Buying a licensed game used to be a terrible gamble, almost as if you needed a roll of thirteen while using a six-sided die. Thankfully the times are changing: the internet gives us all manner of reviews, and developers now make some truly amazing licensed products.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst – henceforth referred to as “Ninja Storm 3” because damn is that a mouthful – happens to lie in the middle of the quality scale. As a licensed game it has plenty to offer fans of the sprawling manga and anime series. As a game, however, the fun bits are shackled by a laborious campaign mode and what is ultimately a poor port.

Let’s see what they did right first. The fighting system itself is a great option for beginners, with very easy move sets, specials and counters at our disposal. It won’t take long for someone new to feel like the next eSports pro without even needing to step into practice mode. Ultimate your way to S-rank glory!

For the real professionals out there, Ninja Storm 3 doesn’t quite offer the technical depth found among championship-level games. That said there are a variety of cancels to play with; combined with a keener understanding of the game’s mechanics, it’ll open the path to beautifully chained combos. This isn’t my expertise, sadly, so I can’t offer much more than that.

What I can say is that the game looks great! It’s not packing graphical muscle, being a PS3/Xbox 360 port, but it does plaster the screen with visual splendour. There’s just so much energy on display thanks to the colourful ninjas dashing about, throwing shurikens and unleashing great fireballs. With support characters jumping into the fray it all turns into a riotous spectacle.

Notable battles include a few fun extras to make the fight special. The first is an Ultimate Decision segment, which allows us to choose between two options with varying difficulties. The other is Secret Action, asking players to recreate moves from the series for a bonus cutscene, though it won’t specify what exactly during the fight. The last bit is well-placed quick time events that do a decent job of amping up the atmosphere.

A Gaming Nation - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst - Characters

There’s something off about the eyes in this village.

There’s a fairly large roster of characters to choose from too, each sporting different unlockable outfits. While they all have unique abilities their controls largely remain the same – learn how to play one character and you can easily use anyone else. The exception, of course, are ranged fighters (damn you Kankuro!) and a few advanced, defensive types. Note that the game rewards aggression a tad too much.

Story-wise Ninja Storm 3 is all about the Fourth Great Ninja War, picking up from Sasuke’s unwelcome visit to the Five Kage Summit. Don’t worry if you’ve no background knowledge as the game clearly establishes the cast and setting. Newcomers won’t be able to appreciate some of the flashbacks or the significance of certain characters but they’re no big losses in my opinion. Who knows, you might turn into a fan by the time you’re done.

Alas, now that we’re touching upon the story it’s time to rip into the game’s failings. The campaign mode is a disastrous mess that swings between painfully dull adventure segments and cutscenes so long my controller literally turns off.

A Gaming Nation - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst - Open World

Are we there yet?

By adventure segments I actually mean running from point to point and picking up random items along the way. I wouldn’t mind how pointless it all is except for the fact that the map is broken up into so many loading screens it’s like we’re in the mid-‘90s. The shops and save points could easily be tossed into a menu instead and conversing with random NPCs aren’t worthwhile anyway.

Those segments are all part of an open-world for end-game content; mostly missions that send you on boring fetch quests. The one saving grace here is an unlockable fight, namely the Uchiha brothers versus Sage Mode Kabuto, which I found far more enjoyable than the main ending itself. The letter exchanges are pretty funny too but don’t do much in terms of engagement.

There isn’t much to say on the cutscenes other than that they’re excessive. Ninja Storm 3 aims to comprehensively cover the story, which is fine, but their approach absolutely butchers the pace of a fighting game. Sitting back and watching stuff for at least fifteen minutes is something I expect in an RPG or visual novel. And yes, there really was a scene that lasted over half an hour.

Now the thing is I could have tolerated all of that. I tend to have more patience for Japanese titles due to their different approach to game design, but nothing can save Ninja Storm 3 from the effects of being a poor port.

The interface is convoluted and obviously designed for consoles, with long scrolling lists and no filters – annoying given enough time. The biggest offence, however, is the inexplicable fact that the game caps at 30 frames-per-second and dips below that, even on beefier machines. That’s the last thing you’d want in a fighting game when the norm is a smooth 60FPS, and it’s such a shame that there’s no fix for it.

A Gaming Nation - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst - Ultimate Decision

Easily the hardest decision of his life.

All things considered, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst is a purchase best reserved for fans and those looking for an easy fighting game to get into. Despite technical shortcomings and a poorly paced campaign, it’s hard to ignore the great visual presentation and unique gameplay. Enjoy the game for its strengths and you’ll have a blast of a time.

Pick it up for cheap during a sale! I got mine at a mere SG$10.

A Gaming Nation - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst - ThumbTitle: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst
Developer: CyberConnect 2
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform(s): Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
A personal copy was used for this review.

Note: I swiped these images off the Steam product page: [1], [2], [3]