It’s actually been a little while since I’ve reviewed a Naruto game, but the more I play them, the more I notice the patterns. I’ve noticed that you should never buy anything from Ubisoft. A fighting game where you have to purchase characters is beyond sinful. I’ve noticed that handheld Naruto titles are actively trying to be a step beyond mediocre (but that’s it, they’re not trying to actually make a great game). The third, and most important thing for this review, is that the last generation of consoles is dead. The glut of Naruto titles has made it hard for any particular game to really distinguish itself beyond a single major selling point. Ultimate Ninja 4 does not have one of these and therefore, becomes just one of the bricks in the Naruto wall.
Ultimate Ninja 4 handles precisely the same as all the other non-Ninja Storm Ultimate Ninja titles. Battles take place on multi-tiered, 2d planes. The actual fighting is limited to a single button (the Circle), but there are numerous items that can be obtained during the fights and hurled at opponents. There are also jutsu moves, which draw from the special (chakra) meter, peppered in that do all sorts of crazy things. Really, you can check out the Ultimate Ninja 3 review I did way back and you’ll know everything there is to know.
So what makes Ultimate Ninja 4 different from Ultimate Ninja 3? Not much, really. You can accurately label UN4 as a re-skin of UN3. Really, the operative word in the game’s title is “Shippuden.” For those who don’t know, the Naruto television and manga series is divided into two parts; the original Naruto, and Naruto: Shippuden. Shippuden takes place several years after the end of the original series, and features an identical cast…but a few years older. Really, that’s UN4. It is UN3, but with older versions of some of the characters. Sure, it features the villains from the very first Shippuden story (Deidara and Sasori, teammates of Kisame and Itachi in the evil Akatsuki organization), but the vast majority of the cast is made up of the same characters, like Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee, Neji, Shikamaru, Hinata, and so on, with largely identical moves…but taller, and sometimes with a new outfit. For $40.
Past Ultimate Ninja titles were worth a purchase for Naruto fans because they brought so much “Naruto” to the table, thanks to inventive story modes and incredible amounts of bonus content. Bandai-Namco’s previous title, Ultimate Ninja Storm, is actually among the most visually stunning games of this generation (right up alongside Metal Gear Solid 4), and has one of the most unique combat systems, ever. Alongside Storm was the legitimately good fighting game (meaning, it’s a good fighting game, not just a decent title that builds well off its source material…it’s actually a good game), Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 for the Nintendo Wii. So there are numerous options out there for the Naruto fans, depending on their tastes. And all this one has is the Shippuden versions of the characters.
Because of this, it’s difficult to give the title a positive review, or my endorsement for purchase. Mediocre Naruto games are by no means uncommon, and this one brings a sizable price tag for a PS2 title that lacks online support. If you want a seriously pretty game, get Ultimate Ninja Storm for the PS3. If you want a cool story mode, get Ultimate Ninja 3 for the PS2 (or one of the DS titles). If you want a good game, get Clash of Ninja Revolution 2. For me, all those things are more important than getting older versions of the characters. If you’re willing to pay $40 to sate your Shippuden needs…then pick up this game. I’ll keep my two Andrew Jacksons, though.