Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (Xbox360)

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If you like fighting games and you like Naruto, then you’ve come to the right place! Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is the latest in a long line of the ‘Ultimate Ninja’ series and the second instalment released for the Xbox 360. Being a fan of the manga I’m really excited that it’s finally made its way over to our shores and if you’re a fan it doesn’t disappoint. Don’t worry, however, as non-fans won’t feel lost at all thanks to the game’s fantastic story telling.

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The ‘Generations’ subtitle suggests that the latest Naruto fighting game spans across the multiple generations in Masashi Kishimoto’s epic shounen story, something he does really well in Naruto and you don’t have to go any further than the opening cinematic to see the grandeur of the concept.

All of the characters from the manga enter the battlefield, charging at each other in full battle cry with the older and younger versions of Naruto coming together in a climactic finish – it really gets you ready for the explosive action in the game!

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The explosive action isn’t all that new, though, because at first glance Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations doesn’t seem much different from it’s previous incarnations. The argument ‘if ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ does hold up but some improvements would have been appreciated. For example, the ultimate jutsu (or mystical ninja technique) attacks have been updated and do still look awesome, but are limited to only one ultimate Jutsu per character.

Most notable of all is that the developers have have changed the control scheme to allow for more flowing attacks and combat, but what it really results in is far more button mashing than ever before as there is only one attack button. It got a bit out of hand especially when I found out that there is actually a special combo for bashing the attack button fifteen times in a row!

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Admittedly, the combat does flow much better now compared to previous games and the gap between true ninja players and plain old button mashers still exists thanks to the extremely precise timing required for the movement and substitution systems, so no real harm done. A good player will still dominate because, as a wise ninja once said, one cannot button mash what he cannot touch (or see in some cases). Even the newly added ‘awakenings,’ whereby characters’ powers and attacks are enhanced when they are near death, cannot always save you.

Playing through the story mode in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations can get really immersive, and even though I’ve read the manga and know what is going to happen, I can still get caught up in Kishimoto’s storytelling. The anime adaptation made things cooler by letting us finally see those amazing fight scenes and now the game goes one better by letting us actually participate and perform those spellbinding signature moves ourselves, and look really stylish in the game – you really feel the power!

No need worry about your favourite character not being in the game, either, because Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations has the biggest character roster in the series to date – we’re talking ‘Dragon Ball Z’ big here!

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You’d think though, that with Naruto Shippuden being such a popular show and everything, they’d have more cut-scenes in the story mode, but no. Cut-scenes, although anime quality, are few and far between with the majority of the story being told through stills and voice-overs which also aren’t always the greatest (as are most dubbings of anime), but thankfully you have the option to revert back to the original Japanese voice-overs which vastly improved the experience for me. The story mode is very long, going all the way from the young Naruto arc all the way through Shippuden, up until the Jinchuriki arc, and will surely account for a good few hours of play.

There are also an endless number of hours to be spent in the online and offline versus modes that take place in the incredibly detailed arena’s from the story mode, with all the characters that you have unlocked. This is, however, another area that I feel was skimmed over on.

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For those unaware, Naruto is a ninja and so are his friends, and ninja’s make use of all their surroundings in a fight so where, may I ask are the destructible andinteractive environments? Even the 2D PlayStation 2 variations of the game had interactive elements in their location design! The developers did try to make up for this omission with the absurdly large array of tools that can be used in battle, but these range from completely useless to mildly irritating.

As you progress through the different modes of the game your battles are ranked and, depending on your rank, you unlock certain things. These things range from playable characters to ultimate jutsu video’s to trading card pictures. Now I can appreciate character bio’s and extra cut-scenes, but it’s beyond me why anyone would want to make their own Naruto trading card in-game, so I feel that the vast majority of the unlocks are simply novelty items. I would have preferred more animated cut-scenes or extra ultimate jutsu’s instead.

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Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a lot of the same with a few new things thrown in and is definitely a worthwhile purchase for any Naruto fan thanks to the exciting story and vast characters roster alone, but despite its polish, if you’re looking for a fighter that will keep your attention beyond the story mode, and if you’re not a Naruto fan, you may want to think a bit more before running off to the store.