For many gamers, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is what is commonly referred to as a "story game". It is a title you play primarily for the single-player, cinematic experience, but that’s not all the game has to offer. Outside of Adventure mode, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is also a VS fighting game. One that’s even played in tournaments.
The community over at Arashiboards put together a handy tier list, in case you’re wondering which characters are more viable in the competitive metagame. Which is certainly handy given that there are a grand total of 80 ninjas and samurai (and ninjas cosplaying as samurais) to choose from.
With such a robust playable cast, one has to wonder: does developer CyberConnect2 even have time to spend on fine-tuning character balance?
The answer, as it turns out, is yes.
CyberConnect2 president Hiroshi Matsuyama tells Siliconera at the sidelines of a recent Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 promotional event in Tokyo, tweaking character parameters was pretty much a necessity during the development process; the team could not get lazy and just leave characters from Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations ported over into Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 as is – even if they wanted to.
"In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 we’ve refreshed the game’s battle system quite a bit from the previous installment (Generations), and so it was necessary to tweak every single character from Generations to conform to the new system. So yes, in Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 we’ve actually looked over and tweaked every character’s parameters for game balance," he explained.
"Having said that, When you talk about characters who are strong in the world of Naruto, naturally somebody like Madara Uchiha would come to mind, right?"
"So, on top and beyond of character balance, what we needed to do was also to ensure that characters who appear to be strong in the original manga and anime series, should ideally feel like a strong contender in the game," said Matsuyama.
CyberConnect2’s approach to character balance here is slightly different from what gamers are used to in a conventional fighting game, sure. But it’s not exactly an unreasonable one, given that the vast majority of the Naruto fanbase are not likely to be fighting game fanatics. Interestingly, the "tilt" factor that some of the anime series’ most fearsome ninjas receive is apparently limited only to when he or she is made the main fighter on a team – this balance philosophy does not apply to characters while in support roles.
In Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, players pick not just a single ninja, but a team comprising a main fighter and up to two support characters from the cast of 80. You do not control support characters directly in the course of a match. Instead, they are summoned every now and then to perform assist attacks alongside your main fighter. These assist attacks, Matsuyama said, are balanced based primarily on feedback gathered from players all over the world.
This was something the development team had taken to heart after Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2’s release back in 2010, when they noticed that characters like Hidan were often the go-to characters for assists. In order to prevent users from relying on the same assists too much, they’ve been making changes to assists based on player feedback from UNS2 to UNS Generations, and now from Generations to UNS3.
"So of course, we do implement deeper gameplay mechanics that we think fighting game fans will be able to pick up on and play at a tournament level with.However, when we set out to make this game, the premise for us was that we’re primarily making a game for fans of the Naruto manga and anime series. And so [accessibility for] those fans do take precedence, when it comes to who we’re gearing this title towards," Matsuyama concluded.