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Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations
Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Cyber Connect2
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local); 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
I've not only been a Naruto fan for many years, but I've also been the resident Naruto game reviewer for that period. As a result, I've seen a lot of variations on the Naruto fighting formula. In all of that time, the Ultimate Ninja line has been the cream of the crop. More recently, the Ultimate Ninja Storm series has moved the line into the 3D fighting arena and while there are some mixed results from that venture, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations seems to resolve pretty much every issue I've had with the series and results in a truly in-depth and fun Naruto fighting game.

The first thing any fan of the anime or manga will notice about Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is how well it conveys the look, feel and style of the series. While the previous two games did a lot to make themselves feel right, the visuals in Generations seem noticeably superior. Not only was I impressed by how well the anime style was conveyed in this particular title, but the special effects for each character's abilities and transformations really hit the nail on the head.

The same goes for sound, though solid audio has been a staple of the Naruto game franchise for many years. Both voicework and music sell the Naruto feel as both iconic music and voices complete the top-level presentation to really suck you into the Shinobi World.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations's gameplay varies only slightly from the past two Ultimate Ninja Storm games. Like the past titles, the 3D open arena really gives you the freedom to pull off some spectacular moves, but still keeps you close enough to your opponents to keep the action up. As a result, the fights keep their high-energy feel from beginning to end.

Many features like support characters and items return for this newest title, but it seems the developers wanted to add just a bit more strategy into the mix. Where Substitution Jutsus have pretty much always been an automatic move when you block attacks at the right time (in most, if not all Naruto fighting games), you now have a limited number to use before they have to be recharged. While this buys you the ability to easily back away from your opponent in order to pull off some big attacks, it also means those players who are used to the Substitution's automatic benefits (like popping up behind your enemy) might have to rework their strategies.

Another addition, though by no means a new one in fighting games, is Awakened or Beast Mode. Much like in the series, when your character is at the end of his/her line, they will explode with power and transform into a stronger and faster fighter. For Naruto, this means releasing his Nine Tails Chakra, for Sasuke, it's the summoning of Susanoo. Regardless, fights tend to end in fast and powerful moves that capture the Naruto feel like few games have done before.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations's roster is pretty impressive. With over 70 characters available, you can expect quite a lot of playtime simply in unlocking the list alone. Of course, as the name might suggest, you will find that there are variations on the same characters. Since Generations spans both parts of the Naruto story, you can expect duplicates of many of the main characters ... at least those who changed noticeably between the Naruto and Naruto Shippuden.

What is interesting about the game's story is that it doesn't try and rehash the same arc in exactly the same way as most other games in the franchise have. While Naruto's story is there, there are also several other side-stories following other characters that fill in the backstory and paint a much fuller tale than you see in either the anime or the manga. While players who aren't already familiar with the overall story might still get lost, those that know what should be going on will get a lot from these side-stories.

Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations also offers the standard fare of non-Story Mode options. Tournaments and Vs. Modes are available, along with a shop and training. Generations even offers a variety of online fights to bring your characters into a bigger arena. All that being said, a small but interesting feature added to this title is the ability to put in a code found on the Naruto Collectible Card Game cards in order to unlock a variety of content and bonuses for your game. While not a lot, it's a nice reward for those gamers who also follow the CCG.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations isn't a complex fighter, at least not in the controls. As a result, it has a high pick up and play value. Some hardcore fighting game fans might balk at a title that isn't as detailed as other series out there, but the Ultimate Ninja line has never tried to be anything more than it is. It's an anime-based fighting game whose intent is to reach the fans of the series. Sure, you won't see too many tournaments based around this series, but there is still a strong following that knows what to expect from an Ultimate Ninja title.

That being said, just because Generations doesn't take much work to get into, especially not for those that have been following the games, doesn't mean it's a cake walk. Getting the hang of the changes in the Substitution and Awakening features is the key to getting through many of the single player's tougher fights. As for online or local multiplayer, as always, the difficulty varies based on the people you are playing against.

Game Mechanics:
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations isn't just a reskin of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. The developers have put a lot of work into speeding up the experience and keeping the flow of the game moving as fast as possible. Some of these changes involve small tweaks to the fights themselves, but the primary way the game moves faster is the between-fight experience. Where there was an RPG element, there is now simple cutscenes. Even that was a change from the first Storm title that featured an open world that you had to roam around in. As a result of these changes, Generations seems to give you a lot more of what you've come to do - fight in epic Naruto-styled battles and unleash the wide variety of awesome looking jutsus upon your enemy. This is something that Generations provides in spades.

Needless to say, I recommend this latest installment of an already solid Naruto series without much reservation. Any fan of the show/manga who is a gamer has probably already tried out previous Ultimate Ninja titles in the past. If you are one of those, then you definitely won't be disappointed in Generations. If you are on the fringe of either Naruto or fighting game fandom - then you might want to rent this title first, but I doubt you will be disappointed.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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