Hands-On Preview: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 – Go Ninja Go Ninja Go
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a mouthful for a video game title.
It’s one of the closest things to a tongue twister I’ve ever uttered when discussing games with friends and family. As someone who hasn’t watched anime since junior high, I couldn’t even discern what kind of game I was about to play at Bandai Namco’s recent press event when I picked up the PS4 controller in front of its station.
Will it be a fighter? An action adventure? An RPG? All these question I had didn’t matter, because Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is the one thing that all video games should be: fun.
Considering my uninitiated perspective on the world of Naruto Shippuden, I was delighted to find that use of the word ninja in the game’s title was on full display. The demo I was able to play dropped me right into the midst of a battle between two ninjas imbued with crazy power named Hashirama and Madara.
As the battle began, I found myself in control of the character Hashirama. Constrained to a small circular arena, I quickly found the game to be a blend between the controls of a third person action game and the typical one vs one style of a fighting game. Running around the arena I could block, throw shuriken, jump around and mash attack button to create a flurry of blows.
The combat feels intimate and close, but is slightly awkward. A shortlist of commands listed on the right hand side of the screen offered me different button combinations for performing moves, some of which are absurd to execute. Chief among these is the action to dash, which on the PS4 control scheme requires you to press the triangle and X button at the same time to execute. It works, but it less than ideal for its fast-paced action.
As the battle continued and I whittled away Madara’s health, new wrinkles to the action were added to spruce up the combat and avoid becoming mindless button mashing drivel.
For example, Madara started to head to the furthest point away from my character before becoming bathed in blue flames that blasted me far away. Madara would then send flaming blasts that either wipe horizontally across the screen that I’d need to jump over or several vertical blasts that I’d have to weave in between.
Unfortunately, these attacks aren’t all created equal. While dodging these blasts with skillful jumps and doges were exhilarating, others are merely quick-time events that required me to press a direction on the left analog stick or merely one of the face buttons. Aside from a cool moment that blended between a cutscene and live action as I equipped myself with new sword weapons mid-fight, I found that the quick time moments to be a bit hollow.
Despite the few quick time moments, the game kept a rather cinematic feel. It felt like an epic fight scene that I’d stereotypically expect an action heavy anime to pack. This was nailed home when the battle transitioned from merely the scale of two warriors to the kaiju-esque creatures under their influence. I became a wooden golem monstrosity, while my foe took the form of Nine-Tails – what I’d equate to a nightmarish kaiju form of the Pokémon of the same name.
This escalation in combat was satisfying, making the world around us insignificant in size as the speed of the game slowed down to a slightly more cumbersome speed to equate for my new size. Unfortunately, this wore of relatively quickly as the same basic tenets of my previous ninja fight held true, more patterns and quick time events were this fights bread and butter.
After hounding my foe for several more minutes, I reached a conclusion where I took a new form with thousands of fists, anticlimactically unleashing my wrath upon Madara in an event that required me to merely mash one face button repeatedly until the fight concluded with a cutscene.
For a game that I normally would not touch because of its affiliation with a series that doesn’t tickle my fancy, I enjoyed my time battling in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 whenever I found myself not in a loop of quick-time events.
The questions it leaves me with is: how engaging will this be over several hours and with all the various different characters the game will offer?
Considering how complex it was to just sprint, I wonder if the games strategic depth is more in master the ability to merely execute these abilities rather than mastering there situational use. I felt l got away with simply mashing buttons and hoping for the best, and if that holds true in the final version it could come away as rather shallow. It’s something I can only determine with more hands-on time and the ability to tackle different scenarios.
For those excited for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, you can expect to see much more of the game in the coming months as Bandai Namco gets ready to release it at a yet to be determined date on PS4, Xbox One and PC.