The world is never and will never be short of ‘Naruto’ fighting games. This is a truth all Anime and Manga fans have come to understand, and most of them are more than grateful. Every two years or so the good people over at Bandai Namco Games in conjunction with video game developer CyberConnect2 create and distribute a brand-new ‘Naruto’ fighting title.
Each new game brings about new characters, upgraded battle mechanics and improved graphics BUT every single time a new one is released reviews say mostly the same thing; it’s not that different from the last game. This almost seems like a curse for the franchise seeing as it has been this way for years but does the latest addition, ‘Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution’, throw off the balance and break the hex of perpetual monotony? It’s quite possible.
Unlike it’s predecessors, ‘Revolution’ does not fall victim to the habit of Anime-based video games simply retelling the story of the series. It is good thing to implement when it is the first or second video game title to be based on a series, but after this long it tends to become more of a gameplay element that players would prefer to avoid and ignore rather than partake in. I was actually delighted to see that the main menu, which is beautifully animated may I add, did not feature any real ‘story mode’.
I was confused at first but my bewilderment quickly turned to happiness when I realised I wouldn’t have to tackle the entire ‘Naruto’ story for the fiftieth time in my life. Instead the main focus of the game’s ‘story’ was placed in a mode titled ‘Ninja World Tournament’ where you, the player, will literally partake in a ninja world tournament. It’s basic but effective: You choose from a select few ‘Naruto’ characters and partake in tournament-type battles that range from D to S ranks.
D being the lowest and S being the highest, as usual. In between matches you can choose to do small missions which will earn you items or new characters to use. Partaking in the tournaments will also allow you to unlock non-canon story missions like the ‘Mecha-Naruto Story’ which, in case you don’t already understand, tells the story of a…mecha…Naruto.
Other gameplay modes include; ‘Online Battle’, ‘Free Battle’ and an option called ‘Ninja Escapades’. The first two noted have been in most if not all ‘Naruto’ video games but the later, ‘Ninja Escapades’, makes its debut in ‘Revolution’ and allows players to follow series canon stories that were not told throughout the series. One of which is how the ‘Akatsuki’, a great team of rogue ninjas, was formed.
Playing through these stories will allow you to unlock specific characters that relate to the tale told but most characters can be unlocked simply by battling. Any and every battle you have throughout ‘Revolution’ will earn you in-game currency called ‘Ryo’ which will allow you to unlock characters SO if you’re the type who’s just in it for the large roster, of which this game has the largest, than battling your friends over and over again in ‘Free Battle’ mode will allow you to unlock most.
Pre-release game promotion boasted about the improved gameplay of ‘Revolution’ but out of everything I noticed was different about the new game…this was not one of them. Yes, there are small things that are different about this title but they’re not as ‘exciting’ as formerly perceived. The game still, for the most part, plays exactly the same as previous titles which means that a player’s skill is not really a factor when battling.
There’s no such thing as ‘button mashing’ when it comes to a ‘Revolution’, or any of the previous entries, because only one button actually allows you to perform a combo. Players will eventually understand a battle’s ‘timing’ and that is what will put them above the rest. It has nothing to do with an individual’s fighting game prowess.
What’s exciting about the battles in ‘Revolution’ are the ‘Ultimate Jutsus’ that can be performed. These are hugely cinematic and extremely well-animated. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they’re more impressive than the traditional Anime cutscenes that are scattered throughout the game.
It’s satisfying when one pulls off a team ‘Ultimate Jutsu’ which, if done in the right moment, is partnered up with a still shot from the team or characters’ past and the fact that the animation sequence looks as though it’s some sort of CGI feature film makes the experience a whole lot greater.
A visual addition to ‘Revolution’ that makes having a signature character so much better is that they can no be customized with items found throughout the game. Is it weird that my Kakashi Hatake is wearing three ANBU masks? One on his head, one on his left arm and one on his right arm? Possibly, but it makes me happy and that’s all that matters. Customized characters can be used in many but not all of the different battle modes and it simply makes fights more interesting.
Now onto something a little less ‘exciting’ and an element of ‘Revolution’ that had me quite annoyed during my time playing the game: It’s soundtrack. Now don’t get me wrong, the use of traditional Japanese instruments composed in contemporary ways is absolutely fantastic…when you hear it for the first time. The songs featured in ‘Revolution’ have been in all of the the ‘Ultimate Ninja’ video games and, after this long, you just get sick of hearing a Biwa (a guitar-like traditional Japanese instrument) and this is coming from a guy who watches a LOT of samurai films.
It was also hard for me to handle the English voice acting of the game but I honestly believe it is because I am far too used to watching the Japanese dub. Even in saying that, I still can’t exactly consider the overall performance level of the actors and actresses to be ‘great’ and, all in all, it may not even be the fault of the voice actors/actresses because a lot of the stuff they’re being paid to say is…silly.
I know for a fact that many of the voice cast featured in ‘Revolution’ can do much better jobs than what was done in the game but most of them just fell flat. One can only blame the character of which they’re playing and not necessarily the actor/actress behind the voice. It goes without saying but I swiftly changed to the original Japanese dub of the game which is brilliant.
Does ‘Revolution’ revolutionize the ‘Naruto’ fighting game franchise? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t even say it gets close to doing so BUT…is that what we really wanted? Some people possibly did but not me. Going into ‘Revolution’ you have to understand that it will not be a game that will blow you away.
It’s visuals will impress you and it’s gameplay mechanics will keep you in a state of happy content but it is not a ‘game changer’.What will keep you playing this game for the next weeks and months is, without a doubt, it’s large roster and it’s battle cinematics. Just be sure to enjoy it in small bursts.
‘Revolution’ is another great addition to the already extensive ‘Naruto’ fighting game catalog, despite the negative points I’ve made…it’s still a ‘Naruto’ game. It knows what it does and it does those things well. Yes, there are certain aspects of it that are, let’s say, less than desired but it is what it is. Not perfect but not terrible. It’s no revolution but it is a down right fun game.