Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact is a slightly new approach to the portable Naruto formula. It’s a hack-and-slash game with some mild RPG elements, which has been done before with Kizuna Drive, only this time it’s handled in a way that mimics the Dynasty Warriors formula. It’s not a bad try and will probably be a good change of pace for kids and anime fans who pick it up, but anyone who actually enjoys Dynasty Warriors may not be as pleased with the end result.
Naruto has just returned to Konoha from traveling and training with Jiraya. Shortly after his welcome home though, things heat up. Akatsuki is on the move, so there’s no time to reminisce with his friends. Instead, he must team up again with Sakura, Kakashi and eventually many other familiar faces to fight against the Akatsuki, who are are attempting to round up the Jinchuriki, ninjas like Naruto have contain the spirits of one of the nine tailed beasts inside of them.
Let’s put it this way. If you’ve never played a Naruto Shippuden game ever, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact can act as your Cliff Notes introduction to this part of Naruto’s story. It almost completely covers the Naruto Shippuden storyline up until Shinobi World War arcs. If you have played at least two Naruto Shippuden games before, then you may just go crazy from having to rescue Gaara again.
All of the flashbacks aren’t a bad thing. I mean, you never want to complain about getting extra content in a game, and in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact you’re getting to experience a huge chunk of the Shippuden storyline. Which means even more battles from the series are recreated for the game’s missions. With so many Naruto games, I reached the point where I’ve pretty much memorized what happens from when Naruto Shippuden begins until the end of the Itachi pursuit storyline, and I’ve yet to see a single episode the Naruto Shippuden anime or chapter of the manga.
There are multiple game modes in Ultimate Ninja Impact, but one is particularly well explored. The primary focus is on Ultimate Road, which is divided up into chapters and follows the Naruto Shippuden storyline. When a chapter begins, the Naruto icon is along a path with icons that represent story advancing conversations with static character portraits on scenic backgrounds and dialogue. The chapter layout is actually quite similar to the Master Road mode in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3. There are conversation event squares, mission squares, shop squares, treasure and card squares and even a few special squares that require map cards to unlock. Each chapter typically can only be completed to about 70% without returning, since a side story square will unlock after the chapter is complete and there are likely squares that require a certain map card to open up.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, Ultimate Ninja Impact is a bit of a combination of the Dynasty Warriors games and Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising. You send Naruto or one of his ninja comrades off into the field on a mission, wiping out enemies to complete objectives. Characters have ninjutsu attacks, general melee attacks, projectiles, and a dash move assigned to different buttons. As you proceed through a mission, a handful of objectives will pop up, requiring players to get to certain areas of the maps and defeat certain enemies. On very rare occasions, usually at the end of a chapter, there’ll be a big boss battle with a special finishing blowthat involves a QTE segment.
There are a few annoyances that spring up during missions. The biggest is that the enemies group you’re hunting down is difficult to sometimes find. The map is just an approximation. Even so, when you get to the group some of them will just disappear because it seems Ultimate Ninja Impact just isn’t capable of handling more than 10~15 characters on screen at a time. Which means you have to keep pressing the lock-on button and adjusting the camera to find them all.
The game has 23 characters to play as and you’ll primarily have to unlock them. Quite a few favorites are absent this time around apologies if you a fan of other Konoha 11 characters aside from Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Shikamaru, Rock Lee, and Hinata. Even Naruto’s teammate Sai is conspicuously absent. You also unlock cards, which are used to augment characters’ skills. Yes, they level up as you play and get stronger, but equipping cards can boost things like health and chakra. There’s also stuff like music and images to collect.
Ah, the cards. I really dislike the cards. I think they’re a good system in theory. Especially since you can use NP, Ultimate Ninja Impact‘s currency, to upgrade them. However, collecting them outside of missions and snagging them from map squares is a pain. You can also purchase individual cards or card packs from stores. This is where it’s a rip-off. For example, a Chunin pack of five cards is 3,000NP. The card pieces you get are random. Now, I had just started the game, been playing less than a half hour and purchased a Chunin pack right away. I only received three card pieces. Three! The other two were duplicates, and the game automatically pays you back for those. Now, if dupes were actually worth something, it’d be no big deal. But you typically only get between 100-300NP per dupe.
An extra single player mission mode is unlocked after passing a certain point in the first chapter of Ultimate Road. Here, there’s a brief mission to complete and players can use any character they like. It’s a nice diversion if you just want a really quick adventure without getting invested in the story mode, but I really prefer the Ultimate Road missions better. There’s also a nearly identical Tag Mission mode, which involves using ad-hoc wireless to work cooperatively with a friend who also owns the game to complete objectives. It’s much smaller though, as it only has a little over 20 missions.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Impact isn’t as strong as the Dynasty Warriors games it mimics. The customization isn’t as extensive, AI isn’t as reactive, and there isn’t as much diversity in terms of playable characters. Provided you press start to skip over some of the tedious and familiar conversation segments plus have a high tolerance for collecting card duplicates, Ultimate Ninja Impact has its moments.
Food for Thought
- There is absolutely no battle mode, which is a bit of a rarity. I mean, even the Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles, which was a straightforward action game, had a stripped down versus mode.
- In general, the AI for assisting characters in Ultimate Road is lackluster. Sometimes the characters are competent, particularly if it’s a known character accompanying you. If it’s an NPC, then they’ll be largely useless and quite possibly eventually need rescuing.
- There are four difficulty levels for missions and the reward scales with them.
- Play with the sound off. Not because the voices are bad, but because if you’re on a mission where characters are accompanying you they’ll keep repeating the same lines over and over. It’s terribly annoying!
- You can save at any time, as long as you’re not in the middle of a mission.
- There is an optional 400mb install, but it’s not necessary. The loading isn’t that bad without it.
- You can choose between English and Japanese voice acting.