The Ultimate Ninja
line has always been a personal favorite as far as the Naruto
license is concerned. I've liked the 2D fighting style with multiple planes to give the game some more depth. So when I heard that Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm
would pull the series into 3D, I was worried. Quite frankly, most 3D fighting games really blend together for me. At this point, I can't really tell you which Dragon Ball Z
games had which characters or features, or which Soul Calibur
's had which special fighters. I was seriously worried thatUltimate Ninja Storm
would feel like every other 3D fighter out there. Well, the great thing is the game carries over quite a few of the unique features of the previous games in this line. Things like chakra pickups, a multitude of items to use (though the in-fight objects that give you those items seem to be gone) and the sheer energy of the fights all translate into the third dimension really well.
Ultimate Ninja Storm also introduces Support Characters. These are two characters you choose at the onset of the fight that can pop in and perform a move. I've found this really helpful when my fighter was unable to move because of some jutsu. Call in one of your Supports and, most likely, their attack will break you free. Of course, there is a rest period after using a Support Character before you can use him or her again, but you have two so if you use them wisely, that won't be an issue.
Besides the Support Characters, this game also gives you an "Awakening" mode for all of the characters. When low on life, activating this mode gives them a new boost of energy, more powerful attacks and greater speed. For some, like Naruto and Sasuke, this causes a physical transformation (One-Tailed Naruto and Second State Sasuke), while others just glow. Like the Support Characters, this feature really adds a lot of energy to the fights, though it isn't completely original since it can be easily seen in DBZ's many transformations.
Between fights is a whole other world. Actually the open-world area feels a lot like Rise of a Ninja since you will run around the world looking for various missions, though this part of the game isn't nearly as complex and robust as Rise of a Ninja's. Missions in the open world will consist of tasks like playing hide-and-seek with Konohamaru or finding ingredients for the Ichiraku Ramen Bar. By completing open-world missions, you earn Mission XP which are used to unlock Flashback Missions. These are the major events that further that game's story (which starts off right at the beginning and goes all the way to the Sasuke Retrieval Squad). While most of these missions are major fights from the show, not all of them are. One of the early ones has Naruto running around the village looking for cats.
There is also the standard array of collectables that you can purchase, but Ultimate Ninja Storm has found a way to repay your collecting nature. Each Flashback Mission has a diorama associated with it. Once you buy the necessary character figures, jutsu and music, you get treated to a nice scene that recreates a pivotal part of that mission. Again, it's nothing major, but it is a nice detail.