While the combat is fun and enjoyable, the rest of the game seems to be there to irritate you out of wanting to fight. Much of your playing time will be spent in single-player "Ultimate Mission" mode; unlocking characters, alternate specials, outfits and support attacks by playing missions. The plot-important "Ultimate" missions cover the first 135 episodes (yes, just the first 135) of the TV series, presented as a series of story arcs. Story arcs are bookended by cutscenes and the occasional boss battle against a massive creature, peppered with QTEs and lots of yelling.
Ultimate missions can only be unlocked by collecting "Mission XP," points awarded by undergoing sidequests; among them practice battles, more minigames and sometimes just running a certain number of steps around the open-world mission hub. Missions can be replayed to fulfill bonus objectives which award more XP, secret scrolls used to buy support attacks, and cash to buy collectible items. Collectibles include music, figures, ultimate attack moves and, most interesting, dioramas which re-enact key moments from the TV series.
Much to the game's detriment, this repetitive busywork gets extremely boring early on and much of it is required to start unlocking different characters and moves. How often does one need to repeat the "running through the forest" minigame and the "running up a tree" minigame before anything interesting happens? Developers should know something is wrong with their game when players would prefer a few cut-scenes rather than go through the way the campaign is designed. Simply put, the unlocking requirements demand time that older gamers don't have and dedication that younger gamers can't muster.
Adding insult to injury, the lack of online multiplayer or even trophies to soften the sidequests' sting render Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm a fighting game strictly for families, fans, or gamers with roommates that aren't too snooty to play a fun, great-looking "anime game."
Bottom Line: Despite the tedium of its sidequesting, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is one of the best-looking titles on the PS3, and an exciting, accessible fighter to boot, providing a lot of content for fans to enjoy. It's just too bad that many players will end up ignoring it because it's based on a series they dislike or aren't aware of.
Recommendation: Rent it for kicks, keep it if you're a fan or have someone willing to do the unlocking for you. It's probably the closest you'll ever come to playing the show, at least according to my nine-year-old nephew.
Josh Tolentino appreciates his nephew's help in writing this review, but greatly resents that same nephew's kicking, ninja-starring, and burning his ass to a crisp. Next time, Kisame will be banned from play.
--by Josh Tolentino (unangbangkay)