When CyberConnect2 released Ultimate Ninja Storm in 2008, it was by far the best playing Naruto title ever made. It looked incredible and played just as equally well. Now Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations has arrived and CyberConnect2 decided to cut out a few extra things that added to the gameplay and made it stand out above other fighting games. This unfortunately demeans the entire Naruto experience a bit, but doesn't downright ruin it.
With any anime fighting game, one of the biggest draws for it is the addition of more playable characters that were perhaps left out of previous titles and thanks to Generations going even further into the anime's story, players are given an extraordinary 72 playable characters to duke it out with as well as 15 support characters. The characters are quite diverse in their style of gameplay and handling. While Neji is great for traditional fighters that like to get in close and deliver hand-to-hand blows to opponents, there are characters like Deidara that deal punishing damage from attacking from afar with explosive jutsus in swift procession. The characters are not just the same type of fighters with different art palettes over them; they actually embodied the type of characters they represent in the anime. CyberConnect2 paid real close attention to the characters of the series and they translate very well to the game once again.
CyberConnect2 has given a serious overhaul to the story progression of Generations and it makes for a much swifter playthrough. Gone is the hub world of the first two games and it is perhaps a bit welcomed here. In Ultimate Ninja Storm, it was great to see Konoha recreated in stunning HD quality and the developer's trademarked cell-shaded style. However, when Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 came along, it got tiresome to travel from village to village on foot and gathering seeds and other ingredients to create items to use in combat. It was a way to add extra story points to the game, but it just made it drag on and became a bore pretty quickly. Generations returns with none of that and focuses directly on the combat. You won't be running around buying things from stores. You'll get a few animated cut scenes, some dialogue from narrators and then it is head-first into fighting. Story Mode is now broken up into tales that highlight key characters of the series, but it leaves out a ton of content making for a streamlined experience that sacrifices a lot of story elements. With the tales highlighting certain characters and not just a story mode that encompasses many of the fights seen in the anime, a lot of moments get severely dropped from the game.
Also gone this time around is much of the cinematic flare that the previous titles had. One of the greatest moments from Ultimate Ninja Storm was the quick-time events that you participated in when fighting bosses (Bosses by the way are completely gone as well). You see this gameplay mechanic in the other CyberConnect2 title Asura's Wrath, so you know the developer hasn't abandoned the practice, but that facet of the Ultimate Ninja Storm series is now completely gone from Generations and it brings down the quality of the title. The first Ultimate Ninja Storm title was a revolutionary interactive telling of the Naruto series and with the quick-time events gone, it lessens the experience quite a bit.
Proving you have skills to get through fights in the story mode is one thing, but the real challenge comes from taking on opponents around the world in online matches. The standard fare for any fighting game is here with standard online matches between casual players and ranked matches for players that really want to prove something to other Naruto fans. Adding to the online is the addition of collectible cards that become available while playing the story and purchased through the game store. There are cosmetic things to purchase like titles that don't really do anything but give you cool phrases to put together, but the big thing is the actual cards itself that you purchase that can give you special boost in matches that give you key advantages in online matches. There are cards for each kind of player to use whether it's giving you more attack power while performing combos, or making your jutsus fire out a bit longer if your opponent decides to keep their distance from you. This can make the online matches a bit deeper and can tailor a character in your favor.
Looking at the series' past, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a bit of a bare-bones serving of what the series has given us in the past. The hub-world and gathering of items and slow run between villages to initiate combat is gone and it is a relief. However, with the quick-time events that the series bolstered in the past being taken out of the title, it takes a bit away from the cinematic feeling and interactive elements that made Ultimate Ninja Storm great to begin with. Still, you are given a Naruto title that still knows how to make combat deep and satisfying.