I have slowly started to give respect to a Japanese video game developer called Cyber Connect 2. If you don’t know about this company, let me give you a quick rundown to talk about this fun little company. Founded in 1996, their first project was Tail Concerto, a quirky platforming action and cult favorite PS1 game that was hyped, but for some reason failed to get an audience. It is now one of the hardest PS1 games to find and I really want to get a copy of it. Their second game was known as Silent Bomber, an action game that I don’t really know much about. After that, they pretty much worked on the cult-followed .Hack RPG series that is based on a multi-media franchise known as, well, .Hack. There was a first series of .Hack games for the PS2 that ran for 5 games with generally positive reviews and some great music going with those games. They then made a sequel series called .Hack//GU that ran for 3 games for the PS2 with some generally positive reviews also, but not as much praise as the original series. However, this company is also known for making a huge slew of fighting games based off of the overrated anime series, Naruto. While the earlier games were pretty bad in my opinion, I grew to like the later games, but mostly Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 for being one of the best-licensed anime games out there. Simple-to-learn combat, a charming story that cuts the fat out of filler episodes, and the ability to hear the entire script said with the Japanese cast, which is pretty nice and I got into the story more with that option. Oh, it also had some really good graphics. They also made a sequel to Tail Concerto called Solatorobo, but we are here to talk about the most recent of the Naruto fighting games from this company. The game we are going to talk about today is Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. Besides being a mouthful to say, it does do some good things like improve combat to be more fast-paced, more story lines added from the anime series like the story arc with fan favorite characters, Zabuza and Haku, and combine both the original Naruto series and the Shippuden series into one. Let’s see if this game is hiding behind any illusionary ninja tricks.
I hate to be a bit down in the story mode, but I have to say the story is really hit-or-miss this time. Instead of having one huge RPG mode story like in the last game, they are separate and very short story modes following only a certain number of characters. You get ones based around young and old Naruto, Zabuza and Haku, Kakashi, Gaara, Jiraiya, Sasuke, Madara, and Killer Bee. While some of these are handled well, with my two favorites being Kakashi and Killer Bee’s story mode, a lot of them are dampened by the fact that 60% of the fights are unbalanced and are frustrating when the AI opponents, even on the easiest setting, can whip your behind 5 different ways. They like to be block-happy, and they apparently know to dodge at the right time. The only thing worth all the crap you have to go through the story modes for is playing through Killer Bee’s storyline and seeing him rap with the defeated opponents. Again, some of the storylines are handled well and some even have original animations to add onto the backstory of some characters, but the unbalanced and cheap AI fights can be extremely buzz killing.
The gameplay is the same as the last game except with no unique boss fights, shoot ‘em up sections, and the fun and intense QTE areas. It’s set up more like a typical anime fighting game. The controls are the same, and the fights are set up the same without the cool boss fights. There are some additions to combat, like a substitution bar that you can fill up to help dodge attacks easier instead of how the old way to pull of the substitution jutsu were handled in the last game. The story mode again goes through the character’s storylines with Madara’s being basically the Akatsuki’s fights. You will be going through a lot of the same fights in different storylines. There is also the usual free play where you can play in a tournament, and against one another. The support moves are the same as the last game, but a few of the characters are fleshed out more and are more fun to use, like Killer Bee. The online mode is pretty typical and I think was carried over from the last game where you can play with whoever you want or play ranked matches. You can also buy things in the store for your online character like stuff that will boost your stats and give your character unique perks. The exclusion of all of the stuff that made the last game unique is a little sad and makes the game seem lighter on content, but the fighting can be fast-paced, strategic, and intense if you are playing with friends.
The graphics are still very amazing and are so close to being like the anime. The music is still entertaining and well done. The music really works during the opening anime cut scene from Madara’s storyline where there is basically no dialogue besides the narrator. The anime cut scenes also work out well in a lot of the storylines, but work the best during Killer Bee’s storyline. Though I’ll admit I am not a big fan of the animation studio that did the cut scenes, since the animation suffers the same issues as the anime Samurai Seven does. When the animation wants to really look good, it can. However, when they don’t push it like that all of the time, it looks cheap and a tiny bit crude. I would be lying if I said it didn’t work when it revolved around Killer Bee’s storyline. The voice acting is still better in Japanese since I can’t stand Naruto’s English voice actor, though the English talent still is good with voice actors like Steve Blum on the cast that makes the English dub work well.
However, there are some things that do really bring this game down more so than the last game. The fights are still crazy unbalanced throughout the story modes. One fight was during Gaara’s storyline where he is fighting Deidara and I only got in one throwing item and never got to hit him again because he wailed on me and I couldn’t get close to him. It’s like this throughout the story modes during the game, where you can only get in a few hits before you get slaughtered. It makes these storylines that should have been fun, frustrating! I also feel like the RPG elements being taken out was a bad idea. Granted, in the second game they were kind of just put there and were not fully fleshed out, but I felt like they could have done one huge storyline covering all of the fights and using in-game and anime cutscenes. Having the storylines split apart and using still images through most of them, makes the game look cheap. The developers played it safe, and I’m disappointed by this game because of it. I also find the substitution jutus bar tedious since sometimes if you don’t watch the gauge, you can end up getting your rear end kicked right off your body. This also adds to the tedium that you can’t block willy-nilly or in mid-air. This leads to the enemy whittling down your health down to zero. The blocking however can work against you also since AI opponents seem to know exactly when to block and use it more since ultimate attacks can be blocked when they shouldn’t be. I kept getting more disappointed with this game since I bought one of the developers’ other games, Asura’s Wrath. I think they could have made this game more like Asura’s Wrath and the last game, with some tweaks to the overall design. Sadly, this is not the case. Oh, and whoever thought that some of the characters’ ultimate moves needed to be executed with the character standing fully still needs to get fired. The ones where you have to stand still and the move needs to happen only in one place are tedious, and they leave you extremely open to getting attacked.
Overall, while this is a fun game, you kind of have to find the fun. The Killer Bee storyline is pretty much the funniest mode to go through, and sadly, it’s at the end. With all the flaws that this game brings out, it’s one of the more disappointing games of this year due to, again, a cheaper feeling presentation, unbalanced fighting, not fully polished out fighting mechanics, and it just feeling more like an average anime-based video game. If you want to play a great Naruto game, go buy Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. It’s handled much better than this game. If you, however, want to play this game to play through the Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Killer Bee Storyline, just rent it. Buy it if it’s on the 15-20 dollar mark or cheaper mark. I hate bashing this game because there is a great foundation here, but it doesn’t seem like they really want to seriously tweak this game. I know there is going to be another game in this series since there is a current storyline going on and I really hope they tweak the gameplay and keep up the high presentation for all the graphics snobs out there. Just be careful when you tread through this ninja’s territory if you ever find your way through Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generation.
This game gets a 6 out of 10