Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
Posted 2 years ago By - Dan Boissoneault
The Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series began some time ago during the humble age of the Playstation 2 when Naruto was just beginning to become a household name. Namco Bandai commissioned CyberConnect2 - fresh off their work with the .hack series - to employ their expertise and experience to mold Naruto’s world into a 3D interactive property. The team has made great strides since then, crafting amazing art and successfully turning a flat canvas into potters clay with excellent results every time.
Presentation and scenario writing are very much at the forefront of the minds of these developpers. With both Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 and the first entry (which was exclusively on the PS3), CyberConnect2 pushed to blur the lines of what to expect when playing an anime inspired fighting game. With gorgeous mid fight cinematics pushed forward by timed button presses and a switch in perspective from a 2D-plane brawler to an arena fighter (a la Dragon Ball Budokai Tenkaichi), the changes made room for new concepts in visual design and scope.
It’s actually quite satisfying to play through the story driven adventure mode, which recounts Naruto’s tales (bad pun warning!). I won’t give an epic synopsis of his life and times here, but the biggest reason to play is the narrative infused battles. The game doesn’t simply rip the player out of combat to show them a video that continues only if buttons are pressed in time to visual cues. The fight quite seamlessly transitions to an in-game explosion of deft ninja prowess and then pulls itself back into more battling, often changing up gameplay types in the process. It has some interesting deviations too, like an on-rails shooter or controlling Naruto’s monstrous demon fox form.
Adventure mode also showcases the lengthy series of chapters ripped right out of the pages and storyboards of the manga/anime. The only time it veers slightly off course from the original is when it’s building a frame for an upcoming battle that requires the fighting to fit the interactive pugilist format.
On the further subject of framing, one notch against Ninja Storm is the free- roaming components outside of battle. It ultimately always boils down to Naruto having to get from point A to point B. That would be all fine and dandy, except that there is very little substance found running from fixed perspective to fixed perspective, picking up items from plants and pots and reading one or two-line conversations from NPCs along the way. Sure there are some side missions and requests to fill, but by the end of the jaunt through, most will find themselves a little tuckered out from the aimless scrounging for items to meet goals to unlock extra playable fighters for multiplayer. Quite droll considering that there are other means for procuring unlockables.
The sounds in NS:UNS2 (love those super long abbreviations!) are very important. From the voice acting, to the auditory cues, and more importantly the music are a resounding work of heart and scream "Naruto" through and through. The only snag to be found is the language choice. Do yourself a favor, switch to the Japanese dub. The lines are much less heavy handed and suit the story of jutsus and Hokages much better.
With localizing any property, sometimes there are some bumps and scrapes when wading through a large amount of text and script. It happens here in a few instances when multiple conventions are blurted out in the same sentence. Towns and other names get mixed up. It’s not often, but it still does happen and can be very confusing for those that are trying to follow along for the first time.
On that thought, UNS2 is actually quite enjoyable even if you aren’t familiar with the source material. I found that a few of my friends would watch me play, at first commenting "Oh man! You’re still playing through the story?". Then they would sit with me, eventually saying things like "That was kinda cool. Who is that dude? Why is he shooting wood from his hands?" If there was ever a better example of an "anime primer", I’m quite confident in lending this little nugget to said friends.
The ease into the gameplay is prominent enough to mention. Built for the casual player, most attacks are pulled off with little coordination needed. Melee and ranged attacks are performed with one button a piece, so spamming either can be taken as gospel in many instances. That doesn’t mean the fighting isn’t fun, it could have just benefited from another attack strength to make mashing out combos have more feedback and be slightly more entertaining.
The support character system works similarly enough to Capcom’s versus fighters, i.e. single button presses to call in assists from up to 2 preselected teammates. As partners are called in, a gauge next to the player picture charges and upgrades to enable special benefits. For example, you can allow a teammate to take damage in your stead and sit out a longer portion of the match than usual. If the gauge hits max, a Team Ultimate Jutsu can be used, causing major damage in the process.
Brand new to the series, playing online or at home against friends and randoms is good fun. Basic options are found here with Player Match and Ranked Match offerings rounding out the experience. Of the 44 characters, there are a handful that are very overpowered. So far much of the community vested in the online battles have sworn off use of characters like Diedara and others that I shouldn’t mention out of respect for not spoiling the secret cast.
CyberConnect2 has once again done a smash up job with this latest in the series of the boy with his very own "Ninja way" and has made broad strokes with their collective brush to merge 3D design and 2D art. NS:UNS2 has a few faults that may or may not be caused by the need to keep a close eye on authenticity to the orignal concept, but considering how well they pull off the package, I think they deserve kudos. If this latest example of their expertise is any indication of the future, then I hope we’re all looking forward to their new project with Capcom, called Asura’s Wrath. Namco Bandai better hang on to these boys. They are looking to be big hitters very soon. I hope we see them pen another Naruto in the future. The property still has a lot of steam in Japan and here as well. At this point I can’t think of anyone else I would want to see do it. Believe it.
+ Gameplay geared for ease of accessibility
+ Adventure mode narrative mirrors the pacing of the anime/manga
+ Thanks for the Japanese voice actors
+ Music hits home with impact
- Some mix ups in translation
- Free roaming is easily the lowest point of the package
- Could use another strength melee button
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Release Date : 2010/10/19
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Namco Bandai
Developer : CyberConnect2
Category : Action
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
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