“Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4” Review

(originally published February 14, 2016)

The Naruto Ultimate Ninja series is practically as revered by Naruto fans as the manga itself. For 10 years, it set the standard for anime-based fighting games, and how well a video game can do justice to its source material. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 marks the end for the story of Naruto as well as the beloved series. A delay in early August kept fans clamoring for what would was surely one of the most anticipated anime games ever produced. But what should have been the perfect storm settles for a mediocre shower of shame, due to its downright lazy execution.


Storm 4 picks up at the end of Storm 3‘s DLC, just before Naruto and co. unmask Tobi. With the previous games’ free-roaming portions relegated to a separate Adventure mode, players now experience the manga’s climactic battles back to back in Story Mode. While the previous Storm games are known for their gorgeous cell-shaded visuals, the earlier moments of the story that have already been shown in the anime are represented using still frames from the show, rather than being animated in-game. It’s a lazy cop-out given that the previous numbered Storm games all had in-game cut scenes despite covering way more of the Naruto story. Listening to the dialouge over a still frame is incredibly dull, making the large bits of narrative in-between fights painful to sit through.

But the fights themselves are well-done, and characteristic of the over-the-top action fans have come to expect from CyberConnect2. The fights at the climax of Naruto’s story are all batshit insane, and the cinematic boss battles in Storm 4 meet that high standard of ludicrousness. The battles are fun and varied, but the lack of rendered cut scenes makes the story feel disjointed. The emotional highs of the manga are unable to be properly conveyed as the story is choppily experienced piece by piece.

In an attempt to fill out the relatively short amount of story, there’s a separate Adventure mode (using the same environments from Storm 3), where players can take up odd jobs and side missions. The 2-3 hour main quest in Adventure mode involves Sakura following around Naruto and Hinata and trying to spark their romance. It’s surprisingly engaging, and honestly explores the relationship between Naruto and Hinata better than The Last movie did. But after it’s over, the rest of the mode comprises of mindless side quests, of which there’s little incentive to finish aside from reaching 100% completion.


As for the fighting itself, this is the one area Storm 4 truly surpasses its predecessors. The biggest improvement is the frame rate, which is double what it was on last-gen consoles. Fights are remarkably faster, and the result is battles that are smarter and more intense. Standard matches are also decided on the best of 3 rounds, which is a step in the right direction given how quickly versus matches would end in previous games.

Additionally, the ability to swap between characters puts a much larger significance on team composition. Apart from being able to use partners to extend combos without expending chakra, having a teammate with a killer Awakening can make a previously unplayable character suddenly viable. The concept of having a “team” was never fully realized in a Storm game until now, and it adds a ton of new depth to what was admittedly a shallow fighting game series.


But what many were expecting out of the final Storm game was a be-all-end-all Naruto extravaganza, brimming with new content as well as everything else from previous games. However, in this endeavor, Storm 4 is the most disappointing Storm game ever released.

Starting with what’s new, there are 14 new characters in Storm 4. When compared to the generous heap of new ninja supplied by Naruto Storm: Revolution, the character select screen in Storm 4 feels pretty stale. Although the major players from the story mode are playable, half-built characters from previous games like the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist seemed like obvious candidates for inclusion in this conclusive Storm game, but are frustratingly omitted.

As for costumes, there is only one new costume in the game. Not even Seventh Hokage Naruto is unlockable; instead, Naruto and Sasuke’s appearances from Chapter 700 are sold in separate DLCs. As for the bonus costumes from the previous games, all of them are on the disc. However, only about half of them are available to unlock via in-game currency, and the other half are only available through buying DLC (even though the computer still uses them during Survival mode).


Compared to Revolution which was completely filled with random but thoughtful content like Mecha-Naruto and costume accessories (both of which are not in this game), Storm 4 cuts corners in almost every way possible. It was delayed for 5 months in August, yet the finished product feels lazy and rushed. As one of the many people who’ve followed these games for years and vehemently anticipated this concluding act, I just find it so sad that this is the bang that such a storied series goes out with. It’s hollow and mediocre, and we deserve better.

Devs that put out unfinished games are scum. But devs who shamelessly try to squeeze every last dollar out of their loyal fans are even lower than that.



“Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” Review

The final chapter of Nathan Drake’s story is the culmination of one of last generation’s most iconic new IPs and developer Naughty Dog‘s mastery of cinematic storytelling.

Following Drake on his last adventure through the jungles of Madagascar and rolling hills of Scotland, it’s easy to get swept up in the stunning vistas and lose sight of those elements that make Uncharted 4 a great video game, rather than just an entrancing playable movie.

And truthfully, although the “video game” aspects aren’t as groundbreaking as the game’s visuals, A Thief’s End is worthy of its spot in nearly everyone’s Game of the Year rankings.uncharted4review8

Taking place three years after Uncharted 3A Thief’s End begins with Drake living a comfortable but unsatisfying life in suburbia with Elena. Drake longs for his days of thieving and exploring, but has grown to accept the mundane safety of the American rat race for the sake of his new wife.

But Drake’s new life is interrupted by his brother Sam, who had been assumed dead following a partially successful prison escape. Sam explains that Drake must help him find the lost treasure of pirate Henry Avery to repay a debt he owes the Panamanian mob. Drake (not-so-reluctantly) agrees, and gets pulled back into the treasure hunting game for one last job to save his brother.

The story centers around the tension of Drake having to choose between risking his life on another potentially fatal adventure for his brother and giving up his aspirations for the sake of Elena. A Thief’s End is the most thematically complicated of any of the Uncharted series, but it still maintains the fun levity of the series’ past.

Superb voice acting from series regulars Nolan North and Emily Rose is no surprise, but it’s Troy Baker as Sam who completely steals the show. Baker’s delivery of Sam’s emotionally complicated dialogue showcases his range as a voice actor, and he’s the center of nearly every scene he’s in.


In-between the first rate cut-scenes, the skirmishes are a mixed bad. The shooting’s responsive and the cover system’s competent. There’s a certain weight to combat that feels leftover from The Last of Us, and it fits comfortably into Uncharted’s realistic aesthetic.

But while most everything in Uncharted 4 feels like a step forward for the series, the melee combat will feel like a remission for Uncharted veterans. In Uncharted 3, hand-to-hand felt intuitive, and there was a seamless transition from shooting to melee. Fighting someone with your fists in Uncharted 4 feels clunky, and it’s usually a better idea to shoot an enemy outright than to struggle with the controls.

Stealth is another sore spot; it’s something that each Uncharted game has struggled with, and although this is the best it’s ever been in the series, that’s not saying much. The inclusion of an awareness meter and the ability to mark enemies helps a bit, but there are no additional stealth techniques to help make sneaking easier. There’s no way to call out to guards, no long-distance takedowns, or any other viable strategies besides just patiently waiting for guards to turn around and snapping their necks. It turns sneaking into a chore that you’re better off skipping by just shooting your way through stealth sections.


While the quality of the combat is inconsistent, the exploration sections are solid, mostly due to some of the new mechanics added to change up what was becoming a tired aspect of Uncharted. The new grappling hook opens up some interesting puzzle opportunities, and gives Drake a quick way to escape danger during firefights (although the gag of “sliding down a hill and having to grapple something at the last second” wears thin by the third act).

The gigantic puzzles also do not disappoint, as Uncharted 4 takes full advantage of this entry appearing on the PlayStation 4. There aren’t any brainbusters, but the level design of some of the large-scale set pieces is awe-inspiring. Particularly memorable is the clock tower puzzle, which, as is tradition in the Uncharted series, gets climatically destroyed after Drake solves it.

And also like the other Uncharted games, the multiplayer in A Theif’s End feels like a tacked-on afterthought to add a perceived amount of value that would have been lost on an exclusively singleplayer game. There are no stand-out modes or features in Uncharted 4‘s multiplayer. It’s essentially just the combat framework of the campaign ripped out and thrown into an online setting. It’s functional, but there’s nothing remarkable to get excited about either. It’s hard to imagine any player developing an attachment to such a mediocre multiplayer, as it’s likely that the only people playing Uncharted 4 online regularly are the people who don’t have any other games to play on PS4.


While the footage of this game speaks for itself, it has to be noted how incredible Uncharted 4 looks. The cuts and scratches that cover Nathan Drake’s face add that much more believably to Nolan North’s already remarkable performance. You can almost feel how slick the rain-covered cliffs of the Madagascan jungle are as Drake slips and falls onto the hard rock bed. Sand pours from piles of shrinking sandbags that you’re using as temporary cover.

Simply put, Uncharted 4 is one of the best looking console games ever made. This is the kind of game your dad stops you to talk about on Christmas morning. It’s one of the first major steps forward for graphics this console generation, and it’s going to be a treat seeing the next thing Naughty Dog’s in-house engine cooks up.


Although A Thief’s End is a better film than it is a video game, it’s still a really damn good game. It showcases the magic that happens when the best of the two mediums collide. Uncharted 4 is the new benchmark for cinematic games, and for that, it’s a standout in what has been an excellent year for AAA video games.