Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm looks gorgeous, but the game needs to be more than cel-shaded PS3 eye candy. Namco Bandai attached CyberConnect2 has to the Naruto license since the start of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series and in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm they’re starting from scratch. The 2D, tiered stage fighting game is no more. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is in full 3D, mostly.
Graphically, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm has 3D cel-shaded characters and you run around with them on Kakashi’s training ground. However, this isn’t a 3D fighter like Soulcalibur IV. You don’t need to worry about wide swinging horizontal attacks in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. Once you start mashing the circle button Naruto or Kakashi does a linear flurry of attacks. This is a strange comparison, but it’s similar to the Tales series where you run and attack on a fixed line. You can dodge attacks by moving slightly to the right, but it’s a better idea to use the replacement jutsu. Just like the other games in the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series a well timed press of R2/L2 puts you behind an opponent, the perfect position to counter attack with a special move.
If you charge up your chakra by pressing triangle and then attack with the circle button Naruto can perform his signature Rasengan. However, this attack can be countered with another linear attack like Kakashi’s Chidori. If the attacks clash, both players have to mash the circle button to see who gets to deal damage. Charging up chakra twice lets players use a more powerful jutsu. Naruto chucks a shadow clone and if it connects you enter the usual hodgepodge button pressing battles the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series is known for. Kakashi’s second special attack is a double lightning blade blast. Chakra can be used for more than ouigis in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. If you charge your chakra with triangle and press square you throw a mess of shuriken instead of a handful. Press triangle, then X and you dash forward at lightning speed. While chakra is used for more things in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm you don’t have as many jutsus. Your only chakra powered attacks are the two ouigis, which you may be able to switch in the final game, and if you’re Naruto a transformed One-tailed Rasengan.
Like most fighting games you want to control space and in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm the stage is considerably large. Basic punches don’t have much distance, but CyberConnect2 extended Naruto and Kakashi’s reach with a mid-range attack. If you hold the analog stick in a direction and press circle Naruto will summon a clone to rush Kakashi. Kakashi can counter with a six hit ninja dog combo. Both of these attacks only extend their distance a marginal amount. You can run across a river and be out of reach, except for projectiles. The mid-range attack acts more as a defense against a straight forward rush. Unlike any of the other Naruto: Ultimate Ninja games you can’t punch objects and collect Demon Wind Shuriken. There aren’t any items found on the battlefield. You’re stuck with whatever you start with, a mix of health recovery items, explosive tags, and floating kunai traps.
You can’t ring out another fighter either so there isn’t any “easy” way to make the three life bars vanish. The way to victory is mashing the circle button with occasional, mid-combo flicks of the analog stick to change the attack pattern. Naruto and Kakashi also have a more powerful slam attack that can be done by holding down the circle button. If you can connect a power punch a quick animation cuts into the game with the damaged character taking a heavy hit to the face. You can use the power punch or a special move like the Rasengan to slam a character against a wall. Instead of hitting the wall and falling to the ground, the fight suddenly switches into a vertical battle. The controls are exactly the same, but both players walk on the wall until one of them is slammed to the ground.
Thinking of ground slams, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm doesn’t have airborne replacement jutsu battles at the end of combos. If you successfully do a long combo you might be able to call a partner for the finishing blow. Partner attacks are more useful outside of combos since Sasuke can control space with fireballs and Sakura can act as a distraction while you use set up another combo. If you played Naruto Shippuuden: Narutimate Accel 2 or Marvel vs. Capcom 2 you should have a good idea how the partner system works. Don’t expect to do aerial raves in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm though.
Images courtesy of Namco Bandai.