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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is a cell-shaded anime game with plenty to offer for fans of the series, and very little to offer for everyone else. Even if Anime was my favourite thing in the world, I think I would struggle to really click with this game.
Crazy cartoon Japanese people running up walls, launching themselves miles down a street and then doing an impossible double triple back flip whilst eating noodles just doesn't class as an entertaining past-time for me. So it didn't look hopeful when I first put Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm into my PS3. It got worse when a childish cheesy voice shouted the games title at me on the main menu, and then followed with a rather uneasy grunt from what sounded like a 40 ton sumo wrestler as I hit the start button.
What followed was a set of cut-scenes that I didn't really have the patience to watch, and then I was confronted with a a cell-shaded 3D world, and a kid ninja in an orange jump suit, aptly named Naruto. It soon became evident that unless you've followed the Naruto franchise of manga, anime and then video games, you really won't have a clue what is going on - me included.
So the first twenty minutes of play consisted of me running around a cartoon village aimlessly trying to work out what the hell to do. It didn't help that I hadn't read the games badly placed explanations. It seems that to the only way to find out what to do is to actually do it first, then get a written explanation afterwards.
For example, I saw a glowing blue beam labelled "save" within the main village. I didn't bother going to it because I thought: "I've only just started, why would I want to save?" That was my first mistake. Within that blue beam were the answers I was looking for. I knew roughly I had to do missions, and I was a ninja that protected the village. What I didn't know was that those missions were hidden within that save section, along with an explanation as to how I went about getting access to them!
The game started to liven up when I actually managed to get into a battle.
So before I undertook my first mission, I had a good nose around the village. There's plenty of people walking around along with randomly placed characters (with plenty of duplicates) who have their own side missions and limited interactivity. One lady was looking for three red flowers to put in her garden, and if I had any spare she'd love to have them. Strangely enough, I seemed to acquire three red flowers after I completed the first mission - which had nothing to do with any form of gardening.
However, the game started to liven up when I actually managed to get into a battle. For the first time in the game, I had a devilish smile on my face. The mission consisted of a 1 on 1 battle versus some guy I haven't seen before. The action was pretty quick, and still in 3D, which was nice. I say that, because it originally gave off a turn-based 2D type feel to it, similar to the likes of the Final Fantasy Series. However, I had total freedom of movement, and real-time attacks. Again, there seemed to be very little explanation of what to do, so I just started mashing buttons, and soon was pulling off all sorts of crazy cool tricks, including my character splitting into two of the same guy, and combo bashing my opponent to the ground. It was strangely addictive, and actually quite entertaining.
I can see why fans of the Naruto series would love the game.
Before long, I had a much clearer understanding of things - collect experience by doing mini-missions within the village. This got me to the bigger missions, including fights like the one I mentioned, along with some mini-games (which lacked a lot of variation) and then onto boss" battles versus all sorts of crazy anime characters.
In all fairness, the game itself isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination. I can see why fans of the Naruto series would love the game, with its fast paced battles coupled in nicely with a more laid back, casual gaming experience in terms of the free-roaming world in which to run around in. If you're like me however, and don't really have a particular love for anything cell-shaded, I'd suggest you steer clear - mainly because you won't have a clue what is happening.
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