CyberConnect2’s long running series of video games based upon the ludicrously popular, Naruto series is a bit of an odd one. On the one hand, this is never going to be the kind of game used for tournament play, but for a newcomer to the series, the unique style of combat and array of attacks, power-ups and abilities can prove initially bewildering. It may not have the long-term depth of a Street Fighter or a Tekken, but equally, it’s somewhat obscure systems ensure that it’s far from button-basher-friendly.
Built up over a myriad of releases dating back to the PS2 and the product of a host of refinements and minor alterations, CyberConnect2’s Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution delivers a product built upon solid foundations that, despite showing its age in some respects, nonetheless represents a largely exemplary evolution of a series that continues to provide top quality fan service while also offering up a battle system that, while initially overwhelming, soon revels itself to be robust, visually striking and ultimately user-friendly.
Fans of the series will invariably jump in without any problems, and newcomers, while initially bombarded by the array of spectacular OTT attacks and fast pace action, will quickly come to appreciate the underlying simplicity of the systems involved. For many fighting games, such simplicity could be seen as a negative, but for a series that puts fan service and visual pyrotechnics above all else, the fundamental similarities between character inputs allows for an experience that is much more malleable than your average fighter.
That in-built flexibility is put to good use throughout thanks to the series’ on-going commitment to storytelling, additional events and open(ish) world exploration. The story, this time based upon the relatively simplistic premise of a Ninja World Tournament, is much lighter on narrative than previous releases, but there is still an underlying story to be found here with the standard exploration elements still present and accounted for. The uninitiated will find it largely incomprehensible, but unlike previous releases, the story takes a back seat to the action, and besides, it’s not like you’re jumping in mid-way through Macbeth or anything. Even if you don’t know your Naruto’s from your Sasuke’s, the characters and world are all charming enough to drag you along for the ride.
As always, the world itself contains a host of side missions that, while rarely varying too far from the core combat, do benefit from those surprisingly flexible underlying mechanics. None can match the core tournament gameplay for entertainment, but as we have come to expect from the series, do offer a pleasant distraction while helping to maintain that sense of place that CyberConnect2 are so good at creating.
Sure, the world itself isn’t a technical masterpiece, but again, the level of fan service and obvious love for the source material sees it comfortably overcome any of the technical limitations that might be inherent to the design or the fact that this is once again a last-gen only title. I’m sure the next release will see that next-gen (current-gen?) upgrade many fans are waiting for, but for now, Revolution remains an exceptionally beautiful game, one that arguably wouldn’t look completely out of place on a PS4 or Xbox One.
As always though, while the side missions, story and open world provide plenty of fan service amidst an array of technically basic but fundamentally sound side shows, it is the core combat that once again provides the heart and soul of the experience which, thanks to a handful of new abilities and general refinements, has never been better.
With numerous ranks to clear ranging from D to S and three battles per rank, there is plenty of fighting to be done in the main ‘story’ mode. In fact, with an all new, and absolutely bonkers 4 player battle mode pitting you against 3 opponents in matches centred around orb collection, this mode is probably the closest any of us will come to playing a Power Stone 3. It’s understandably manic, but again, thanks to those flexible and rock solid core mechanics, works surprisingly well.
As always, support characters add to the madness while opening up an array of visually spectacular combo attacks with Ultimate Combo Jutsu attacks in particular finding a nice balance between in-fight fan service and powerful attack mechanics. These types of impressive attack combos have always been a hallmark of the series, but thanks to the new addition of specific Drives (Drives that allow you to customise your support skills from defence, combo boosts and enhanced awakening states) and the successful incorporation of guard breaks and a much improved counter-attack system, Revolution comfortably stands as the most refined release in the series to date. Yes, it can become a bit repetitive, and the underlying systems, despite being plentiful, rarely offer much in the way of depth, but with 100+ playable characters, the accompanying visual twists to the standard attacks do keep things feeling fresh.
Online multiplayer is competent if unspectacular while custom tournaments, survival mode and leagues all offer pleasant distractions in what is ultimately an incredibly robust package. The online multiplayer could certainly do with a little refinement and at the moment, there is far too much in the way of waiting around, but once out on the battlefield, things tend to run smoothly for a game that is ultimately as much fun to watch as it is to play.
Despite its relatively simplistic narrative and continued commitment to evolution rather than revolution (regardless of what it might say in the title), Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a highly enjoyable fighter with all the trimmings and fan service we have come to expect from the series. The new 4 player battles and Drive system add something new to the formula while the enhanced combo system and guard breaks make this the fundamentally strongest game in the series to date. An overhaul will be needed at some point, and a current-gen release might well see that happen, but for now Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution stands as one of the best looking games on last-gen consoles and a fine excuse to keep that PS3/360 plugged in for at least a few more months.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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