The Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise has always been known as a series that managed to bring one of the most iconic animes/mangas to the gaming world in a really superb way. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution barely added anything new to the table, which left fans longing for a true sequel to Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. With Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, with Namco Bandai not only delivers the long-awaited sequel that brings the series to its end, but also one of the best Naruto games to date.
The manga has reached its conclusion over a year ago, allowing the CyberConnect2 to continue where Storm 3 ended and go all the way till the end. The story mode is once again one of the game's strongest points, although, unlike previous entries, due to how the story develops, the Story mode doesn't allow players explore the villages and side quests. Instead, these are included in the Adventure Mode, which takes place after the events of Story Mode.
Similar to Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, the story mode is highly focused on its narrative with quite a few dialogue-heavy moments, with some cutscenes lasting up to 10 minutes. Even so, it does an excellent job at it, as it not only allows Naruto fans to relive some of their favourite moments of the manga/anime, but also explains the story in such a way that newcomers won't feel lost about the current events. However, there are a few disappointing moments when it comes to cutscenes, as the first part of Story Mode relies heavily on static images from the anime with voice over to tell the story. While I understood why it was done at some points, I felt like a bit more effort could have been made here. Fortunately, the large majority of the second half of the story uses in-game cutscenes.
The most epic and impressive moments in story mode are the boss battles. They are basically a mix between cinematically-driven fights and Quick-Time events, with CyberConnect2 implementing these so perfectly that at some points even surpasses the anime itself. These even add more variety to the overall gameplay, where in certain boss battles the game steps away from the usual 1-vs-1 formula to introduce completely different gameplay segments, such as controlling Kurama and running away from the Ten-Tails while dodging its attacks, taking part in spectacular aerial combats using the Susanoo', and even Musou-style encounters.
After completing the story mode, you can then try the Adventure Mode. This mode allows players to players explore the villages, complete side quests, gather collectables, participate in tournaments, among other activities. There's even a small story in this mode where we see Naruto, Sakura and Hinata exploring several locations of the ninja world while reminiscing some of the battles they fought in the past.
Although the core of the combat system remains similar to previous titles, with same simple but fast-paced combat, CyberConnect2 has made a few additions that add a lot more depth to the combat. The most noticeable addition is the fact that you can switch characters mid-battle. Previous games had you decide which characters would be better supports, but with this new feature, you can switch your playable character with the other members in your party. With each character having its own abilities, this allows you to change your play-style in middle of the battle and turn the tide in your favor. You can even switch in a middle of a combo, with the character that steps in rushing to the enemy and continuing the combo.
Another addition is Armor Break. After dealing a set amount of damage, your opponent's clothes will be ripped apart, which lowers his/her defense but also increases the attack power. It's an interesting concept, and if you don't like fighting under these conditions, you can always switch to another character whose "armor" is still intact.
Jutsus also have a few new gameplay mechanics implemented. For example, Fire Style Jutsus will not only deal immediate damage, but can also set your opponent's clothes on fire, which will deal damage over time. In this particular example, you can avoid taking more damage by stepping on water or switching characters. These are several other situations, such as Water Style jutsus doing more damage when performed on water, doing damage to nearby enemies just by performing a Lightning Style jutsu when standing on water, among other situations.
Lastly, this entry also saw the return of two gameplay features that have been absent since the first game: wall battles and customizable jutsus. Wall battles, just like its name indicates, means that you can fight your opponent while standing on the walls, and unlike the original Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, it's not mandatory for both ninjas to be on the ground or wall, which means that one character can be on the wall while the other is on the ground. As for customizable jutsus, several characters have more than one jutsu and one ultimate jutsu, so It's always a good addition the fact that we can freely choose the jutsus we want to use instead of having multiple versions of the same character but with different jutsus.
Speaking of jutsus and characters, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 delivers the largest rooster in the series, featuring over 100 playable characters, with CyberConnect2 looking to add even more via DLC. Although not too disappointing or bad, it's a shame that a good amount of these characters have once again been "recycled" from the previous game without pretty much any changes made to them.
The game also offers a good amount of game modes in free battle, including the traditional versus and practice modes. There's also a Knock-out tournament mode, a League mode where the winner is determined by the amount of points won during after several matches, and a Survival Mode.
Online mode offers a similar amount of games modes, including ranked match, League and Tournament. However, connection issues happen quite frequently. Depending on your luck, you might spend minutes trying to join a game session, as the game often disconnects when you are trying to join one. Even after passing this point, lag is a seriously problem, one that leaves the game almost unplayable in some cases.
From a visual standpoint, no one can deny that CyberConnect2 did a fantastic job with this series. Although the game looks almost the same in comparison to its last-gen predecessors, the fact is that there was barely anything else to improve in terms of visuals, as the anime-style visuals were spectacular to begin with. As for the soundtrack, while it does a passable job, it's a shame that the soundtrack from the anime could not be used in the game, as it would have been perfect from a fan's perspective.
In the end, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a perfect example of how a series should end, by bringing the best elements that made it great in one package. From the amazing story mode to the staggering size of the rooster, the game packs enough content to offer a few dozen hours of entertainment. While it has its issues here and there, specially the online mode, this is definitely the best game in the series, and one that Naruto fans shouldn't miss.
|Strong story mode with some really superb moments.|
|Roster with over 100 characters.|
|Great visuals that easily matches the action of the anime.|
|Using static images to tell the story.|
|Connection issues in Online Mode.|