Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a special game for many reasons but the biggest may be that it completes the Naruto story in game-form, allowing fans to play through the biggest fights in the series.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 picks up where the third left off with the Fourth Shinobi World War kicking off, and this game sees the climax through to the very end. There may be story spoilers ahead of what happens at the beginning, so please skip the next paragraph if you want to avoid them! Beginning in the past, we get to play as Hashirama as he fights Madara, a primary antagonist who was once a close friend, as they battle after finding themselves on separate sides of the war. It then jumps forward to where Naruto and Sasuke are today on their own respective paths with Naruto battling evil shinobi clan the Akatsuki and ringleader of the fourth war Tobi. Sasuke, unsure of himself and what he wishes to do, finds himself going back to his old home, the Hidden Leaf Village, to look for answers.
Story mode sees the two old friends’ paths collide as something greater brings them together, and you have to play through both of their branches to reach the ending. There are a few optional missions which further delve into the story and some side characters, and I recommend playing all of them as they appear. It’s a very cinematic experience with plenty of cutscenes and spoken dialogue, but as a fan I found these to be engaging. Story mode has been handled exceptionally well and, as the series as always been, is an example of how fighting games can implement a well-written story that makes people care for it. The final battle is beautiful and is something I’ve played through again since completing the story, and I’ll be likely to play through a few of these battles again!
If you’ve played the other games in the series, then you’re already familiar with how Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 plays – except, it’s better. Circle is used as your main offence, allowing you to batter opponents with an auto-combo that requires no chakra, and hitting triangle (sometimes twice for different moves!) then circle allows you to do a special move such as a rasengan or chidori – Naruto’s and Sasuke’s trademark moves – that inflict more damage but do require chakra. Any chakra lost can be regenerated by holding down triangle but then you’re left defenceless, but square acts as a block and you can dodge with it too by moving the analog stick in any direction. You have four ‘get out of almost anything’ moves that over time regenerate on their own, but you’ll need to be wise as to when to use these so you don’t get caught in an insane combo. It sounds simple because it is and although anybody could play this game and get relatively good at it, there’s definitely a depth to it when it comes to extending combos through a variety of ways. It’s addicting and keeps pulling me back in for more.
New to this game is the ability to switch characters. You’ve always been able to take two support characters into battle, and that applies here, but now you can switch to play as them too. You share the same health bar so it’s fair, and another returning feature is that you can run up walls on certain stages to fight on them – this time though, you’re not both forced onto the walls. What is different is that due to how the story is played out in this installment, with much of the action taking place around the same area, you pick your chapters and watch plenty of cutscenes and take part in battles, but you don’t get to wander around the world like you did in other installments. However, there’s an adventure mode that takes place after the story which comes with even more fights and dialogue that lets you explore places such as the Hidden Leaf Village, and lets you participate in fights from the earlier games in ‘flashback’ sequences.
Visually, this game is an absolute beauty and the painstaking effort in recreating manga scenes and bringing them to life in such an amazingly anime-heavy way that it’s difficult to not be enthralled with what’s happening on-screen. If you want to feel like you’re playing an anime, then you might aswell go out and buy this game right now (or, uh, tomorrow when it releases) because you will not be disappointed. It’s packing plenty of flair, colour and a variety of attacks that can be breathtaking, and the way that the in-game cinematics are handled for the main story are fantastic – sadly, the anime cutscenes are just slightly moving stills and are completely overshadowed by their in-game siblings. With the largest roster in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, and perhaps one of the largest rosters in the genre, Naruto has a lot to show and it’s all worth seeing. There are a wide range of arenas too, and chances are high that you’ll be able to pit your dream match-ups in your favourite areas. There’s a brand new mechanic that sees clothes torn apart during battle which is new to this installment, making the battles more dynamic than ever.
Unlike many Bandai Namco games, the Naruto games tend to be dubbed in English and Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 brings back a lot of the voice talent we know and love from the anime such as Maile Flanagan as Naruto and Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke, who are still as expertly cast as I remember them to be. If the English voiceover isn’t your thing, feel free to change it to Japanese audio which Bandai Namco has included in its entirety. Naruto has always had a great OST and Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 isn’t going to ruin that, providing a sound that’s iconic to the series and makes for a great accompaniment in battle and during the many emotional and confrontational cinematics.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a great finale to the game series which has been going on since 2008, and a great way to adapt the manga’s ending to game form. Fans should find themselves loving the experience and those simply looking for a new fighting game to play should be equally as pleased. I know I’ll be returning to the Hidden Leaf Village every now and then to partake in some thrilling and exciting battles and to revisit a pleasant cast, as well as to play the robust online and to gather some more of the abundant unlockables. Bandai Namco and developer CyberConnect2 have gone all out with this installment and it shows, making full use of the IP to create a brilliant game.