Article first published as Xbox 360 Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 on Blogcritics.
The Naruto anime series was first imported to the United States around eight years ago and while it’s not quite as popular has it has been it is still running strong. Namco announced last year that they’ve sold over 10 million copies of various Naruto games. A glance around the International Comic Con or the Anime Expo in Los Angeles, Calif. will confirm that the anime series and original manga still have a large number of fans. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is certainly more for those fans than the average gamer, though the series has made an admirable effort towards evolution.
For the uninitiated, the Naruto games are for the most part just fighting games and basic ones at that. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 continues the path of its predecessor in trying to be more of an action/adventure game and in the process dives deeper into exclusivity. Those that aren’t familiar with or event current with their Naruto anime may have some trouble figuring out what is going on and choosing a path in the choices presented. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3’s story mode follows the latest storyline which is just now making its way out of Japan.
The best aspect Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 has going for it is its faithful representation of the anime series it’s based off. Unfortunately some technical issues and frequent load screens interrupt the experience. The additions in the latest game seem to try to take the focus off of the huge amount of button mashing the fighting is and bring the point back to the popular art and narrative. In that theme, the game starts off with an epic boss battle with Nine-Tails that spans the entire Hidden Leaf village. Reminiscent of a Metal Gear Rising sequence, the player must jump from rooftop to rooftop managing the attack and getting swipes in on the bad guy, complete with quick time events.
Besides these boss battles, the latest Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm allows some free exploration similar to Final Fantasy XIII-2’s hub system. This is a little less dynamic than it could be though, considering where the plot picks up. It is sufficient to add break up the monotony of an otherwise rudimentary fighting game. Some people can be talked to, mini side quests picked up and items can be found and purchased. The gear that you take to battle is one of the few unique aspects of the game.
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