Naruto has a strange place in my heart. I used to follow it avidly, but now-a-days I find that I could hardly care about it. This is unusual behavior for me, almost unheard of really, because I have what some might call an addictive personality. Once I latch on to something, I never really let go (eight years of World of Warcraft should be sufficient enough to prove that point). What’s even weirder is that if you asked me why that is, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. My common fall back story is that It’s too long now. Hundreds of episodes are too many. Hundreds of anything is too many. Can you imagine having hundreds of cats? That’s too many cats. I’m sorry Naruto; you went all crazy cat lady on me.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a bloody mouth full. Speaking of too many things; this game has too many words in its title. Its hogging words. From this point forward we are simply calling it Naruto Revolution. Naruto Revolution is in every respect a fighting game, though it differs from the traditional fighting game format. Instead of a side-to-side two dimensional perspective, it’s more of an arena fighter. Participating players are placed into a circular arena and view their character from over the shoulder. It features a massive roster of around one hundred characters which covers basically every ninja you see in the cartoons (I’ll admit, I never read the manga). And in most cases has you choose three of these characters at a time to form combat teams. You only ever control the first character you select; your second and third characters function more like activated abilities. Each character has a unique effect, so your breadth of options are quite vast.
There are actually two modes that could be considered the story mode in Naruto Revolution. The first of which is the Ninja World Tournament. The Ninja World Tournament has you play though a gigantic tournament featuring all the characters you’ve come to love from the Naruto universe. Each segment of the tournament is broken into ranks from D to S, and your ultimate goal to fight your way to the top. Once you pick a character and start however, you’ll have to stick to those particular guns all the way through. Switching characters midway through the tournament forces you to start from the bottom again. As you progress, you get opportunities to win other ninjas over and have them function as your teammates.
Like mentioned previously, teammates provide aid in the form of activated abilities that can be called upon at any time. Be careful though, these abilities take time to recover. Each match during the tournament is decided by who has gathered the most orbs. Each team begins the match with a total of one thousand orbs. They can be gained by hitting your opponent’s to claim theirs, but can also be lost by being struck in return. Larger more impressive combos offer a greater pay out in orbs. Additionally, each match is graded in the end in accordance with your performance. Grades range from D to S with each grade offering more and more prize cash. Your cash pay outs can be used during the tournament to purchase valuable battle items like Chakra potions.
The other “story mode” comes in the form of untold stories from the anime. There are a number of original stories to be played, including the creation of the Akatsuki, and stories about Shisui Uchiha and Kushina Uzumaki. You start the game with only the creation of the Akatsuki, but unlock the others as you progress. Each story features amazing cut scenes that rival the quality of the anime itself. Before and after each mission, you are rewarded with these animated clips, making it fell as though you are playing through missing episodes of the TV show.
Free Battle is the game mode in which I’m certain many players will be spending the majority of their time. It features a wide range of game types that can be played solo or with a number of friends. As there is with all fighting games, the staple “Vs.” mode makes an appearance. This mode, as one would imagine, pits you against another player in a one on one death match. Like many other game modes, you may select up to three characters. Next up is tournament mode. Tournament mode sets a chosen number of fighters up in a bracket. Then has each pair fight until a champion is determined. After that is something called League mode. League mode is also a tournament of sorts, only its structured like a round robin tournament where each player plays each opponent. The player that nets the most wins (and points) takes the crown. Free Battle also features a survival mode which gives you one health bar and endless enemies; as with all survival modes, the goal is to last as long as you can without losing all of your health. Finally, the last game mode is a practice mode. Practice gives you an open canvas of characters and stages to test new combinations or hone your skills with. With the exception of practice mode, money is also earned in each of these game modes.
One of the coolest things about Naruto in general is the music. I’ve always been fond of traditional Japanese music and the sounds that are associated with it. Naruto and all of its games have that in spades. Some of the tracks seem to be taken directly from the anime, with many others being completely original. It’s strange to say, but certain scores in Naruto feel truly epic and inspiring. Like the anime used to do for me, Naruto Revolution got me amped with just the right tunes.
Cel-shading does wonders for games based off of cartoon and Naruto Revolution is no different. The definitive black outline lends itself immensely to the visual accuracy of the final product. Each character has a whole slew of wonderfully animated special attacks which trigger without a hitch and are fluid all the way through. Even four-player combat, with ju-jitsu effects flying left and right, continuously runs smoothly. The menus are also simple, but elegantly done. Each game mode features an animated panorama featuring Naruto that changes only when selected.
All in all, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a pretty solid package, and has no glaring flaws that I could find. But looking back at it, it doesn’t feel all too different from its previous iterations (totally flying the face of the name “revolution”). The combat is a little repetitive and can get a bit stale after a relatively short period of time; but it does what it does well. A game like this is much better appreciated by somebody who is already attached to the subject matter, but offers a certain appeal to those who simply appreciate the anime medium. While I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of more traditional fighters like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, Naruto Revolution holds its own against other games in the genre such as DBZ Budokai Tenkaichi. This is a total cliché at this point, but if you’ve played other games in this series, you’ll like this one too. I give it several shadow clone thumbs up. Believe it!
***This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360***