Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm — 3Q2018 issue

The ulti­mate beginning

Naruto Uzi­maki. From 1999 to 2017, Shonen Jump Magazine’s hyper­ac­tive ninja knuck­le­head had a major impact on the geek cul­ture scene as well as anime and manga. From graphic nov­els, to other nov­elty mer­chan­dise and video games, many anime fans world­wide fol­lowed his rise from out­cast of his ninja vil­lage to its leg­endary sav­ior. Dur­ing Naruto’s rise, there were many video games for var­i­ous sys­tems that fol­lowed every adven­ture of our blonde, blue-eyed hero and his friends. I got the oppor­tu­nity to play one of the Naruto-based games after a recent game shop­ping expe­di­tion when I found Naruto: Ulti­mate Ninja: Storm.

Ulti­mate Ninja: Storm is a hybrid con­sist­ing of fight­ing and role play­ing game ele­ments. Free Bat­tle mode allows you to choose one main fighter with two backup char­ac­ters against another player or the console’s choice of char­ac­ters in var­i­ous stages taken right out of the Naruto uni­verse. Free Bat­tle also allows you to earn extra cash if you defeat their oppo­nents using var­i­ous moves known as nin­jutsu. The extra coinage will be needed in the role play­ing mode, Ulti­mate Mis­sion Mode, dur­ing which you con­trol Naruto in var­i­ous mis­sions that involve episodes 1 to 135 of the anime series.

I found every­thing from the cin­e­matic intro to actual game­play excel­lent. Namco Bandai brought their expe­ri­ence in mak­ing games like Tekken and Soul Cal­ibur and com­bined it with Masashi Kishimoto’s guid­ance in devel­op­ing the per­fect exam­ple of a video game based on a pop­u­lar anime fran­chise. Every stage, land­mark and char­ac­ter are por­trayed per­fectly in the game mak­ing me as if I was trans­ported to the Hid­den Leaf Vil­lage. The con­trols are easy and will help you pull off some up-close cool com­bos when cer­tain but­tons are dis­played. They’re also great dur­ing the explo­ration of Ulti­mate Mis­sion Mode as you’re try­ing to find hid­den items and mis­sion locations.

Another cool thing about the game was that the music from the anime series was not only kept intact, but also was done in Dolby Dig­i­tal Sound. The voice act­ing in the game is high cal­iber thanks to Namco Bandai work­ing with Viz Media and Stu­diopo­lis Inc. to bring together the orig­i­nal Eng­lish voice actors to reprise their respec­tive roles. Even with the excel­lent Eng­lish voice act­ing, you can also play the game in Japan­ese with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles for a more authen­tic feel. Any­one who has not played a Naruto video game will find it per­fect for either a hot or rainy-day after­noon, or a friendly fight­ing game tour­na­ment at any anime convention.

Namco Bandai did an awe­some job of bring­ing Naruto to the PS3 in addi­tion to pub­lish­ing addi­tional games based off this iconic fran­chise. For now, Naruto’s jour­ney to be hok­age has ended suc­cess­fully, with a son ready to take up his own chal­lenges. Ulti­mate Ninja: Storm is a great start show­cas­ing Naruto’s early adventures.

Devil May Cry 4 — 3Q2018 issue

Devil’s in the details: DMC4 a nice break from Dante

Capcom’s “Devil May Cry” series is a game that has basi­cally rede­fined the term “hack–and-slash” in video games. With the first three games using hack-and-slash style as well as action-adventure ele­ments, I won­dered what new sur­prises would the fourth install­ment of the series bring and to which system?

DMC 4 fea­tures demon-hunter extra­or­di­naire Dante, but the story and main char­ac­ter has changed for a more intense expe­ri­ence. Tak­ing place in a remote island town called For­tuna, you assume the role of Nero — a younger ver­sion of Dante — who is a mem­ber of the Order of the Sword. The Order of the Sword is a mil­i­tant reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion formed to destroy demons based on the actions of the Demon-Knight Sparda, who rebelled against the demon under­world to pro­tect human­ity. At a recent cer­e­mony to honor Sparda, Dante smashes though a sky­light and kills the priest lead­ing the cer­e­mony, set­ting off a chain of events that would not only put Dante and Nero on a col­li­sion course with each other, but also would lead both demon-hunters through a greater mys­tery to find out the true inten­tions of the Order and to stop a more vicious plot of a demon-invasion.

While Dante’s role in DMC 4 is not as the main char­ac­ter, he does still play a key role in the game as a playable char­ac­ter in cer­tain scenes. Nero is not to be taken lightly either as his arse­nal con­sists of his Devil Bringer arm, his mechan­i­cal sword Red Queen and his dou­ble bar­rel revolver, Blue Queen. Nero can gain an extra advan­tage to accom­plish his mis­sion by gath­er­ing “Red Souls,” DMC’s orig­i­nal game cur­rency, and “Proud Souls,” a new cur­rency. After a mis­sion is com­pleted, Pride Souls can power up Nero’s tools rang­ing from extend­ing the Devil Bringer’s reach to more pow­er­ful shots from the Blue Queen. The con­trols for Dante and Nero are easy to use thanks to the PS3’s Six Axis controller’s built-in ana­log fea­ture, which I found help­ful with cam­era issues from time to time.

The excel­lent detail that is used in each level comes to life in the back­ground and cin­e­matic scenes. These were done with high def­i­n­i­tion tech­nol­ogy that will make you feel like you are play­ing with a mas­ter­piece of art instead of a video game. Capcom’s sound team brings their A-game again. Each sound and vocal effect com­bined with Dolby Dig­i­tal Sound gives an orches­tral qual­ity to the game. Cap­com did a great job in voice and motion cap­ture for DMC 4. Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Street Fighter IV) brought Nero to life and Reuben Lang­don repris­ing his role as Dante.

Devil May Cry 4 shows what Cap­com is capa­ble of doing when they let their devel­op­ment team do its job: make their games enjoy­able. DMC4 is a chal­leng­ing, but enjoy­able way to kill free time when you want to get your demon-hunting on. The replay value is strong espe­cially if you are a vet­eran DMC player; this game is worth your hard-earned cash.

Katamari Forever — 3Q2015 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamespot.com

Retread re-roll

The sit­u­a­tion may have changed slightly, but the premise is still the same in Kata­mari For­ever, the fifth game in the quirky series. Whether or not you’re into the “if it’s not broke then don’t fix it” method of gam­ing will deter­mine if you can stand another trip to the cos­mos with a kata­mari.
Just in case you haven’t played a game in the series, let’s get a refresher. Kata­mari titles involve rolling up a sticky ball with every­day objects to increase the ball’s size. The larger the ball, the more pleased some­one is — usu­ally the King of All Cos­mos. That’s because the king is an idiot and rou­tinely destroys some­thing related to his job of pro­tect­ing the cos­mos. His lack of com­mon sense and coor­di­na­tion usu­ally means the Prince of All Cos­mos — that’d be you, the player — has to cre­ate new stars and recon­struct the cos­mos. This premise has worked for the past four games, and it’s really no dif­fer­ent sto­ry­wise except for the addi­tion of the cousins to help in appear­ance only (added in We Love Kata­mari) and the fact that the king has been replaced tem­porar­ily by the Robot King of All Cos­mos. Absur­dity thy name is Kata­mari.
Noth­ing has really changed, mechanics-wise, either. There are a few addi­tions to the reper­toire of the Prince, such as the Prince Hop and the King Shock, but oth­er­wise you’re still rolling along to pick up items to make your kata­mari grow. The series isn’t known for its growth and this is a major rea­son why. While it’s easy to con­trol the Prince and maneu­ver the Kata­mari, there still should be some inno­va­tion at this point, five games in.
The sound­track also suf­fers from stag­na­tion. Kata­mari Damacy, the first game in the series, was known for hav­ing a great sound­track. As a mat­ter of fact, we’ve lauded the sound­track relent­lessly through­out our lifes­pan at GI. But try as we might, we’re still try­ing to under­stand why there isn’t as much cre­ativ­ity used in the musi­cal por­tion of a game that con­jures so many dif­fer­ent cre­ative thoughts. The music of the first game inspired so much, yet by the time of For­ever, it seems that well has grown dry. It’s still a good sound­track, but I was expect­ing more from this.
Over­all, if you still love pick­ing up a con­troller to save the cos­mos and cre­ate kata­mari, you’ll prob­a­bly be work­ing to stop the Robot King of All Cos­mos. Oth­er­wise, you’re not really miss­ing any­thing you haven’t already seen. Keep rolling by this one if you want a fresh experience.

LittleBigPlanet — 3Q2015 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamespot.com

A class in mas­ter crafting

There are always games that come with a cer­tain amount of hype. These are the titles that every­one raves about but wind up on your never-ending pile of shame. You’ll prob­a­bly buy it but never actu­ally get around to play­ing it or play­ing it long enough to see what all the fuss is about. Lit­tleBig­Planet is one of those such games.
Quirky is the first adjec­tive I’d use to describe the plat­form­ing game fea­tur­ing Sack­boy, an anthro­po­mor­phic crea­ture that’s fea­tured front and cen­ter at the heart of the game. Sack­boy can be Sack­girl as well, and that’s part of the charm of the game. It can be what­ever you want it to be and do just about any­thing you want it to do, in the name of get­ting from point A to point B. The quirk­i­ness comes in the fact that the envi­ron­ment in which it does so is all about Play-Share-Create. The lev­els of Lit­tleBig­Planet are meant to be user-created and shared for online play among the LBP com­mu­nity, so the depth of the game is imme­di­ately obvi­ous and worth the price of admis­sion alone.
Con­trol­ling Sackboy/girl is sim­ple, yet not with­out its prob­lems. It’s much like play­ing any plat­former of the past 20 years and the con­trol scheme is sim­ple and intu­itive in let­ting you fig­ure out what to do and how to apply it later. Where it fal­ters is the jump­ing mechan­ics. While obvi­ous and sim­ple, the jump­ing does feel slightly off and floaty, which is a prob­lem in a game that relies on that mechanic to carry it. It’s annoy­ing to have to re-do sec­tions of a level solely because of a missed jump, and that detracts from the core expe­ri­ence.
While the mechan­ics could use tweak­ing, not much else needs work. The sound­track is fan­tas­tic and fits the game per­fectly. It’s a good mix­ture of indie folk and pop, and it imme­di­ately reminds of the bril­liance that is Kata­mari Damacy. The graph­ics are also in the realm of per­fect and evoke a cer­tain sort of charm that begs more playthroughs just to see what devel­oper Media Mol­e­cule could come up with next. It’s breath­tak­ing and sim­plis­tic, like a child’s world come to life, and begs to be admired.
Lit­tleBig­Planet is one of the few games of the past few years that demands to be played and war­rants pur­chase of sys­tem just to play it. If you haven’t both­ered to play it by now, you need to stop what you’re doing and get on it. It has its minor prob­lems but they’re noth­ing to keep you from enjoy­ing what’s con­sid­ered a mas­ter­piece. It’s worth every moment of its Play-Share-Create moniker.