I’m in the middle of a heated battle, the climax of the Fourth Shinobi World War in fact and while I take control of a huge toad wielding a Katana, who effortlessly sweeps through a sea of enemies with stomps, slashes and ninjutsu moves to make any kung fu master weep, I cant help but think how completely over the top yet amazing this experience is. This is Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4.
Of course this little snippet of gameplay that I was lucky enough to get my hands on, is much slower than the frenetic ninja fighting that most Naruto fans will be familiar with but in an attempt to bring the scale of this climactic battle onto the video game screen, its not only a great change of pace but it works extremely well.
Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke have called upon their summons (Gamakichi, the toad with whom I have destroyed many a foe, Katsuyu the slug and Aoda the snake) to decimate a vast army of Ten Tails Clones. Sakura and Sasuke however are resigned to the bench, only stepping in for short bursts should you ask for some assistance but while this is definitely Naruto through and through, fans of the Dynasty Warriors series will notice some leaves apply taken from their favourite book.
That feeling of being in the middle or even key to a historical and monumental battle is further heightened by the ‘Defeated Meter’ which racks up the enemies you've slain and blood on your webbed hands as you march forward to tackle the ten tails beast.
While this linear sequence isn't necessarily the most imaginative in terms of direction, essentially hopping from one of tunnel to another, the sheer variety of moves our ass kicking toad has at his disposal is immense. Not content with being able to hurl Shurikens, Gamakichi can take slashes of health from enemies with Katana swipes, dash forward to unleash a barrage of ninjutsu moves as well as stomping the ground and a few more moves to boot. This is one flexible amphibian, making it easy for you to work your way through thousands of enemies like nothing more than a packet of Malltesers and it’s great fun!
The first Naruto title to hit next-gen consoles, while Dragon Ball Xenoverse really raised the bar with authenticity and generally great treatment of an IP crossing platforms, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is already looking set to push that bar even higher, offering visuals that are stunning and really represent the source material fans adore so much.
It’s perfectly acceptable and enjoyable to simple walk through the waves of enemies in front, as if they were in fact that of nothing more than a gentle sea, occasionally button mashing to finish of the bigger foes, but keeping an eye on your Ki bar offers some great spectacles. Holding triangle (or Y) to charge it up, you’ll be able to unleash some devastating attacks, something worth remembering once you meet the boss of this demo, the Ten Tails Beast.
Once the fight begins, you’ll be treated to a lengthy dynamic quick time event but before you roll your eyes and assume this cutscene with button prompts is merely a cop out, you may want to think again. Neatly and perfectly blended into the games extremely distinctive art style, for a QTE this really stays interesting, right until the final moments.
Able to leap freely from humungous tentacle to humungous tentacle, Gamakichi slides down the tendrils like Tony Hawk on a banister, with Sakura and Sasuke eventually doing the same for some insanely cool moments. These moments wont be ruined by any missed button mashes either, instead they simply result in a slight change of course which keeps you focused on your and stops the inevitable rage quitting that follows from handfuls of instant failures and the loading screens that you’d expect to follow.
Ninja Storm 4 is full of manic and frenzied action something that fans will no doubt adore while those not so familiar with the series will still have a blast with. Although, for those players, understanding whats going on might be somewhat of a challenge.
It looks fantastic though, with everything soaked in rich colours, flashy visuals and an artistic flair that captures the heart of the show and manga, as well as showcasing the power of next generation consoles.
Gamakichi wont be alone in his battles, with a huge stable of characters set to make an appearance along with the return of some integral systems that include wall running and awakening to Ultimate Jutsu and Drive type systems. New combination Ultimate Jutsus make an appearance as well, inlcuding the ‘Hyuga Clan Ultimate Jutsu', featuring Neji, Hinata, Hanabi and Hiashi.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is shaping up to be a perfect end to the series and a strong outing on next generation consoles. Just how deep and rewarding the combat system will be for hardcore fighting fans isn't clear from the short demo I played but theres easily enough fan service to please any of the series die-hard followers and enough grandiose sights and sounds to keep newcomers gripped!
Team 7 are back!