Fans of Naruto, have you ever wondered what it is like to live in the glorious ninjaverse? To bound from tree to tree (to tree to tree to tree) in bright colors before unleashing devastating jutsu attacks on the enemy and the unsuspecting landscape? If so, then playing the best installments of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games in the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy collection will make that dream come true.
The four games in this collection adapt the entire Naruto storyline, with Ultimate Ninja Storm comprising the original Naruto arc while Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, 3 and 4 take care of Shippuden and Boruto: Naruto the Movie. That said, the first Ultimate Ninja Storm’s storyline relies heavily on (brief) cutscenes and scrolling text to establish plot-points rather than on gameplay, even requiring the player to physically select plot-relevant missions from the menu in-town. There’s still enough context that total newcomers can still enjoy Kishimoto Sensei’s world of wonder without having to look anything up, but it does break the immersion just a tad.
The second game more than picks up the storytelling slack after that, introducing smoother cutscenes, along with giving special arena skills and effects during storyline fights to better mimic how those fights played out in the anime. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 takes things up to levels by plonking you down in a fight between the Masked Man and the Fourth Hokage right out the gate. Then it switches to a completely different scenario where you fight the Nine-Tails as the Third Hokage! Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 takes the bombast even further by having you play the First Hokage..while he and Madara are having a giant fight atop the Wood Style: Wooden Dragon Jutsu and Susano’o cloaked Nine-Tails!...woof!
This might sound pretty intimidating for those just getting into the fighting game genre, but don't worry--Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is very accessible to beginners and veterans alike. The basic button scheme involves dodging, attacking, charging chakra and throwing kunai (with blocking, using items and summoning allies on the back burner). It subscribes to the easy to learn difficult to master school of play, with the first game providing its most simple form while later games add more and more features such as quick time events for story-related battles and boss fights. (The QTE’s won’t cause you to lose, but they do reward quicker players with brief cutscenes for flavor purposes.)
The first Ultimate Ninja Storm best conveys the series’ foundational knowledge on the mechanics; everything’s laid-out and the early battles are simplistic. Fighting teammates and shinobi is a lot less distracting than doing battle with gargantuan beasts. And consider it this way: you and Naruto will be learning combat techniques at the same pace.
The roster of fighters builds as the games go on, with each game bringing in most of the fighters from the one before while adding more of its own. By the time you crack open the Boruto segment, you’ll have dozens. And at long last, you can settle all those pesky “who would win” arguments yourself! Mwahahaha...
Each game has its own version of the Hidden Leaf Village, where you can explore (and restock supplies) between missions. It changes from game to game as well, with the first one giving you an entire town to run around in, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, ala Assassin’s Creed. There are a lot of hidden items and events to find, and completing side-quest adds new characters and treasures to the town. None of the other games give quite the level of whimsy and freedom for its village segments.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 scales this back the most, mainly due to the diversity of locations. Your freedom is restricted the most in this version of the Hidden Leaf, relying on fixed angles and skyboxes. That said, the Hidden Leaf is also the most beautiful in this version, since it looks (and feels) as if you’re running around in a high-quality illustration…and it’s only the first village you visit. Ultimate Ninja 3 is still pretty limited, but the Hidden Leaf Village gets larger again, with plenty of new locations to check out. Finally, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 brings out two Hidden Leaf Villages: one that takes place in the aftermath of the final battle, the other that exists in Boruto’s future. Both of these are far more immersive, falling just a little short of the first game. (Which means bouncing on rooftops.)
Visually speaking, the earlier Ultimate Ninja Storm games have made the leap to PS4/Xbox One with grace, albeit with very few changes. Yet while this collection doesn’t provide a total overhaul, spotting the little nips and tucks, places where the developers added depth or quality is fun too. And there are worse things than smoother edges and more fluid animation. And upgrades or no upgrades, the game’s world and effects are BREATHTAKING. Give it to CyberConnect2: they do a darn good job of drawing you in and keeping you there!
And what would a Legendary Collection be without legendary collectibles? New players will appreciate the little art book titled “Ultimate Ninja Storm LEGACY—Ninja History," which gives a run through of all the storyline’s most important events, each page featuring illustrations from the anime and stills from the games. It’s a fun way to brush up if you’re feeling a little foggy about some story details in the story.
Likewise, you get a DVD release of Boruto: Naruto the Movie. I’ve said in earlier reviews that the Boruto DLC is some of the best anime-to-game adaptation material I’ve ever seen, and now it’s even easier to make the comparison as you play one and watch the other. It’s also a fun movie by itself!
You’re really not going to get much more bang for your buck than with Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy, whether you count the hours of entertainment, the combined discount price, or just its value as a Naruto adaptation. It’s all fun, pure and simple: the gateway to the ninja world has never looked this cool!
Hint: Changing a ninja’s costume also changes their jutsu. Try messing around with the Jinchuriki costumes—the right one will let you transform into the Tailed Beast!
by Chris Turner
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2007 SHIPPUDEN All Rights Reserved.
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO/2007 SHIPPUDEN © NMP 2012
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO/2007 SHIPPUDEN © NMP 2014
© 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO/2007 SHIPPUDEN © BMP 2015
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