Saturday, 23 July 2016

Personal Gems: Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm (PS3)

This is the second installment in my "Personal Gems" series. If you would like to check out the first one, you can find that right here. So, here we go!

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm was a PlayStation 3 exclusive released in 2008. It was the first installment in the now popular Ultimate Ninja Storm series which has since been expanded upon and currently has 4 main games in its lineup. This was one of the early PlayStation 3 games that really caught my eye. Even before owning my own PS3, I would always look forward to playing this game whenever I visited a friend's house for a couch multiplayer session. I admit I am an anime fan and I do enjoy watching Naruto so it wasn't very likely that I was going to dislike a game based on the anime but what's surprising is that I absolutely fell in love with it within a matter of minutes. Dattebayo!

Firstly, the game is amazingly beautiful. The game doesn't look extremely realistic like most newer games are but that's a good thing because it shouldn't be. As an anime based game, it shouldn't strive to look as realistic as possible, instead it should be able to emulate the art style of its source material and I'm very glad that it does just that! It makes use of cell shaded graphics and manages to capture the style and feel of the anime perfectly. In the single player story, you mainly play as Naruto and will be able to access new missions from different NPCs scattered throughout Konoha Village. The village itself is very well designed. When I eventually got my own PS3 and my own copy of the game, I spent the first few hours just running and jumping around the village exploring every nook and cranny with a wide smile on my face. I've played a few of the previous Naruto games on PlayStation 2 and have experienced their versions of the in game Konoha Village but none have ever provided a fully 3D modeled environment in which I could muck about in. After watching the anime for a number of years and vaguely recognizing the landmarks in the village, I can't tell you how good it felt to be able to run around and explore it for myself. 

They also did a great job with the characters. It's quite apparent that a lot of time and effort went into making the characters look and feel as close to they're anime counterparts as possible. The originally 2D characters are all modeled beautifully in 3D and look exactly as they should. Everything from the proportions of their bodies to their facial expressions are very well done which makes me - as a fan of the anime - incredibly happy. It's always great to play a game based on something you've loved prior to it and be able to take control of an accurately designed character. The characters also sound exactly as they should both in Japanese and in English. The voice acting is superb, as expected from an anime based game. Every character is voiced accurately from their style of speech down to even the simplest grunts during battle. All this comes together to ensure that each character is believable and allows the game to properly bring the Naruto universe to life.

While having great characters and environments are important, the core aspect of every fighting game is undoubtedly the fighting. If the fighting mechanics don't feel good, it won't be very enjoyable. Well, there's no need to worry about that because this game's fighting mechanics are brilliant. You might already be familiar with how the previous 2D Naruto games controlled but this game finally allowed us to fight in a 3 dimensional space. The fighting in this game is fast paced. Characters can move, attack, counter and implement various maneuvers at very high speed which pushes players to make split second decisions in the heat of battle. Each character also has a different style of fighting. For instance, some characters can attack much faster but deal less damage, while some are slower but make a bigger impact. Some are more comfortable fighting long range while some are better at close range hand to hand combat. It's great to see that they've taken the time to ensure that every character retains their individual traits from the anime even down to the way they are animated during battle.

Lastly, the story is what you would expect. It's an adaptation of the anime which means the story will pretty much stay true to the story in the anime. If you're a fan of Naruto and have watched the anime or have read the manga then I'm sure you would be familiar with the story. Still, it never became boring or stale. As a long time Naruto fan, seeing the story retold in the game brought forth a very welcomed sense of nostalgia. On the other hand, if you're not familiar with Naruto's story then you're in for a treat. The story follows the trials and tribulations of a young orphaned boy named Naruto Uzumaki who is a budding ninja with hopes of one day becoming Hokage, the head of the village. I won't give anything away but I will say that I personally love the story of Naruto especially the portion brought to life in this game.

I won't say that this game is perfect, I can't possibly make that claim but I will say that it's a very well developed game and one that is worth your time. It has since spawned multiple sequels which continue to follow the story of Naruto Uzumaki according to the anime. Every new installment has improved upon the foundation set by this game but this one will always feel special to me. This game was one of the reasons I wanted a PlayStation 3 so badly. In this modern age of hyper realism and competitive online multiplayer playgrounds, I'm more than happy to spend my time playing this offline, unrealistic, anime based fighting game. It's just one of those games that I'll always love.

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