The Ultimate Ninja Storm series has entered the third (or fourth, if you count Generations) entry in the series. Known for its amazing visuals and staying true to the anime itself, this game brings all that back for another round. You have to wonder if the series can simply survive on just those two elements alone. The last few games have introduced some new things and spice up the gameplay a bit. Fortunately, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 does enough to keep this series going strong.
If you don’t follow the Naruto Shippuden series at all, stop reading here. This game probably isn’t for you, nor will it ever be. The series picks up immediately after the events of the second game, from the rebuilding of Konoha Village to the Fourth Great Ninja War. The story is beautifully retold in the game’s signature cel-shaded style, and doesn’t miss a detail. Because of this, some cutscenes play out longer than the ones that have been presented in the past. One scene in particular clocks in at about 30 to 45 minutes. If you’re willing to sit through the whole thing, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. If you really want to get to the action, waiting might leave you a bit antsy.
The battle system itself has been fairly simple since the game’s creation: a lot of button mashing and simple combos. In the hands of a seasoned player, matches can be very intense, but even so, it can get stale after a while. A new multi-person battle option lets you fight multiple enemies on screen. Thankfully, to keep the action moving, these enemies generally have lower health than enemies in regular matches. It’s a nice addition, but does little for the game as a whole, since you can only do these battles in the game’s Adventure Mode.
Making a return to the series are the game’s quick-time events, that are scripted into certain battles. In major storyline events, you can participate in a beautifully-crafted sequence that animates the battle to play out depending on your reaction. If you reach the allotted number of stars needed, you receive an extra scene that plays into the battle itself. Unfortunately, there seem to be less of these events than in the last game.
Another new element? The branching story paths. You have the option to either take the Legend Route, which sticks closer to what the original story was and is generally harder, or the Hero Route, which is easier and gives an alternate perspective to the more canon story events. It’s a nice change of pace, but doesn’t really do much to affect the story’s conclusion.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 gives you the option to go online or play locally against your friends in either a single, team or tournament battle. Thanks to the longevity of the series itself, the character roster is robust, and creating dream teams is half the appeal. The same shortcomings of the last game make a return, though. A lot of the side quests are pointless and don’t seem to benefit you all. The Ninja Card collection is tedious, and after you’ve beaten the game, there’s really no compelling reason to go back and collect everything.
If you like the Naruto series and have liked the Ultimate Ninja Storm series as a whole, this third game is a great addition to your collection. The game is even more cinematic than the last one, and this chunk of the series had one of the better stories I’ve seen or read in a long time. Unlike most anime-based games, this series stays faithful to its source material.
Pros: Beautiful cel-shaded graphics, amazing storytelling
Cons: Pointless and tedious side quests, not many additions to the last installment