Reviewed by Peter Carmody
It has been roughly 2 years since Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm was released exclusively to Playstation 3, this time around Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 (UNS2) has gone multi-platform.
This means that while PS3 owners who have played the predecessor have a pretty good idea about what to expect, they will have to bear with the Xbox 360’s new comers.
Hit the jump for our full review.
The first thing to stress is that the Ultimate Ninja titles focus on the over-the-top combat aspect of the Naruto series, and are nothing at all like the two previous Naruto titles released to the 360 platform. Soâ€¦ no tree top sequences, coin hunting, power cable sliding or performing jutsu’s by entering the appropriate directional commands with the two analogue sticks. If that is what you were looking for in this game, you will almost certainly be disappointed.
The Ultimate adventure mode walks you through the Shippuden series but makes some minor alterations to the original storyline for the sake of game play. As you move from one fight to the next you begin to periodically unlock the 44 playable characters (Including Lars Alexandersson from Tekken 6). At times during this campaign you will also take control of other characters from the series to complete parts of the storyline. As the game gets progressively more difficult your fighting skills will be put to the test, as will your ability to respond quickly to button prompts during boss battles. Yip, another Naruto game with quick time events, however this one will keep you glued to the screen with its landscape altering fight scenes in vibrant colour and stunning cell shaded splendor.
Between fights you will be traveling through a multitude of static environments filled with not-so-well hidden helpful goodies which can be used to tweak your battle plan. Unfortunately when you are not fighting or searching through bird poop for Soya beans, you will be spending most of your time reading dialogue bubbles (as the accompanying voices often just bomb out) and explanation pop-up boxes when you touch just about anything. When that’s not happening you will be reading loading screen tips which are incredibly helpful on your journey, but at some point you really just want to stop reading and play the game. You might even find yourself skipping through these annoyances just to get to some action, regrettably you would be losing a lot of valuable information and if you’re interested in the story at all, you have to grin and bear it.
Cyber connect2 did an amazing job at making you feel as if you are in an episode of Naruto Shippuden (the die hard fans will love this about UNS2). The main characters are very well rendered, so much so that they look as if they are from the animated series. The typically anime styled background images are accompanied by specific camera angles and beautiful cell shading that help the whole package feel more authentic. Sadly it comes at a price, in campaign mode the camera angles often obscure your view so badly that if it wasn’t for the on screen map at times you would not have a clue where you were going.
This is very different though in the combat mode where everything really just comes together. The characters move with absolute fluidity through the stunning 3D backgrounds making the combat element of this game its saving grace. At first the battle system with its one button combos seemed so simple that I began to imagine a small child bashing some unfortunate pet over the head with a chocolate covered game controller, unknowingly dishing out a stupor of punishment on an opponent. Fortunately, as it turns out there is a small but noticeable option of strategy in amongst the button mashing madness. You are able to throw projectiles, tag in members of your team to temporarily help you and charge up chakra to deal out varying levels of damage. Not to mention that you are able to enter battle with a couple of sneaky ninja tricks up your sleeve.
The battle system is fast paced and chaotic, which recreates the look and feel of the series quite nicely but it is not very difficult to get the hang of. In fact, you don’t have to have much experience at all to hold your own in this game, which pushes it more toward the casual gamer demographic as apposed to appealing to the hardcore technical fight fan. For this same reason UNS2’s free battle mode is good fun when you have a couple of friends around and you just want to beat on each other. UNS2 is also the first game from the Ultimate Ninja series to boast online multiplayer capabilities. Players can now go head to head or face of in team battles to gain BP (battle points) which will be reflected in your customizable ninja card that your would be online opponents can see. BP will also determine your ranking on the leaderboards.
UNS2 is by far the best looking Naruto game that 360 users have seen yet, unfortunately the Ultimate adventure mode really steals a lot of the limelight. As I steadily put more hours into UNS2 I couldn’t help but feel slightly robbed, considering what has already been established in Naruto games in the past. The die-hard Naruto fans will probably still love this game purely because of how good it looks and its attention to detail. If you’re a casual gamer looking for a fun fighting game look no further, but if you’re a hardcore combo master then this game is not for you.
While the campaign mode was a major let down, the fight modes are fast and entertaining. The button prompt scenes demand your utmost attention and are not in the least bit annoying. The quick tag in system is a major contribution to your strategy and the general smoothness of the fighting experience makes it all worthwhile. The storyline is, for the most part true to the series. Sadly the way it jumps around might have those of you who don’t watch the Naruto Shippuden series slightly confused.
This is by far the best characteristic of this game. During campaign mode the same camera angles that become somewhat annoying during game play also give the game an authentic Naruto feel (necessary evil maybe?) While in combat modes you will be completely encapsulated by the attractiveness of this game, not just the settings but also the characters. Cyber connect2 did an absolutely amazing job blurring the lines between the animated series and the game.
The background music in typical Naruto style is a contrast between the peaceful Japanese flute (shakuhachi) and an intense combat score which again stays true to the series. You may notice that the voices don’t always coincide with lip movement, kind of like a badly dubbed martial arts movie and this is simply because the characters should be speaking Japanese which I might add is an option for those hardcore fans.
Even though it is possible to play the Ultimate campaign through more than once, there is very little motivation to do so, considering that finishing it once will unlock every playable character. If you’re one of those compulsive achievement hunters though, you might need to go for round two. You will probably get the most value from UNS2 by playing against your friends and online battling, and to honest even then I see this getting old quick.
So far there is no DLC, but 44 character and 23 settings should keep you busy for a little while.
Although this game is visually impressive, it has not made massive steps forward. In fact looking at the Ultimate adventure mode, you could spark a debate as to whether it took steps backwards. The creators blatantly target the Naruto fans and make very little effort to pull in new gamers, this can be seen in how the story takes off at a fast pace with the assumption that you know what is going on. From the perspective of someone who does follow the series I was relatively disappointed.[Reviewed on Xbox 360]
Last Updated: October 18, 2010