Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Review
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is not only a game with one of the longest titles you will find, but is also a deep and detailed fighting game from developers CyberConnect2 who have managed to bring the popular Japanese anime to life in some of the best looking visuals this generation.
Upon first starting up Naruto Storm 2 (a far more convenient name) my expectations were for a solid fighting game with the typical arcade ‘climb the ranks’ single player and versus modes that you would expect from your run of the mill fighter… oh how wrong I was. The game’s first mode ‘Ultimate Adventure’ provides the entire Shippuden storyline the contents of which are vast and detailed, taking the players hand and walking them through a great deal of the anime series.
Instead of telling the story via cutscenes or lengthy text filled interfaces you are free to run around the world interacting with characters on every corner giving you the freedom to explore the games city and its many surrounding areas. This is done by very small scenes sectioned off from one another in order to maintain a fixed (or relatively so) camera that will typically have paths you can take to move to the next scene. This has its benefits and disadvantages, most noticeable of which is that there are quite a lot of transitions moving from one end of the city to the other for example, with some loading in-between, but it helps keep the game viewed from a fixed perspective and maintain the anime feel.
Whilst exploring the world you can get involved in completing various side missions, stopping off for a bite to eat at the Ichiraku Ramen Shop or collect resources littered around most scenes (which are then used to create items, used later in battle). The main focus will no doubt be on proceeding with the game’s story. This usually requires you to run from one end of the city to visit the town’s Hokage (leader) that’ll give you a mission that has you running to the other end and then typically to some distant location, and when finished back again, which can become a bit of a chore after a while, especially without a quick travel option. When you finally do reach your missions destination you will be rewarded handsomely with the chance to kick butt, but how you do this exactly all depends on your progress in the story, as you will be in control of many different characters during the adventure, all of which have unique abilities.
The game has a rather unique combat system that doesn’t follow the conventional kick and punch button combinations. You will have your health bar (which has several layers to go through) and your chakra bar right under it. Chakra can best be described as your characters inner energy (the force is strong here) and you’ll use this energy to boost your combat abilities and will then require to recharge it up by pressing the Y button. If you are not fairing very well in an encounter you can usually call on a teammate to jump in by either protecting you from taking a large hit or assaulting the enemy in your place. If things really turn sour you can awaken your inner power, typically in the shape of a new form, and obliterate your enemies with attacks that are far more devastating.
The combat itself is quite simplistic. You can throw shurikens with X (think small throwing knives), perform a flurry of attacks by pressing B (could be ranged or melee, depending on the characters), jump and dodge with A and as mentioned above chakra charge with Y. By performing any of your core actions whilst charging your chakra they will be stronger such as doing so whilst jumping and you’ll leap right down to your enemy, or when used with your main attack it will unleash a powerful attack that makes Ryu’s hadouken look tame. Each character has a very unique ultimate attack (called their Jutsu) and these look absolutely stunning to pull off.
To avoid these attacks you will have the ability to block, and far more importantly and vital the chance to counter if you press the block button just as an attack is about to land – which will have you appearing behind your opponent leaving them open for you to strike. Naruto Storm 2’s combat is very nimble and fast paced needing you to focus a great deal on making sure you counter block an enemy’s attacks and time your own attacks well in retaliation, particularly when using valuable chakra. Instead of needing to pull off long button combinations like the majority of fighting games it’s all about the timing and thinking fast.
There are moments in the game’s storytelling that plays out a series of events one after the other, looking identical to that of the anime shows with the same background locations, spoken dialogue and even simply having the camera in the same position and direction. The only difference this time around is that it has all been rendered out in stunning three dimensions, instead of the anime’s pathetic two.
Graphically the game is a perfect demonstration of how fantastic cel-shaded video games can look, managing to pull off very cartoon looking characters and environments that don’t take away from the games immersion in any way. The environments that you run through all look superb especially so with the story’s main city Konoha which looks picturesque or the quick time events which even show up the source footage. The only real blemish with the game from a graphical perspective is the large amount of jaggies that plague the character models; it’s a shame that a little bit of anti-aliasing couldn’t have rectified this issue. Equally from an audio perspective the game holds up well with a long list of songs featured from the anime series and fantastic voice acting… if you set the language from English to Japanese first. Having this option available could make or break the experience for fans!
Unfortunately there are downsides that come from presenting such a prestige level of detail and emulation of the show. As the game progressed I noticed more and more discrepancies that didn’t quite fit with source material, such as enemy encounters that were set in different locations. To anyone that doesn’t know the series beforehand they would no doubt be wondering what the hell is going on at numerous occasions throughout the story. These such problems are typically due to the fault of the game being a fighter at heart and each large battle encounter having you taking control of a single character, in what is usually a collective battle, which could have easily have been offset by even more cutscenes to show the events taking place outside or around your battle. It would be unfair to focus too long on these criticisms as the game doesn’t have the typical dull and drab offerings from competition just a beautiful adventure that fans and newcomers to the franchise can appreciate.
Along with the game’s main story mode there is also you’re typical versus mode where you can go up against a friend, the CPU or even watch two CPU characters duke it out. If you don’t have any friends (aww bless) then you can hop online and jump into the game’s solid lobby system that’ll have you in and fighting within no time. Be careful though as the game has stat tracking for your previous games and will let others know when you can’t win a fight. With a selectable character list as high as forty four there is certainly enough variation to keep the straight fighting modes entertaining and fresh. Unfortunately there is a gruelling unlocking system that’ll need you to invest tens of hours before you’ll see them all – although thankfully spending time in any mode contributes.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 will instantly appeal to fans but there is certainly no reason why others shouldn’t have a look in. Playing a few rounds online will show elitist fighting fans just how skill based this fighting game can be, and for everyone else there is the forgiving AI, low ranking online players and friends to compete against. Either way there will certainly be competition for you to storm.