Also On: PS3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
If you tend to regard the quality of anime licensed video games as subpar, then there’s a good chance you’ve been sleeping on what developer Cyberconnect2 has been doing lately with the Naruto license. Their last entry, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, was a pretty fun and gorgeous looking fighter based around the Shippuden time frame of the long-running anime/manga series, and took me by surprise with how much enjoyed it. So needless to say I was looking forward to what they did next with the series, and I’m happy to report that Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is just as fun.
Like the previous Ninja Storm titles, Generations culls from a variety of areas in the Naruto story to outfit its 72 character roster, certainly one of the largest rosters seen in a fighting game. Sure, a few entries are a little redundant, like kid and teen versions of Naruto, Sasuke, and a few others, but if you have a fan favorite in the series, there’s a good chance you can play as them here. There are also 15 additional characters that are featured as support only.
This game is essentially a 3D fighter, using wide open spaces for arenas and free movement not unlike the controls found in a typical action game. You can string together combo’s using the single attack button, but change up the combo using directional inputs from the left analog stick. The controls are pretty simple and easy to pick up, but the addition of canceling introduced to the series here adds a little more variety. Besides your standard attacks, you can opt to charge up chakra and use Jutsu, which is essentially a super move. There are a number of variations between characters, including Ultimate Jutsu, which is a super flashy and super damaging attack that ends up being the highlight of combat.
Generations, like the Ninja Storm titles that preceded it, isn’t the most balanced fighter out there. There is a fairly clear tier style system in place, which most fighters end up having, but certain characters in the roster are susceptible to move spamming and end up being less impactful, especially in online play. If you don’t care about being competitive, then it won’t bother you much, but if you want to stand a chance online there’s a good chance you might not be able to pick the character you’d most like to main, and still remain effective.
If you don’t care about the online side of the game, there’s still a lot to check out. The story mode of Generations drops the singular story aspect of previous Ninja Storm titles and opts to divide the story between characters. You’ll tackle both a young and teen Naruto tale that covers pretty familiar ground; check out the perspective from Sasuke’s end in his own story, run through Jiraiya’s confrontation with Pain, and handful of other stories. My only real complaint with this format is that some of the story stuff gets a little redundant between characters, but for the most part they try to keep things separated. Like when playing as young Naruto, it won’t touch on the battle with Haku and Zabuza, because they have their own story section to compete. Of course, for long time fans most of this going to be old news anyways.
Besides the story mode you can check out a few other things, like Survival and Tournaments. Survival is divided up into ranks, and features you fighting successive battles against foes without a break. This means your life bar won’t fully replenish after a fight, but if you clear a certain number of objectives in a battle you will get a little boost going into the next fight. The Survival rankings are also divided into a series of themed fights, and both Survival and Tournament are a little more involved than I would have thought, which is nice.
Tournament is similar in set-up, in that there are a variety of themed tournaments to participate in. Both Survival and Tournament will net you unlocks, which Generations is absolutely swimming in. You’ll also earn more in-game currency to be used in the shop, which also allows you to unlock a whole lot of stuff as well.
Online play offers up Ranked and Player matches. Winning Ranked matches will earn you battle points, and you can even participate in Custom Ranked matches to wager your earned battle points. There’s a Ninja Card system in place that’s based off of a real world collectible card game for Naruto, which are used to represent your avatar in the online space. These cards also function as boosters for your stats, offering up bonuses to defense, offense, chakra, Jutsu and more.
Player matches don’t involve battle points, but give you more search options. There’s also an Endless Mode in Player matches which is essentially eight man lobbies, where you can also spectate matches in progress, and save replays. There’s also a nice Beginner mode that locks out higher ranked players from participating, so if you’re just now experiencing the series it serves as a nice jumping off point for the online experience.
There aren’t a lot of significant changes between Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 and Generations that I noticed, outside of the absence of both the village to explore and shop at, and the more epic boss battles that involved quick time events. The village exploration isn’t really missed; it wasn’t that necessary and can easily be accomplished through the menu. But the absence of the QTE boss battle’s is a shame, as they were some of best examples of quick time events in any video game to date, and really drove home the epic feel of some of those fights. Here’s hoping Cyberconnect2 re-implements them into Ninja Storm 3, as I’d hate to see them missing in the next entry.
I definitely feel like Generations is worth checking out, not only for the hardcore Naruto fans but for fighting game fans in general. It’s a really beautiful looking game, with a fun but easy to understand fighting system, and offers up a lot of variety with its roster. It’s surely not the deepest fighting system out there, and certainly isn’t the most balanced, but I’m having a lot of fun with the game regardless. If you’re on the fence then at least give it a rental, but I have no problem suggesting you buy the game, as I definitely think it’s worth the asking price.