Anime games are hard to pull off; you have to find that delicate balance of staying faithful to the source material i.e. the Manga and subsequent TV show, while also making sure that it is appealing to not just the fans of the show but to other potential players such as fans of the fighting game genre and new players to the series. This will be the main crux of this review, because if you are a Naruto fan (or even an anime fan for that matter) you are more than likely going to love this game and forgive its flaws due to your admiration.
The Naruto Storm series has always had some really impressive looking combat, it is very cool to flip and fly across the battlefield using various Ninjutsu. It stands out from most other fighting games and is much more appealing than the usual side-on style of fighting that the average fighting game (such as Tekken) employ. This means any fight that you undertake is always epic and feels epic which is really necessary.
While playing the single player game you follow the current Naruto Shippuden TV storyline, this is starting from the initial stages of a ninja war up until an ending that is exclusive to the game (since the story arc is on-going on the TV show). This game then covers the whole war following the series quite faithfully but does sometimes include fights when they were either much shorter originally or only suggested at. Normally I would say this is bad but the fighting is so awesome I generally have no complaint about this, but remember, I previously mentioned that this is a necessity. The reason for this is because most of the game is full of very long cutscenes pieced together with boring and almost pointless over world areas. In the first couple of hours into the game after the starting battles (which are just the demo again) you will only be in around 3-4 fights which take around 2-3 minutes to complete. This is a huge let down, even fans of the show will start to become frustrated by just how little combat there is in the single player as well as getting worn down by the excessive cutscenes.
The control scheme is very simple, you can attack, throw Shuriken, build up you chakra to unleash special moves and jump/dodge. By combining these actions you can unleash various Ninjutsu and moves that will not only help you move around the battlefield but deal some serious damage to your opponent. It will be really easy to get used to if you are a fighting game fan and new players will get used to the controls much faster than other fighting games but the system is almost too simple as you can beat some early on enemies by mashing the attack button which is a shame.
However against some opponents you are really going to have to plan and learn some combos or you will find yourself repeating a fair few battles. The biggest offender of sudden huge difficult jumps like this is the final section of opponents, these enemies are hard and they will cause you problems just due to the amount of them and then the size of them. With multiple opponents the lock on system tends to mess up your combos which can cause you to lose very easily, conversely, when the giant opponents appear you will lose where you are not only due to the lock on system but because you just will not realise where you character is on screen. This can lead to a few cheap deaths which can get very annoying since the ending fights are very long and if you die, you have to do them all again.
That being said, there are a few moments in the game which do shine overall (WARNING: THIS IS A SPOILER, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANY STORY DETAILS, SKIP UNTIL YOU SEE “SPOILERS ENDED” BELOW!). Something that stood out as very touching is when Naruto finally meets his mother while fighting a difficult enemy. The emotional reunion is presented great and is quite special, especially if you are a fan of the series, as well as being rather unexpected as you wouldn’t expect a fighting games story to be that deep. The talk Naruto has with his mother leading into the various fights with the Nine Tailed Fox make for a roller coaster ride of emotions and is definitely one of the highlights of the game. (SPOILERS ENDED)
So there can be great moments in the game but even these moments are riddled with problems, the lip synching is extremely poor even in the Japanese language setting which can lead to characters mouths moving even after they have stopped or not even spoken yet. Not to mention the English dubbed version has some very bad voice acting in places but it is still better quality than other various anime games have been produced in recent years.
The multiplayer is much larger than before with a massive character roster of various people in the Naruto universe (including various modes and powers) for you to play as. This is great as it will be very hard to have he same fight twice as each character has their own special moves and combos which are always impressive to watch and pull off. With 80 characters to choose from you will have constant fun trying different combos out against either the A.I. or your friends which can produce some pretty impressive fights.
The fights are made even more impressive by the games visual style; it really does look like it was lifted straight from the TV show and manga in places. Fans of the show will love remaking various fights in the multiplayer and with very faithful recreations of some of the most iconic areas in the series which look fantastic fighting game fans will enjoy the look and feel of the game while in combat. Even the characters fit into their surroundings very well; very rarely does something feel out of place or look off.
The music is also well put together, the battle theme are dynamic and very relevant to the situations and the sounds effects are pretty much lifted from the show, however, while the music is good the tracks are often very short and loop far too frequently which can become very annoying. This combined with the sometimes off voice acting can cause you to want to turn down or even mute your TV which is never a good thing.