By Michael Quartly-Kelly
The latest game in the Naruto franchise drops you straight into the action, with an epic large scale battle against the dreaded Nine Tails, a giant fox spirit with a penchant for radical urban redesign, intent on levelling your home, the Hidden Leaf Village.
It’s an important moment in the mythology and serves as one of several big reveals about the origin of the rambunctious Naruto, his lineage, and how he came to be tied to the Nine Tails.
Like the other boss battles in the game, quick-time events allow the main character to perform cinematic action sequences that eventually bring down the Nine Tails and other large opponents. Thankfully these are markedly easier than they have been in previous Naruto games, with simpler, more repetitive button and thumb-stick combos.
Even if you fail in your first few tries, you are able to replay the level, forewarned of the combo needed to get to the next sequence.
On a much smaller scale, one on one ninja battles provide the bulk of the remaining action, with the narrative regularly punctuated with the need to throw down against friend and foe alike.
These battles are usually a fairly basic affair with standard jump and attack combinations letting you build up your chakra-gauge, which you can then spend on heavier Jutsu and Ultimate Jutsu attacks. There’s also an Awakened mode that can be triggered to give your character special attacks and abilities under certain conditions.
One or two support characters can be summoned during combat, often buying you the extra half second needed to pull of Ultimate Jutsu end moves.
The story is straight out of the manga and the extended character dialogues can make it seem like you are watching an animated episode, particularly since the character models are all so faithfully rendered.
There are moments where you will need to decide between two story paths, Hero or Legend, which apparently lets you experience some events unseen in the anime. Both paths lead you back to the same story however and you can replay previous branches to get the full scope of events.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 does not tread a bold new path unfortunately, but with an expanded roster of up to 80 characters, an online Vs Mode for a challenge and its super slick reproduction of its manga roots, it will probably hit all the marks with fans of the series and previous games.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
:: Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
:: Developer: CyberConnect2
:: Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
:: Rating: PG