on October 29, 2013
Being a Naruto fan, I pre-ordered this product and waited eagerly for it to release. However, as more information was released and discussed on Steam, I became a bit apprehensive. It almost seemed as if the game was receiving the Dark Souls treatment, badly ported with little consideration for the fact it is a PC game. I was very pleasantly surprised.
=====AS A FIGHTING GAME=====
As a fighting game, NUNS3:FB is amazing. A lot of people are turned off by the fact there is only one main attack button (there is also a ranged attack button which is almost useless for most characters) when they expect another Tekken clone. This game, however, feels a lot more like a tactical fighter than a brawler. You have a ranged attack button, a melee attack button, a jump button, and an energy button. Comboing the energy button with the jump button causes you to either dash in or dash away from the enemy, energy plus ranged is a more damaging ranged attack, and one or two presses of the energy button comboed with the melee button activate your two most powerful attacks. You also usually have an up + melee, down + melee, left + melee, guard counter, and string-of-six melee combos, depending on the character. Almost every character uses a different moveset, with various versions of several characters who use different ultimate attacks. Finally are two of the features which really set this game apart from Tekken clones, the awakening forms (do things from giving a stat boost to completely changing your moveset) and the substitution bar, giving you a couple get-out-of-jail free cards which can let you instantly escape a combo.
The result is a game which consists of trying to read your opponent's movements and deciding whether to risk a long combo or to simply flip around and throw shuriken for a few seconds until you can get behind cover to charge your energy bar for a shot at an ultimate attack. Every character utilizes the same basic controls but plays very differently, giving tons of room for strategy and tactics on the battlefield.
The roster is almost three times the size of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, including an extra (and very unique) character exclusive to Full Burst. Several characters are alternative versions of each other, but even so, the lineup is impressive, and the characters can be unlocked through multiplayer and missions as well as story mode. Several characters seem overpowered (Pre-Time-Skip Sasuke, Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan Sasuke, Yellow Flash Minato, all forms of Naruto, and the Masked Man) but not incredibly so.
=====AS A NARUTO GAME=====
The story of this game goes all the way to the end of the Great Ninja War, but at the time the game was released, the storyline of the manga had not yet gotten that far. So, after a certain point, the story of the game is unique and separate from the manga. The story mode itself can be tiresome, unfortunately. A few sections (such as the prologue) are amazing, but by and large I have ended up skipping twenty-minute conversations to just get to the battles so I can unlock new characters. Thankfully the option to skip is available, so you do not need to spoil yourself to unlock all the characters. Voices are available in English and Japanese with the full cast of the show, giving it a nice air of authenticity, though lip movements are not synced with the English voices. All of the music is original, and in a lot of places fits better than the official show music does. In addition, some of the cutscenes actually look better than the show animation, such as the Killer Bee vs Sasuke fight.
As I said above, there is a HUGE number of characters. A lot of them are unlocked at the beginning, too. For several main characters, several versions exist (there is a Sage Mode Naruto, a Pre-Time Skip Naruto, a Fox Cloak Mode-capable Naruto, and a Nine-Tails Chakra-capable Naruto, with slightly different normal movesets and very different final forms) as well as an assortment of 38 costumes distributed among the various characters. Unfortunately, the Goku costume for Naruto is missing. Only a couple characters are "missing," mostly Edo Tensei characters. To make up for this, there are a bunch of Pre-Time-Skip characters like most of the Genin, Kimimaru, the Third Hokage, Haku, and Zabuza.
Most of the special attacks seem to fit the characters (Naruto even gets the Kyuubi Shuriken as his strong ranged attack) but some choices seem a little flat, like giving Kakashi the Fanged Pursuit Jutsu instead of something like the Broken Earth Spiral Palm which would provide him with some much-needed AoE.
The character models and shaders are amazing, getting as close as 3d models can to 2d animation, but the environments aren't anything special. Some of the animations are a bit stiff (I laughed pretty hard in one cutscene as Sasuke's collar was animated by simply rotating one group of polygons from side to side... It didn't look anything like moving in the wind) but that's almost solely in cutscenes; Battle animations are pretty solid.
=====AS A PORT=====
This is the area which pleasantly surprised me. When I opened up the game for the first time, I expected horrible keyboard support and no way of improving the quality of the graphics. Indeed, the only additional option added to the PC was a 2X Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing, but considering the cel-shaded art style, this was enough to make an already-great-looking game look amazing. In addition, the game can be played in 1080p on the PC, unlike the 720p available to consoles.
The game engine uses frame-based animations instead of time-based animations (for example, an animation is referred to as taking 300 frames to complete instead of ten seconds) which means no matter what the game WILL be locked at 30 FPS. If it were raised any higher, the animations would be faster. A lot of people don't like this, but it is unavoidable. On the other hand, I've never experienced any frame drops other than in a couple multiplayer matches, and in those cases the problem was latency, not poor optimization of the game engine itself. I will, however, add that right now the multiplayer seems broken. I can't play with a friend who lives in the same town over wifi for more than a minute before the connection breaks. Hopefully a future patch will address this. Thankfully the game has local multiplayer, something which is sorely lacking from a lot of ports nowadays. Looking at you, Black Ops II.
Controls actually translate very well to keyboard. It isn't exactly intuitive, but I can play local multiplayer using the keyboard and beat people using a game pad. I know a lot of people have been asking about a good keyboard set up, so I'll share mine.
WASD: Left analog stick.
IJKL: Right analog stick (this is ONLY used to go into awakened state and so doesn't need to be easily accessible)
QE: Top bumpers
13: Bottom bumpers
numpad 4: X (ranged)
numpad 8: Y (chakra)
numpad 5: A (jump)
numpad 6 B (melee)
These aren't exactly the most intuitive buttons, I'll admit. Some people prefer using space for jump, for example, because that is what they are used to from PC games. However, if you get to know the keys as emulated buttons instead of as commands, you'll have a much easier time with the quick time events in story mode.
My final verdict? If you are a Naruto fan, this game is worth it. If you aren't a Naruto fan, this game is still worth it. It's an all-around well made and well-ported fighter, and it is worth every penny.