It’s time to head back to ninja school with the latest iteration of the Naruto Ultimate Ninja franchise, with a name so long it could be its own sentence. Characters long since dead and new to the fighting arena join old favorites for a non-canon bruiser battle. Everything feels eerily familiar, like a home you never left.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm hasn’t changed much in this latest iteration. It’s still an amazingly simplistic fighter that values quantity over quality. Characters are hit hardest by this, with only 10-15 being fully fleshed out in the 100+ roster. Other characters are given less attacks, cinematics, and costumes leaving them feeling half-finished compared to the few members of that were fleshed out. Every fight becomes about which character you choose, forgoing almost any need for skill. There’s some slight nuance in the counter and substitution mechanics, but almost all the fighting boils down to mashing the B button until you win or using chakra infused maneuvers. The story is practically non-existent this time around. Rather a mode called Ninja Warrior Tournament takes center stage and falls flat on it’s face in the process. The tournament is fairly short and light on content, feeling more like an end-game unlockable than a full on game. It plays more party-esque than the other modes, complete with random stage events and a “battle orb” collection system to determine points. There simply isn’t enough game here to warrant a full release. Many assets are reused from Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, making it feel even shorter.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm seems to be an exercise in apathy. Much of it feels like no one seemed to care about what they were building, until it was too late and we’re left with a barely different rehash. It’s extremely light on content and what’s there doesn’t do the series justice. The Ultimate Ninja series started out as a great semi-strategic fighter, but this latest one is nothing more than a mindless masher. In many ways this game mirrors it’s new character Mecha-Naruto to a fault; awkward, clunky, and pales in comparison to the original.