Last year on a whim, I decided to read the entire Naruto manga and, much to my surprise, I loved it. In my younger days, I dipped my toe into the ninja world but the anime never grabbed me in the way its contemporaries, like One Piece, did. However, after taking this journey with Naruto and the gang, I dived straight onto the internet to find a video game adaption. This quick search led me to the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm collection which included four games and told the entire story of Naruto from start to finish. How well these succeed at that retelling and how much of your time they are worth varies by title, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So to kick things off, should you play Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm?
And the short answer is, maybe? Alright I know that isn’t very helpful but hear me out. Firstly I want to assume a few things for this review and the other four going forwards, and that is that you are a fan of Naruto or have been roped into playing them by someone who is. Without this hook, you are probably going to boot up these games and be woefully disappointed. While there is a lot to like about the anime bombast and ridiculously overtop fighting moves if you don’t know the story, characters and world, a lot of it will fall flat. This is especially true for the early games, so let’s keep that in mind.
The second bit of admin is to briefly explain that these are 3D fighting games. In most instances, players will be duelling an opponent 1-on-1, to reduce their health bar to zero. There are examples of mini-games and giant boss fights but the majority of the game is a punch up between two characters. Players can input a series of one button punches and kicks that while it has some nuance is still a one-button combo system. Where things get more interesting, or at least more spectacular, are with the special powers. Each character has a selection of their moves from the anime/manga that they can pull off one their chakra gauge is high enough. This might be a Chidori for Sasuke or a Rasengan for Naruto. Players can freely move in three dimensions but you can also lock on to an opponent to bring the fight into a 2D plane. I’ll explain further as needed but basically, remember this is a 3D fighter.
Okay, phew, now that’s out of the way why is this game a maybe? Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm covers the first part of Naruto up until the point where Sasuke abandons the Leaf Village, so you get everything until Shippuden essentially. One of my main gripes with this first game is that it skips the very first story arc, The Land of Waves. This is a shame because it is a fantastic opening story and starting on the Chunin Exams isn’t as strong without this prologue. However, going back to our earlier assumption, players will already have all the context they need and are probably here for the cool fights. So while we missed some cool fights, it’s not like there aren’t any in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm. Unfortunately, that’s all there really is, a few cool fights.
If you came here wanting to relive the story of the first few arcs of Naruto, then prepare to be disappointed. Most of the plot is told in scrolling text and it skips a lot of content. This means that without our assumption that you know the story, you aren’t going to get anything close to a passable retelling in Ultimate Ninja Storm. You’ll get a general idea but I ended up skipping them because the writing wasn’t great and I didn’t feel like they added anything.
If you came here for some fun fights, then you’ll get a few. Fighting Gaara is fun and some of the giant boss fights are fun, but the fighting system in the first game is lacking. The standard 1v1 battles are extremely monotonous swing from hard and unfair to easy and peasy. If I hadn’t told myself I was playing this for a retrospective series, I doubt I would have finished this game. The way that you progress through the game is road blocked by needing to do side content, and some of the side fights set specific conditions to win and some of them are infuriating. Other side bits include collecting stuff or doing mini-games, none of which are particularly fun.
And speaking of mini-games, some of them are mandatory parts of the game’s mission structure. For example, you have to chase Sasuke through a forest leaping from tree to tree and catch up to him within a time limit. This mini-game nearly killed me as there are difficult to see traps and moving is sluggish. You might be better than me at these bits, but they are still rubbish.
And then there is the Hidden Leaf Village itself. You can run around, find collectables and do odd jobs for the villagers. All of which is fine. The village itself looks nice and seeing it fully rendered and in so much detail is a lot of fun by itself, but none of what you do there is particularly fun. Giving villagers random items and finding orbs to pick up shows the game’s age and while I know some people like that stuff, it isn’t for me.
Finally, the cast of characters is great. You get a selection of pretty much every character to feature in Naruto until Shippuden and they all have unique move sets. Some of them have recycled combos or are very similar, but there is enough difference that trying each of them out is fun by itself.
While I don’t think it’s worth grabbing a friend for some cool anime fights, the main story was enough to pull me along. This is because the fighting is extremely basic and the subsequent games in the series add so much more, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm is alright. It isn’t great and I doubt I’ll ever play it again but if you want a retelling of the original Naruto arcs (minus the best one), then it certainly provides that. However, I’m looking forward to the next games in the series far more than I enjoyed playing this one.
Thanks for reading. If you want more retrospective reviews, then why not check out our article on Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Or if you want more anime goodness, then check our review the first few volumes of the Pokemon Manga.
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