Platforms: PC | PS3 (reviewed) | Xbox 360
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Cards on the table. Fair warning. Be advised. I am not a big fan of Naruto Shippuden.
I love the premise, the setting, the character designs, the amazing powersets and abilities (those wild and disturbing Kugutsu puppets are my favourite), the art style, the themes and Kakashi in all of his slightly pervy glory, but I've never been able to get into the series no matter how many times I've tried. God knows I've tried.
For me the pacing kills it, the drawn-out interminable waiting between interesting events and the hours of angsty posturing when characters should be fighting. Sometimes I wish that I could just skip between the superbly-choreographed battles, preferably with subtitles so I don't have to listen to Maile Flanagan's horrendous nails-on-a-blackboard English dub.
That's probably why I really dig on Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution. Everything I like about the series is present and correct -- the diverse well-designed characters with incredible abilities and OTT climactic brawls -- except that the overarching narrative has been replaced by just enough non-canonical premise to hold it together. Unfortunately, I'm also not convinced that it's worth forty quid.
Revolution gleefully lifts its premise straight out of every martial art tournament movie and game ever made, from Enter The Dragon to Mortal Kombat. You'll arrive by boat (of course) to a island hosting a winner-takes-all competition, then fight your way up the rankings to secure victory. If it ain't broke, right?
You're then able to choose one of dozens upon dozens of characters from the anime and previous games, each of whom now boast three separate combat styles: Awakening. Ultimate Jutsu and Drive. Each of these three forms subtly (or not so subtly) changes your combat role and the abilities you can draw on. Awakening allows you to power yourself up by two stages as battles progress (naturally including some eyecatching transformations), Ultimate Jutsu grants access to devastating attacks and Drive throws support characters into your way and increases your defence, allowing you to stay in the fight for longer.
Otherwise it's business as usual: burly, vibrant unashamedly ridiculous cel-shaded business. Naturally, as a aficionado of the lecherous old teacher, I selected Kakashi and jumped into the action.
Revolution feels broadly similar to Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 in terms of its raw mechanics, but a few changes have been made that add a little extra tactical edge. First off, every bout now plays out in a four-player free for all format, meaning that you'll need to maintain serious spatial awareness and concentration in order to come out on top (and survive a concentrated stream of shuriken, weaponised sand, water blasts, you know the drill). Streamlined lock-on mechanics mapped to the right thumbstick make this a cinch.
Perhaps the biggest change to the formula, however, is the addition of Battle Orbs that act like a life bar, emanating out of damaged characters and able to be picked back up by anyone else. Think Sonic's rings, perhaps.
The contestant holding the most orbs at the end of the match wins, which adds an interesting economy to the proceedings. Do you keep up the assault and try to gain an unassailable lead, or save up your Chakra for an endgame blitzkrieg? Pulling off Combo Jutsu with your support team members can also turn the tide and put a huge smile on your face in the process.
With over 100 characters up for grabs, I daresay that balance suffers as a result, but I'm not convinced that competitive FGC play was ever the goal of the Ninja Storm series. All-out fanservice fun factor is the aim of the game, and Revolution nails it in chaotic style, whether offline or online. 'Network Clones' add some fun asymettrical multiplayer too, with the ability to fight other players' characters controlled by AI.
So what we have here is an Ultimate Ninja Storm game with the lengthy cutscenes removed and the focus placed on the raw combat. This would have been fine at a budget RRP, but in an effort to charge £40 on Steam, Cyberconnect2 tried to fill the void with a few extra tidbits.
None of which are much cop.
First of all, World Tournament bouts are separated by optionally running around the sparse, visually uninteresting and badly laid-out island, with the ability to recruit new team-mates by pursuing tedious optional quests. And by 'optional,' I do of course mean 'mandatory if you want to get anywhere.' This feels like cynical padding intended to make a tight little game feel bigger than it actually is, and fails, meaning that pacing badly suffers as a result. Oh yes, you can always rely on Naruto to pad things out. At least Free Play is still a fantastic way of blowing off steam.
Ninja Escapades pick up the slack: fun little sidestories with their own cutscenes and battle sequences, but they're too short and bitty to make much of an impact. Mecha-Naruto, a new character designed by Masashi Kishimoto, has a fun if forgettable little jaunt, but don't expect it to shed much light on anything in particular, even if the non-canonical storyline is actually more interesting and engaging than the Atsuki Origins tale. Don't go in expecting any huge revelations or backstory here.
Again, this would have been fine at around £25 as an arcade remix (or even a £15 download with just Free Play) and a stopgap for fans before the next big instalment, but Revolution doesn't give you anywhere near enough for your money, or ever really make enough sweeping changes to be worth considering as a major series entry in its own right.
But would I recommend it? Yes. So long as you can find a price reduction, then go in expecting some fun cathartic action and not much else.
- Loads of characters with diverse abilities, fighting styles and OTT attacks
- Visually impressive and hectic four-way battles
- Mecha Naruto sidestory and Ninja Escapades are fleeting fun
- Complete lack of tutorials and story
- Non-canon sidequests and 'exploration' are dull and unnecessary
- Desperately overpriced for what it is
The Short Version: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is an absolute riot, but the price is way off. If you can find a deal, there's plenty of crazy, colourful and cathartic brawling to enjoy here, just don't expect anything in the way of story development or fanservice beyond the characters themselves.