Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm continues to impress me with a nearly flawless use of cell shaded art and animation, comparable only to Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Absurdly long names aside, I may have to argue that Naruto Ship… NS:UNS… Ninja Storm may be THE best use of cell shaded art and animation to date.
Unfortunately the stunning cinematic quality of the game comes at the cost of gameplay. Most of Ninja Storm’s action occurs during frantic cut scenes that are driven by timed button presses similar to that of Shenmue, Tomb Raider, Darksiders and that other game Wad or Door or something like that.
Zone of the Enders, but more so The Second Runner was the first to impress me with this sort of art style. The game even had anime cut scenes woven in between just to add to the animated flavor. While the game’s graphics are showing their age, there are a lot of qualities to cell shading that preserves well with time.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker still holds up today as some of the best cell shaded graphics I have ever seen. In many ways the tools used to produce cell shaded graphics can really make a game look better than it would otherwise be on that system. There was a lot of controversy over the art style when Wind Waker was first announced, but I am glad they did it anyways.
I hope to see more games execute the cell shaded style as well as Ninja Storm if not better. That is not to say many games have not tried the style, but none come close to the quality of Ninja Storm.