Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 is the game that got me through freshman year of college. I’ll never forget spending hours and hours on end huddled together in one dorm room participating in round after round. Sometimes we would load up on snacks and drinks and just play all weekend, and other times we would sneak in a few matches between classes and before dinner.
Since the days of the Playstation 2, I’ve been a really big fan of Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2’s Ultimate Ninja fighting games, especially the Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Outside of my own personal reasons for picking Storm 3 as my favorite Naruto game, I honestly just feel like it is a really fantastic gaming experience, Naruto or otherwise. As far as Naruto games are concerned, Storm 3 just does a lot of things right. The story and cinematics are incredible, and even outshine the anime in many instances.
This is due in part to the fact that Storm 3 has the luxury of being able to tell the Naruto story without all of the filler that the anime was plagued with. But even beyond that, Storm 3 is a fantastic example of a developer that is really passionate about the source material. Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 was released in 2013, meaning CyberConnect2 had been creating Naruto games for an entire decade! While one would think that being apart of a franchise for so long would cause a decline in interest, the Ultimate Ninja Storm games caused quite the opposite effect.
The original Ultimate Ninja games on the Playstation 2 weren’t really known for their visuals or cinematic flair. They were fairly simple 2d fighting games. With the advent of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, CC2 was given the opportunity (and the budget) to make a really spectacular Naruto experience. CC2 was able to flex their technical muscles, and make a truly beautiful anime game.
The debut trailer for the original Ultimate Ninja Storm was the first time I was ever blown away by a game’s visuals. I couldn’t believe how amazing the game looked. CC2 had somehow managed to create a game that looked like I was playing the anime. And that’s a statement that holds true for every subsequent installment in the series.
There’s no better example of CC2’s love for Naruto than the story modes in the Ultimate Ninja Storm games. They are incredibly authentic to the original events of the story, while also throwing in their own unique elements when appropriate. The Storm games, especially Storm 3, just do a great job telling the story overall. Storm 3 has cutscenes that feel like an episode of the anime, and they never skimp on the important details of the narrative.
As far as actual gameplay is concerned, Storm 3 does a lot of things really well, and just one thing wrong. The awakening system in Storm 3 is pretty broken. While it’s really cool that the finally allowed awakened characters to be grabbed and hit with ultimate jutsu, Storm 3 still features plenty of really overpowered transformations.
Each of the Jinchuriki, as well as a handful of the Uchiha have giant awakenings. These transformations have really big hitboxes, and can dish out a ton of damage. In addition, certain characters have the ability to instantly awaken. While the trade off for this is the fact that your chakra is constantly draining, you should usually be able to finish the match before this becomes an issue.
Broken awakenings aside, Storm 3 feels great to play, and is second only to Storm 4 as far as overall fluidity of control is concerned. The beauty of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games has always been their simplicity. Melee combos are mapped to a single button, and characters each have a handful of movement options and unique jutsu and ultimate jutsu. Basically, the Storm games are fairly easy to pick up and play, but take time to fully master.
Epic boss fights are what the Ultimate Ninja Storm games are known for, and Storm 3 features the probably the best ones in the series. The spectacle of these fights is incredible, and I honestly feel that they are somewhat underappreciated when it comes to video game set pieces. I’ve seen things in Storm 3 that rival scenes in really big, blockbuster triple A game franchises.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 pits you against standard human sized fights against opponents like Sasuke Uchiha, the Third Raikage and Danzo Shimura, but also against the likes of the Nine Tailed Fox, Madara Uchiha’s Susanno and the Gedo Statue. These encounters are truly a sight to behold, and their scale and intensity is enough to get anybody’s adrenaline pumping.
Naruto was a huge part of my adolescent years. In middle school, I spent pretty much every weekend at Lucas Sapaugh’s house, one of my best friends in the world. As soon as the Toonami block came on, it had our undivided attention. Out of all of the shows in their lineup, Naruto was easily the biggest draw for us.
Naruto was very much the anime of my generation. While I adore Dragon Ball to no end, that show already belonged to another generation of kids by the time I was old enough to fall in love with it. Naruto hit at just the right time to become an iconic show to people my age. In the case of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, they are a large part of what kept me invested in the series after the ending of Part I on Toonami. The english version of Naruto Shippuden went through a weird phase from around 2009 to 2010, so I got my Naruto fix from games like Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 and Ultimate Ninja Storm 3.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 represents not only what I believe to be the best Naruto gaming experience, but a game that I hold many memories with. To this day, I sometimes find myself thinking about the times I spend during my first year of college just loving everything that this game has to offer.