With Naruto’s horrendously gobby offspring Boruto running about the place now, it can be all too easy to forget the past exploits and adventures of his dear old dad that got everybody interested in the whole ‘ninja wizards go to war thing’ to begin with. Encompassing the first three entries in the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise that were previously only available on the PS3, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy (I’m going to be straight with you; don’t expect me to regurgitate that horrendous tongue twister many more times during this review), catches players up new and old alike on the storied history of the Naruto franchise, all the while chucking in an astounding amount of stuff to get stuck into in the process.
Three action packed Naruto adventures brought up to date
If your only experience of the Naruto franchise on PS4 is limited to the highly entertaining Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, then this re-released trio of older games will ostensibly prove familiar. Spanning the time period from the beginning of the Naruto saga all the way up to the events depicted in the Fourth Ninja War, these three games chronicle everything that happened prior to the events seen in the aforementioned fourth instalment in the series.
For the uninitiated, each entry in the Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy follows a similar template. Picking from the very same cast of characters that are part of the anime and the manga of the same name, players square off against one another in bouts of third-person, over-the-shoulder combat, utilising everything from traditional martial arts moves and combos, to traps, tools and finally ‘Jutsu’; high powered techniques that require a set amount of Chakra (basically mana), to use.
So it is then that Chakra forms the bedrock for the subtle tactical overtones of the combat system in each of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, since without it you can’t unleash the high-powered Jutsu needed to put down your opponent definitively. As a result, these games demand that the player be smart in both how they use Chakra and also in how they regain it, since the glowing blue substance can be replenished by meditation (leaving you open to attack), or, by attacking your opponent (which might not be advisable if your health bar is in the toilet).
Layering the deceptively deep combat mechanics in these games is the team system which allows you to not only tag in and out during combat, but also bring in your fellow ninja to attack the enemy, defend or support you depending on their chosen role. Better yet, in the later Ultimate Ninja Storm games, teaming up specific individuals can result in unique attacks, which are not hugely damaging and great to look at, but also tie neatly into the established relationships of those characters in the narrative as well.
What you shouldn’t expect, however, are quantum leaps in the overall mechanics of the combat system between one game in the trilogy and the next, simply because it’s clear that the developer has found a basic template that works and has instead elected to focus more on the cinematic and narrative side of things, rather than actual act of putting fist (or foot) to face. In a way, this is fine as it keeps these games constantly accessible to all kinds of players, though ultimately, folks who want a little more depth from their fighting games will invariably end up a touch disenfranchised in the long term.
Speaking of narratives, each of the three games also boasts its own single-player campaign, with the story mode in each one getting better as you progress from one Ultimate Ninja Storm game to the next. Largely a mixture of somewhat uninspiring, freeform open world exploration bits mixed in with much more thrilling combat and cinematic QTE sequences, which are in turn threaded through by story beats that have been taken straight from the page and television screen, it’s fair to say that unless you have a bunch of mates on standby for local and online contests, then the story mode will be where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time with these games.
Offering more than just a regurgitation of the narrative from the TV show and the manga, completing chapters and resolving side quests in these story modes also rewards players with an in-game currency which in turn can be used to purchase items from an exhaustive selection of gallery art, arenas, titles and even whole new characters to name just a few. In short, these games are built to last and fare exceptionally well on the old ‘amount of game for your buck’ ratio to say the least.
By putting all three games in a pack like this, it actually has the side-effect of enabling players to more immediately compare each instalment to one another and it is here that the difference in quality between their campaigns becomes apparent. As you might well expect, the first of the three Ultimate Ninja Storm games fares the worst with a campaign that while entertaining, still feels overly bloated on account of the often boring open world segments which divide its excellent battles and epic boss encounters.
By comparison, the most recent entry in this trilogy (which is taken from the much better and more content heavy Full Burst version of Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, no less), is a far more enjoyable affair, with much less tedious busywork, many more battles and a real emphasis on the sort of screen-shaking spectacle that only its titanic boss fights can provide.
What is common to each instalment in the trilogy however, and again, this is something that becomes more pronounced as you move from game to game, is the fact that very few other developers create and toy with spectacle quite as effortlessly as Cyberconnect 2 manages to. Such a qualification ultimately has demonstrably made them a great fit for the Naruto franchise since, even a fair few years on since their original release, each of these games not only absolutely looks the part, but are also deeply faithful to the TV show from which they each draw their aesthetic identities.
On a related note, some might be surprised to discover that for all intents and purposes, these games have been merely dropped onto PS4 with very little remastering done to them. Though, given just how well the original art style has aged in each of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, this becomes far less of an issue truth be told. Something else that is pleasantly notable too, is the fact that not only have all three games have been re-released with a brand new set of trophies, but players can also score a platinum trophy from each one too, meaning trophy hunters should be more than happy to say the least.
Ultimately, this trilogy represents a no-brainer purchase not just for hardened, long-time Naruto fans, but also for players in general who have a hankering for over-the-top, beautifully animated cel-shaded battles that so much flair and spectacle packed into each pixel that they make you feel like somebody has attempted to hardwire your brain directly into an episode of the Naruto anime.
If you missed them first time round, you can catch our reviews of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 by clicking on their respective hyperlinks. Happy days all round.
If you’re a Naruto fan and somehow missed out on his first three escapades on PS3, then you’re in for a treat; Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy brings them back to life on PS4 at a decent price, crams in an almost overwhelming amount of stuff for you to do and touches up the visuals to provide a definitive experience.
For those of you who can recite the exploits of everybody’s favourite loudmouth ninja chapter and verse, and have already plumbed the depths of what these three games offered on their original release on PS3, it’s fair to say that this re-release will offer little new beyond the allure of trophy hunting to tempt you back, however.