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Review: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm (Nintendo Switch)By Flynnie At 08.06.2018 22:48

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For the uninitiated, Naruto is a Japanese anime revolving around ninja warfare, as well as an individual (Naruto), who seeks to prove himself to his fellow ninjutsu peers. Due to the anime being largely focused on fighting, it is only fitting that the videogame instalments have often followed suit, by usually being 2D and 3D fighting games. There have been a plethora of Naruto titles since 2002, and most of the various series have made it to Nintendo home consoles and handhelds. As games transitioned towards high-definition, Nintendo consoles began to miss out on the larger releases, with Naruto: Clash of the Ninja Revolution 3 being the last notable release to grace a Nintendo system, way back in 2009.

Meanwhile, PS3 and Xbox 360 users were revelling in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series; a series that really does pay fan service to long-time fans, as CyberConnect2 did a great job in 2008 to ensure that the player is fully immersed, as the look and feel of the anime is well translated into the games via its cel-shaded style. Unfortunately, the graphics have taken a bit of a nose-dive since being ported to Switch, and, while tolerable, they aren't up to the same standard set by the recently re-released ports on Xbox One and PS4, particularly in handheld mode, where the performance drop is more noticeable.

The 540p resolution in handheld mode gives a somewhat grainy effect, and, although still playable, it does put a slight dampener on the overall look of it all. In docked mode this plays at a more respectable 900p, although it's hard to imagine why this isn't at 1080p. Fortunately, the sound department fares better, and doesn't disappoint. Voice acting can be switched between English and Japanese, and the background music is a genuine representation of the show.

As for the fighting, it takes place in one-on-one 3D arenas, with each opponent having up to two support characters to summon. Unlike other fighters, Ultimate Ninja Storm has a simplistic control scheme, with only one real attack button. This makes transitioning between characters a simple action, as each controls similarly, yet everyone has their own individual traits and special powers. Special attacks (chakra-based attacks), projectiles, blocking, and jumping make up the other face and shoulder buttons.

Much can be said about the simplicity of the control scheme, as this allows for newcomers to feel comfortable, but there is enough variety for hardcore gamers to get their teeth into. This cannot be played with a single Joy-Con, however, which on the surface does feel bizarre given that many developers have tried to accommodate such a move for local multiplayer.

However, the dilemma comes down to the lack of buttons on the Joy-Con, as the d-pad ones serve as support weapons and the second analogue stick can control the free range camera in the single-player hub. Furthermore, there are instances in the single-player mode where gyro-controls could have been applied, such as the Shuriken Mode where the player can throw ninja stars at targets in a close-up, third-person view, but this is an example of another opportunity missed.

This involves two main modes: Free Battle, where the player can select up to 25 characters, and additional support (and optional) characters to face each other in friendly matches, and in a variety of arenas. However, the vast majority of fighters, costumes, move-sets, and stages need to be unlocked by playing through 'Ultimate Mission Mode,' which is a wide spanning hub world that features the entire town of Konoha, something that at first sounds quite impressive, but, unfortunately, is a dull, bland sandbox with very little going on.

The missions that Naruto and his pals embark on are rather repetitive, ranging from on-rails chase sequences through a forest, or playing hide-and-seek with other ninjas. Other missions are pure grind-fests, such as 'Play the game for X amount of hours' or 'Destroy X number of breakable objects,' all of which take the fun away. Even for the most hardcore fans of Naruto, this can feel like a tedious task that lacks any real depth, as many of the fights feel overly familiar, and while this does throw in additional challenges and parameters to vary each fight, it still feels like a chore to play.

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Final Score
Some titles grow graceful with age, but others fall by wayside, and, unfortunately, this is a pure example of the latter. This is not to say that [i]Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm[/i] does not have redeemable qualities. The foundations of a great fighting franchise were laid in this iteration through its innovative control scheme, but outside of this, it's a pretty unremarkable game, where the positives are too few and far between to recommend in 2018, especially when the latter entries better the fighting formula and are priced the same.

5

/10

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