Hang on, “puff, wheeeeze”. Damn, that title is ridiculously long. Alright, here we go.
The long running series of adolescent ninjas and their unique world, is back for another spin on an old tale, in a title that streamlines the process for a more focused approach. But can this new method to gameplay stand tall with previous, solid attempts, or is this game that has gone back to basics with detrimental effects?
Set in a world where ninjas exist, alongside colourful characters and special abilities, the story of Naruto Shippuden, at its heart is about friendship and camaraderie, and has been repeated numerous times every year in each subsequent release.
So yes, it’s starting to suffer from DBZ syndrome now.
Straight from the get go, the most noticeable absentee in the latest game is that RPG mode has been completely stripped from the game. In its place, is a story-mode that pads out fights with specific conditions and static animations, with some new filler animation from the production company behind the popular anime, acting as pro and epilogues.
And it’s a monumental misstep for the game. While the RPG mode may not have been perfect, it was still a solid feature that could have done with a little more polish, and stripping it from the game just gives NUNSG a watered down, lacklustre feel.
Three storylines are initially presented, with more unlocked as gamers finish them, but the whole approach feels like a tacked-on feature, as if the developers went on vacation, and then realised that they only had a week to finish a game.
Add, or subtract, to that, and the amazing boss battles from the 2011 game are gone as well, removing those fantastic bits of variety from the game, for more straight forward brawling. It’s the exact opposite of what a sequel should be, as instead of producing more value on a unique and fun fighting game, it’s been severely gimped in the process.
That being said, NUNSG still boasts one of the finest fighting engines, which genre fans will appreciate for its subtlety. Initially simplistic in its approach, characters have basic melee, projectile and equipment attacks, which can be bolstered with jutsu and chakra moves, to give them an edge.
Loading up some chakra into your shinobi can give them the necessary speed needed to close the gap on the 3D fighting arenas, while also allowing them to perform signature moves, which require split second timing in order to have them hit your slippery foes.
Each jutsu is different and unique, with some being projectile-based, while others work perfectly as anti-steamrolling traps. Each character has a regular and ultimate jutsu, with varying effects, as well as an Awakening stage, that can be activated when your health is low enough, and enough chakra is loaded.
It’s a comeback survival mechanism from the previous game, that gives players a massive boost in attack, that can turn a match, but it’s not a ticket for god-mode, as crafty fighters can still overcome it, provided that they’re fast on the dodges and have enough experience. Chakra charges can also be cancelled at any time, opening up new strategies for veterans.
Substitution jutsus, a novel method of escaping attacks, have also been revamped this year, and require much less crucial timing to perform this time around. In order to prevent the game from quickly degenerating into random puffs of escape smoke, NUNSG has limited the technique, allowing for it to be used only four times before it needs to recharge, so once again, timing is of the essence.
And this, is what makes the combat in NUNSG stand out, as button-mashing your way to victory will not guarantee success. Players have to know when and how to use their attacks, as that experience makes all the world of difference. It’s not a pedantic setup either, as battles can be furiously fast in their execution, or come down to dramatic stalemates.
As for choosing a character to play as, NUNSG has definitely gone with the mantra of quantity over quality. There are dozens of shinobi to select from, with most being unlockable as you progress, as well as quite a few support characters to uncover, participants who can lend a hand in battle.
However, don’t expect any balanced rosters here, as characters can be woefully over/under-powered, leading to some interesting scenarios and challenges. It’s not uncommon to pick one character, and find out that the scissors approach taken is no match for the nuclear-powered rock that comes at him, which can lead to some spectacular defeats for new players.
Graphically, nothing has changed, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the game still looks like it was ripped straight from the TV screen. Characters look vibrant and movie fluidly, with ultimate attacks resulting in intense animations, although the game engine does seem to have an issue now handling some of the awakening modes, with action stuttering onscreen when that happens.
Multiplayer, the main hook of any fighting games, rears its head once more, as NUNSG adds in some tournament modes to the regular, vanilla options, while online play consists of the usual battles for points, titles and bragging rights.
And yet, despite all the tweaks and subtle changes to gameplay, NUNSG feels quite underwhelming, especially if you’ve been a fan of the franchise for many years. The stripped down single-player is the main culprit here, while fans who have been playing the game ever since it arrived on next-gen consoles, will feel a distinct sense of deja vu, as if the game is merely going through the motions.
It’s still a beauty to behold in action, but it’s a beauty that is tired and worn down, at this point.
It hasn’t been drastically redesigned, but the one action to one button gameplay has been tweaked, resulting in characters with slightly different move-sets and abilities. The gameplay is still unique and fun, and easy to pick up for new players, while veterans will feel right at home.
Design and Presentation: 7.9/10
Anime fans will be heaven, as the visuals are as crisp and cinematic as ever. It’s the exact same engine, although certain elements that cause it to stutter could have been worked out by the development team, in the period before the two games, quite easily.
It’s already in a niche genre, and with this sub-genre of anime and ninja fans that the game is targeted towards, only so much of the game will be appealing. Players who have thrown a kunai before may be at home with the familiar setup, but there’s nothing new added to the game, with more taken out instead of added in.
Multiplayer is still fine and dandy however, depending on your obsession with that mode, while the title itself makes for a worthwhile jumping on point for newcomers.
As a game on it’s own, Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm 2 Generations (Whhhheeezze), is a pretty solid title, with interesting gameplay mechanics and a unique approach to the genre that will appeal to fans of the anime.
As a sequel though? It’s a disappointing product that offers little to no new content or innovation. It’s pretty much the exact same game from last year, with the most incremental of changes.
Reviewed on Xbox 360, played on normal difficulty
Last Updated: May 17, 2012