Clueless Review is a feature where a gamer reviews a game based on a series he is unfamiliar with.
When I was but a knee high nerd, I was a big fan of the Shonen Jump series. Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto all seemed so cool, and I kept up with every one. As I grew older, I eventually stopped keeping up with Bleach and Naruto, but I could never let One Piece go. Later, I found out that Naruto had gone through a “time skip,” and had re-branded itself as Naruto Shippuden. The characters were older and much more powerful, with new enemies and old foes to fight. I thought about getting back into the series. After all, ninjas rule, and what my friends told me about the series sounded awesome. But there was just too much to watch. I was way too behind at this point, so I resigned myself to not getting into Naruto.
And then the Ultimate Ninja games started coming out. Lightning fast and ridiculously easy to pick up and play, they drew me back to the series. I knew the old characters, sure. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura were all there, as were Kakashi, Kiba, and my personal favorite, Rock Lee. But the cast had grown exponentially since then. A rapping man who turns into an octopus, a floating midget who control rocks, a feminine guy with mouths in his hands; Naruto had gotten bigger and weirder.
Undeterred by the fact that I had no idea who 95% of these characters were, I decided to pick up Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. It’s a blast to play, but damn is it confusing.
This isn’t the games fault, though. This is the third title in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, so it pretty much assumes you know what the fuck is going on. It doesn’t waste time explaining to you what is happening in the game’s ample story mode; it just plops you down and sends you on your way. The story covers a big chunk of Naruto, but even after playing the whole thing, I am no closer to understanding what is happening. But here’s what I took away from it: The ninjas of the various lands have to put aside their differences to team up together and take on the insidious group known as the Akatsuki. The Akatsuki seek to take the various monster things that have been sealed inside characters, which they will then use to rule the world. Or something. For a game with so much expository dialogue, it was surprisingly difficult to follow.
But the story is just for the hardcore fans. The real meat and potatoes of the game is the killer gameplay. Zooming around the map, throwing shurikens at your enemy, while exchanging Earth rattling punches is great fun, and the controls make looking like a badass a breeze. Fighters have basic attacks, shurikens for long range poking, special attacks, super special attacks, and a poorly explained item system they can utilize, though I rarely did. There are a range of fighting styles, with some characters specializing in getting up close and personal, while others hang back and knock around their opponents with special moves. When a character gets into a combo, the opponent can utilize a Substitution bar to escape the combo, allowing them to get back on the offensive. This makes for exciting matches that never get too one sided, ensuring everyone can have fun.
Select characters can charge their chakara to go Super Saiyan (or the Naruto equivalent of Super Saiyan), becoming incredibly strong or transforming into screen filling characters. While you think this could lead to fights becoming one sided, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (Jesus, that’s a mouthful) does a good job of keeping it balanced. Sure, the oddly named Killer Bee can turn into a massive octopus-thing, but you can still take him down.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is also a gorgeous looking game, using cel shading to look like a playable anime. Characters have speed lines when they dash across the screens, Japanese words pop up during special attacks, and close ups on characters eyes let you know they’re going Super Saiyan. The game does a wonderful job of evoking the look of the series.
So, while I’m no closer to understanding the series, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. Is it the best place to start if you’re new to the series? Definitely not. But it doesn’t matter who’s who or why characters are fighting when the game is so damn fun.