The Ultimate Ninja Storm series has become the equivalent FIFA or COD of the licensed games world, with new releases of the franchise seeing slight changes to the core fighting system, some roster updates and a Story Mode which covers the next little bit of the lumbering Naruto Shippuden series. As Naruto’s tale finally wraps up, it only makes sense to send the ninja off with one last hurrah, in the form of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. While this title should be a grand celebration of everything shinobi, this 6th instalment of the Ninja Storm franchise reveals how, just like the manga and anime, the series has become bloated with extra fluff while the core has been left to rot.
Just a warning for anyone who hasn’t seen the end of Naruto, this review will spoil the final chapters of the series so back out now if you don’t want to be spoiled. I don’t know how you could be spoiled, the ending is painfully obvious to anyone who has read a shonen manga before but the warning is still there. Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 picks up at the final part of the 4th Shinobi World War arc, where Madara and his lackey Obito Uchiha have managed to summon the Ten Tails and are just about to activate the Infinite Tsuykomi. For anyone who gave up on Naruto ages ago and is buying this just to see how it all ends, the basic outline is that the bad guys are just about to enact their world domination plan and the good guys are staging their last assault. The story mode goes through the big showstopper fights that fans have been looking forward to, the final nonsensical twist where an evil goddess that had hardly been mentioned in the show turns up as the big bad and the expected final battle between Naruto and Sasuke at the Valley of the End because it’s a tradition at this point. I can’t put the blame on the actual story content on CyberConnect 2 and Bandai Namco, but they do make the best of a bad job with the story mode. You just go from battle to battle, watching short cutscenes to introduce the scenario before you launch into the fight at hand. The path of battle splits occasionally, with you following either Naruto or Sasuke for a little while before the paths meet back up for one of the big set piece moments. It’s a very episodic structure, with each vignette being given an estimate time to complete which is a nice touch if you want to jump in and out of the action.
There is a decent amount of variety, with three main types of scenario which get reworked fairly often during the short 5 hour campaign. You have traditional Ninja Storm fights, Giant battles where you take the form of a Tailed Beast or something equally massive to beat up another titanic foe or Mob battles, where you take on whole hordes of enemies usually on the way to a boss fight. You will sometimes get Giant Mob battles, traditional fights where you are in a super-powered form or even special on rails sections where it becomes a shooter like Star Fox and you have to defeat another large adversary. CyberConnect’s trademark QTEs are peppered into each scenario, making certain fights especially engaging and showing off some stellar animation as you see a fight from the show rendering in engine. The problem is that while CyberConnect is doing its best to make each fight interesting, the actual combatants you face repeat constantly which causes scenarios to become stale very quickly as Madara manages to pull another form out of his arse. Again, this is just the designers doing the best with a dull script which clearly ran out of ideas 2 years ago so you can’t place too much blame on the developers. Nevertheless, you will start to tire of fighting the same 3 enemies in the same progression of normal fight, Giant fight and QTE.