BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe / CyberConnect 2
No matter how you look at it, Naruto as a franchise has a huge history – be it in manga, anime or video game form. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 9 years or so you’ll likely have heard of the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series. This series of games retells the story of Naruto (and Naruto Shippuden) while also excelling at being high-quality fighting games. They’ve earned high praise from reviewers as well. Today I’m here to review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy, which bundles up some of the main entries in the series and hopefully offers a collection that every Naruto fan needs to own.
This set bundles together Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3: Full Burst and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4: Road to Boruto. Although those of us who already own Ninja Storm 4 in some form will groan at its inclusion, the other three games being ported to PS4/Xbox One and given the remaster treatment is a welcome treat.
I’m someone who only started playing the Ninja Storm games with 4, so I was worried that going all the way back to Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm (originally released in 2008) would leave me with a clunky gameplay experience. Thankfully this wasn’t the case. As I discovered through playing the first three entries, the core gameplay has always been well polished. Some elements were added or removed as the series evolved but at its heart, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games are fantastic fighting games with real depth.
The only real disconnect between the four games is that the first entry skips quite a lot of story content (including one of my favourite fights against Zabuza). Where later entries do their best to cover all of the Naruto series’ major moments, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm ignores so much that it’s sadly not a good entry point for new fans. The second game (and beyond) is so much more cinematic than the first entry that they almost feel like different games. It’s a shame that developers CyberConnect2 haven’t just remade Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm in an effort to bring its storytelling more in-line with later entries, but on the whole, this is a minor complaint and it’s still a perfectly fine game.
The first three Naruto games in the Legacy set tell their story through an Adventure mode. The first game recreates Konoha village and packs it full of hidden items to find and people to talk to, whereas the second and third games offer a smaller version of Konoha in exchange for giving you more of the Ninja World to explore. While it’s fun to explore Konoha, I’m glad that later games gave us a bit more of the world instead – especially as we’re treated to some beautiful 2D backgrounds that look like they came straight out of the anime. For someone like me who is a big fan of Naruto, these games easily capture everything I love about the franchise and always keep me coming back for more.
Graphically all of these games look wonderful, particularly now that the earlier entries are using the models from Ninja Storm 4. None of these games ever looked bad originally on the PS3/Xbox 360 thanks to their cell shaded style but the move to graphics more in-line with Ninja Storm 4 is welcome all the same. All four of the games have both English and Japanese audio on offer and feature the same actors as those who voice the characters in the anime. Music is composed by Chikayo Fukuda and perfectly captures the world and the themes that fans have come to expect from the Naruto series. If not for Ninja Storm 1 being lacklustre in its storytelling, I truly believe that this could be one of the best ways to experience Naruto’s world, characters and story.
It’s also worth noting that the games are not bug-free. During my playthrough, I’ve encountered several issues with the games (most notably with Ninja Storm 1 which I’ll detail in a moment), and this was after a day 1 patch. Since there hasn’t been another patch to fix them I can only assume we’ll be putting up with these problems indefinitely. Ninja Storm 1 doesn’t suspend the game properly, so the in-game timer keeps ticking up even after putting the PS4 into rest mode. I also had one incident of the game crashing while I was trying to save, resulting in a couple of hours of lost gameplay (thankfully Ninja Storm 2 introduces auto-saving). The only other issue to speak of is that frequently when wandering around the overworld Naruto tends to jitter when walking, as though you’re not pushing the control stick far enough forward and he’s very quickly alternating between movement and stillness. This is a consistent issue with every game, so it’s probably the least likely to be fixed.
If you buy a physical copy of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy, you’ll receive a steelbook with Ninja Storm 4 and the trilogy collection, a Blu-ray with a Boruto OVA, and a small booklet filled with artwork from all four games. If you’re only interested in the trilogy then it’s available digitally, and the games can also be bought separately digitally if you’re just looking to pick up your favourite.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy is a real treat for existing fans of Naruto. The four games perfectly recreate some of the best battles from the start of the series right up to the final showdown. If you already own the games then the only real benefits are the improved graphics and having all of the games on a current-gen console, which is arguably worth it because of how easy it is to switch between the games and play your favourite matches. Overall, as someone who had yet to play the earlier entries in the series, I am really pleased with the Legacy release and highly recommend it to all Naruto fans. It’s a must-own collection if you’ve never played these games before, but if you have then it depends on how much the upgrade is worth to you.