Naruto is an anime that has a large dedicated following. This following has been enough to spawn several games but they’ve never really sparked greatness. Critically, they have been good to mediocre with some bad eggs. Now upon us is Naurto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. Its predecessor was one of the franchises better games but that still does not mean an incredible amount. Can this title break through the barrier and become great and is it accessible enough for nonfans?
You play largely as Naruto, a young boy who has just returned from three years of training and eager to put it into practice. After some minor preparation, something invariably happens and you’re off on an epic adventure with many friends in tote. The story is a retelling of the Shippuden story. If you’re a fan of Naruto and have followed the story until now or even watched this part of the series, you’re in good shape. If you have not then you’re in over your head. The general story can be followed relatively easily but the lore, back story, and everything in between will be a struggle. The characters have little introduction and a lot of how the world and powers work have little explanation. If you’ve never watched the anime, then you’re jumping into a game far over your head. If you’re a fan, you’re reliving what you already watched. The story is simple enough to understand and entertaining but for those like me coming in fresh can’t help but feel like we’re jumping into the middle of an epic and are missing out on a lot.
Naurto Ultimate Ninja 2 is a story of two games. First you have the fighting game which is the predominant way to play it and then you have the adventure game for the single player. The fighting engine can be as foreign as the story at times. If you’re use to traditional fighters in the style of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat please forget everything that you know. If you try to button mash you will die a quick and painful death. Instead of punches and kicks, the game is gears towards building up your chakra and unleashing epic moves that are equivalent to other titles finishing moves. In fact, for melee attacks, there is only a single button to press. In addition to this, you’ll have items that will depend on who you choose or in single player what you buy which can provide various boosts or attacks to help defeat your foe. Overall though, it takes quite the mentality shift to start to get a grasp on what’s happening. The pause menu has a convenient move list to help you out but just getting the basics down can be an issue for some.
The adventure part was quite unexpected as I am a newcomer to the series. It has shops to buy stuff, objects to collect, crafting, quests, and side-quests. It’s not a tossed in aspect of the game. Most of the world is quite linear with a diverting path here or there. The helps you get to the key locations easily but it can make you experience some fatigue quickly when you run back and forth doing quests. The quests are simple fetch, deliver, or find this types which can make the game feel like a grind. When fights are coming up you can tell just by the look which makes it never a surprise. If you lose a fight you can always restart and save points are frequently posted around the world. An issue that crops up is that when you lose health during a fight, you remain like that. This leads to some micromanaging of your party. You’ll typically full the shoes of Naruto but frequently jump to others to see other aspects to the story away from him or just to experience the full fight. Ultimately this mode serves as a nice vessel to carry the story but it’s not near as full featured or as deep as games that focus solely on the adventure aspect. And considering the great length of at least over 10 hours and upwards to 30 hours if you want to complete everything, it can get old quick but you can’t complain about the lack of content.
When you go online, you’re going to be fighting only. There is no adventure mode here but there does not need to be. That mode is a vessel for the story as the fighting is a vessel for the fun, once it clicks. The options are pretty barebones. You have quick match and custom matches, ranked and unranked respectively. After each match you’re rated based upon your performance. Typically if you win, you get points, you lose and you lose points. Fortunately for me you can’t go below zero points but I like the system where you can actually drop down and eventually find your true skill level rather than perpetually going up like in Call of Duty systems. This way you’ll find out how good you are relative to someone else and for matching up players, that’s a good thing. While it is barebones, you can get into fights relatively quickly. The ranking system is nice. The lag is not much of a problem which is a plus in a twitch-filled fighter. The online mode has no frills but does what it needs to do.
The graphics are done in the anime style of the show and for the most part, the look is somewhat pulled off. At the right angles it looks indistinguishable from the cartoon but most of the time it’s slightly off. The lines on the characters are constantly aliasing and distracting from the scene. The camera keeps switching back and forth with you’re in town which while cinematic, doesn’t help you find your character that well. After you’ve absorbed all the surroundings in the world, you start to realize that a lot of locations, typically the battlefields, are very flat and basic. The paths are very linear and uninteresting. The action segments on the other hand can be awesome looking but also quite time-consuming in their lengths. Online this becomes a problem when players pull them off left and right. Overall though, this game is decent looking. You know its Naruto and the style works decent enough. It’s just that in terms of a videogame and worlds that can be explored, some more depth is needed.
When you first turn on the game and start listening to the menu music you’re in full bliss. The music is charming and well done. Even once you start the game; it elicits feelings of classic old Japanese game music. But then you hit the 5 minute mark and realize that the music is annoyingly repetitive. Sometimes it’s so bad that I just run straight to my objective outside of town to avoid it only to realize that there is only marginally better music out there than where I just came from. The sound effects are decently well done and nicely relay just how epic that some fighting actions are. Overall, it does a decent job of putting you into the anime but sometimes the music can just get really annoying and hence is one of the games largest pitfalls.
Naruto is a game I did not expect. On its surface you see a fighter and from other anime video games, I expected a cutscene based story with fighting matches intertwined. But here you get a full-fledged adventure mode that lasts a significant amount of time. You get quests; make money, purchase items, talk to people, as well as periodically entering a fight. The fighting aspect does not conform to typical fighting games. If you’re coming off of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, expect to make an ideology shift. Once it clicks, it’s decent enough but before then you’ll be frustrated more often than not. The story is seamlessly intertwined and works well for the most part. The online is just for the fighting though and is quite simplistic. After each fight you’re rated and either move up or down. Thankfully for me, you can’t drop below the starting point. This title is clearly made for Naruto fans and they will be the ones who will get the most fun out of this title and I am sure it will be an easy purchase for them. For everyone else, the game is quite basic and simplistic with some entertainment but it’s peppered with frustrating and dull moments that drives it towards a very mediocre experience.