Reviews

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3

The relentless pace is effective at heightening the drama while lessening our critical thinking. It’s dumb, it’s clichéd, it’s cheesy, but... but Sakura just said she loves Naruto and I know that can’t be true, what is she playing at? It’s all so addictive.


Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Rated: Teen
Players: 1-2 players
Price: $59.99
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed, PS3
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: 2013-03-05

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 begins with the hint of something ambitious: an anime-licensed game that’s more RPG than fighting game (the vast majority of anime-licensed games are the latter). However, it quickly loses sight of that ambition, and you can feel the developer’s own apathy sink in almost immediately.

Unlike Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, which was the last Naruto game that I played, Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 has actual 3D environments that you can explore. It’s not just a series of fights broken up by cut scenes (like most fighting games) and that ambition to do something more is respectable. You begin in the Hidden Leaf Village, a fairly big place filled with shops and people. The game gives you an objective, but also tells you about sidequests and hidden items, the kinds of things that have been encouraging players to explore digital environments for decades. So naturally I wanted to explore, but the moment that I tried to go left instead of right, the game stopped me. I was forced to follow the objective arrows. When I did get a brief chance to explore, I found all of one sidequest: an item hunt that can never really be completed. With nothing else to do, I left the Hidden Leaf Village.

This is the extent of your interaction with the environments: you run through them.

Levels only get worse later on: At least the developers tried to make the village feel big, most areas are just straight paths. I understand that these sections of the game are probably meant to break up the cut scenes, which can stretch on for a very long time, but this raises a question. Would you rather watch a fun cut scene or play a dull game? I’d rather watch the wonderfully ridiculous cut scenes that solidify Naruto as a ninja-based soap opera.

The story works best when it barrels through the plot like a runaway boulder, and you don’t have time to think what with all the melodramatic chaos. The relentless pace is effective at heightening the drama while lessening our critical thinking. It’s dumb, it’s clichéd, it’s cheesy, but... but Sakura just said she loves Naruto and I know that can’t be true, what is she playing at? It’s all so addictive. It’s the very definition of a guilty pleasure, so it’s unfortunate that every time the game drops you into one of its empty environments it just slows the pace and gives the guilt time to set in right next to that pleasure.

Thankfully, there’s more to the gameplay than just running forwards. This is still a fighting game, and the fights are quite fun. The combat system remains unchanged from the previous Naruto games. Everything revolves around chakra, a limited resource you can recharge that gets used up with every attack. Rather than force players to memorize multiple button combos for multiple attacks, the game forces players to think about resource management while fighting. It’s smart design. The challenge of each fight isn’t in how fast you can push the buttons but in how fast you can think. It helps that each fight is bookended by tons of exposition, thus ensuring I get my fix of ninja melodrama before the fisticuffs begin.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 has a wonderfully cheesy story, with genuinely bad environments, and genuinely good combat. The environments shoot this otherwise good game in the foot. It’s not enough to ruin the experience, but it’s just enough to break you out of the soap opera induced trance.

5

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image