The anime series of Naruto has always been a perfect setting for video games, and this can be seen if you look at aggregate score on the previous games – aside from the PSP or Wii releases (where the problems were hardware rather than software) – the Naruto games enjoy an average above 75% positive. That’s good for any franchise and especially good for one that is designed to hit a niche market. Refreshingly, the Naruto series is continuing to push forward in this new games, fixing a lot of the issues that were apparent in previous iterations, but will it be enough to finally push the series into the 90%+ range?
There isn’t much new that can be said about the story here – it has already been told throughout 220 anime episodes and 59 manga issues (at least I believe those numbers are correct). They do however do a nice job of retelling it all using different small sub-stories that unlock by playing through the single player campaign. There are epic battles, animated cinematic sequences (some taken from other sources, some brand new), and voice overs paired with static images – all of which are used to tell the sometimes poignantly emotional story of the Naruto world. There might be some details omitted here and there, but these are little tings that only followers of the story will notice – what is here is more than enough to satisfy the casual Naruto fan, or someone not familiar at all, and will at best only slightly irritate the hardcore watchers.
If you have never played a Naruto game before, there is really no better time to start. They are all basic arena fighters, but this version is streamlined and balanced better than any of the previous versions have ever been. There are also more characters than ever before and they come from the whole Naruto series giving players enough to keep things fresh for a while to come. The most notable changes to the combat besides balancing come in the form of two new mechanics. The first is referred to as “Awakening Mode”, which is basically a last chance for someone on the verge of defeat to come back and potentially win the match. The second is a substitution meter that serves as a limiter for the number of instant escape moves a character can use. Substitutions have always been really important in the Naruto games so the addition of a meter to limit them really changes some dynamics of how to play.
To go from BlazBlue (the last real fighter I reviewed – Reality Fighters not included) to this requires a whole different mind set. With BlazBlue, the combat is complex and deep requiring you to literally watch the animation frames and keep counts in your head to keep combos going (along with complex control inputs in order to be able to execute moves in the first place). Naruto: Generations on the other hand takes a much simpler approach to its fighting. It is designed for the neophyte to fighting games to be able to just pick up and play, requiring the simplest of command inputs and a lot of button mashing. Combos are also fairly easy to keep going, as evidenced by my ten year old son with no prior fighting game experience being able to pull some off easily. What Naruto: Generations lacks in complexity, it makes up for in sheer fun.
Button mashing isn’t the only way to play Naruto: Generations though (although I can definitely see people gravitating towards that style), if you take the time to learn a particular character or two you will find that they are actually pretty deep. Unfortunately each character has only a few chakra specials, which makes a lot of the move sets seem repetitive. On top of that, there are a few of the selectable characters that are almost carbon copies of others, with maybe one move variance between them. While that may be something you would expect in a game with so damn many selectable characters, it does start to feel lazy. Another problem is that while the 3D arena works well, they are utterly bland in scope. You might as well have the characters fight in a circle with white walls and a white ceiling for all the innovation that they offer. I would have much rather seen some hazards on some of the boards to make them more interesting, or maybe some interactive elements – even if only graphical in nature. Anything to help them stand out and not feel boring.
This version of Naruto allows players that also play the trading card game to use the code printed on the upper right of the card to unlock special things in the game. Things like artwork, titles, and even combat bonuses can be unlocked, and while you are supposed to input codes from cards that you own, that won’t always be the case. Using a simple Google search, I was able to find three different sites that had full scans of all the cards – codes included. This took less than thirty seconds of my time to do, and since none of the codes are unique, all someone would have to do is take the time to input every one of these from a site to get everything unlocked (and potentially get an edge with the rare ability cards). In theory the idea is great, and even though it’s an obvious marketing attempt to sell more trading cards, had they made the codes all be unique the payoff could have been worth it. As it stands now, while it works it is gimmicky.
The online features of Naruto: Generations are a lot of frantic fun, including the standard ranked matches spiked with casual matches, four and eight man tournaments, endless assault battles, and still other things like the Ninja Info Card Battle. In this mode, players select trading cards that fight each other before a match – if your card wins, then you get the ability listed on the card for your real fight, if not then your opponent gets the ability listed on his card. It adds a whole new element to the game, and really helps to spice things up.
The Bottom Line: Naruto: Generations might not appeal to everyone, but it is surely a great game that anyone who enjoys arena-style fighting games would do well to give a shot.
- More characters than you can shake a stick at.
- Simple and easy to pick up and play
- Tons of content here for people dedicated enough to unlock it all
- The stage design is really uninspired and downright boring
- Some characters are way to similar to others
- The trading card tie in could be good, but right now it’s a cash grab
You can pick up a copy of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations for the PlayStation 3 (reviewed) or the XBOX 360 console from Amazon and anywhere games are sold for $59.99