hell when I was younger, and I used to point and laugh at Naruto fans. I thought that the series was pure shonen garbage, just another enemy-of-the-week annoyance where the power of friendship won the day and non-permanent death removed any genuine emotional weight. Because of this, I held the series’ fans in utter contempt while I went along my merry way watching edgier, more complex and mature anime. That all changed when my nephew got the first Xbox 360 Naruto game from Ubisoft, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. I played through it and had a blast doing so, and through that game, I started to learn about the series’ world and the characters that inhabited it. It’s essentially Harry Potter, except replace “wizard” with “ninjas,” add a lot more bodies dropping, and a dash of politics.
Soon, I was reading the manga alongside my nephew, week to week, fully engaged in a tale that was everything I thought it was, only far better than what little credit I originally gave it. Flash forward to 2016, and here I am having already played all of the Naruto games that have been released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and fully ready to review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 on the PlayStation 4. It’s the conclusion to the titular character’s story arc, and it’s being sent off with a package that befits one of the most legendary — and rightfully so — shonen series of all time.
Right from the start, the game is a visual joy to behold. The engine seems to be the same as the one that powered the previous console generation’s games, except with better visual effects, particle effects, lighting and shading techniques to match the horsepower of the PS4. There’s no greater place to see this in action than the game’s first listed option, which is its Story Mode. The story’s chapters take the final arc of the franchise to beautiful new heights, complete with the series’ great use of quick-time events to punctuate action-packed moments.The chapters are listed in a constellation-esque map at the bottom of the screen, and the art panels in the background look as if it’s the Naruto series as imagined by the Okami team. Each chapter gives an estimated time of completion as well, which gives a great guideline for those with a limited amount of time to just pick it up and play.
I won’t spoil the story at all, but most of the people who would care already know the ins and outs of how it all goes down, so I’ll just say that the story follows the manga’s tale right down to the letter. Considering the “new enemy” shell game that went on in the last phase of the manga’s plot, playing through it was far less frustrating than reading it, and beating all of the stages with an “S” ranking is incredibly rewarding. It’s a well-executed experience through and through, and CyberConnect2 should be overwhelmingly commended for their work on the series.
If anything, I’d love to see them come out with DLC that allows you to play through the entirety of the story’s cinematic battles in one single game. I don’t care how much space it takes up on my hard drive or if it cost as much as the original game itself, that experience would be worth it, because their single-player modes always seem to bring out the best that the story has to offer. Forget the anime adaptation and all of its endless, pointless seasons of filler — the Storm games are where this series’ action is at its most kinetic, and thus it becomes the one medium that does its events the most consistent amount of justice.
Moving on from there, we have Adventure Mode, which takes place directly after the events of the main story. In UNS4, the run-around-the-world adventure has taken a significant back seat to the story and versus modes, and once you start Adventure Mode, this becomes plain to see. I do not mind this, because its Story Mode is where this game truly shines, and CC2’s open-world jaunts in the Naruto universe — and this is a recurring theme in all of the prior Storm games, as well — usually come off feeling like a collection of mind-numbingly boring fetch quests. However, some people may enjoy this, and if you’re one of them, you won’t find one that’s as long as the ones featured in any of the previous titles. Especially so in the case of NS:UNS Revolution, which was essentially a giant, never-ending fetch quest mixed with dream battle blah. I’m glad they didn’t repeat that here.
Versus modes are present, and this is where CC2 made some of the best evolutionary decisions in this game. The old games would allow you to choose a character or variant of that character (depending on time period) that would have different abilities from the other versions. Now, you can choose one costume / move variant and have the ability to select from multiple techniques from that character’s history. This is a tremendous change, because you can now select a character with multiple variants and have the ability to customize that character’s playstyle to your exact liking. You want Kakashi to have one of his new Ultimate Jutsus, but want to keep an old-school jutsu like the classic Fire Ball on standby? You can now do this. In a game with 60+ characters, that sort of customization opens up potential combinations up to a staggering degree.
There’s a lot of other gameplay changes for the better, like the ability to fully tag out / switch partners instead of just calling them for assists, or the ability to perform easy counters at a temporary cost of your chakra meter’s maximum charge, which recovers to full capacity over time. This really brings the game closer to a competitive standard of some sort, but I can’t say it’s on the same level as many of the mainline fighters in the field. There’s way too many characters and way too many crazy things going on in this game to have some sort of serious competition, so anyone looking for legit frame-counted science here will find themselves intruiged, but perhaps ultimately disappointed.
While I didn’t have a chance to play with another person for local versus, I have played the Online Battle mode, and I found that the netcode was unpredictable at best. Every match I played suffered from horrific delay, until I hosted a match. Then, the shoe was on the other foot, and I had an overwhelming advantage. In short, the online portion is to be avoided at all costs, as its netcode was — at least for me — complete and utter garbage. To be fair, it’s never been a series known for great online play, but I was hoping for something out of this last one. I guess that’s what I get for having optimism.
All in all, this game is so good that it borders on great, especially for its single-player offerings. It’s a wonderful — and maybe not quite final, depending on where the franchise goes next — tribute to the series and is a game meant to be loves by fans. I can say without a doubt that Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is worth your time and money, as long as you’re not looking for online excellence. If you’ve ever been like I was in the past, always looking down on this series as if it was somehow beneath you, I implore you to give the Storm titles a shot. It’s a fantastic franchise, and playing this one only carries the requisite weight if you’ve played the preceding games in the series. You’ll have fun, I promise.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.
It’ll rock you like a hurricane.