Review by WingedRegent
Feel the storm? It's coming...- Fatal Fury
Two years ago, the PS3 saw the release of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. While the game itself was beautiful and perhaps one of the best looking games at the time, the gameplay itself suffered from a smaller roster than the previously released Ultimate Ninja 3, with many characters being relegated to "Support Only DLC" roles, much to the chagrin of Naruto fans and gamers. Two years later, a new storm brews as Naruto returns to Konoha for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. Does this game live up to the hype that it had managed to obtain when it was announced late last year?
The story for the game begins after Naruto has returned to his home village of Konoha after the 2 and 1/2 year timeskip that took place in the manga. From here, Naruto is re-introduced to everyone as he wanders the village. From here, the game takes off, placing you from the "Rescue Gaara Arc" and allowing the player to play every single Shippuden story, ending with the "Invasion of Konoha Arc" for the final battle. The game faithfully replicates the source material of Naruto Manga volumes 27-48 (Shippuden episodes 1-171), keeping in many of the key moments and, in several places, it even manages to surpass the anime representation of events. This is incredibly apparent with the new boss fights as the drama turns up a few levels, with new cinematic quick time events that play out during 9 of the game's battles. You're rewarded for being able to land the QTEs with a secret factor, giving the story more depth once you unlock these events.
The Story Mode itself is also very detailed, with a large hub world for you to explore. While it isn't nearly as big as the full scale Konoha presented in the last game, it covers a decent amount of ground, allowing the player to go to places such as Orochimaru's Hideout, Mt. Myoboku, and even the Hidden Rain Village. With all of the exploration and the game's actual story itself, the story mode on its own can last a player anywhere from 10 to 15 hours and that's NOT taking into account side missions, extending the story mode into a 30+ hour affair. The only downside to the story mode? While there are PLENTY of scenes that replicate and surpass the original anime in presentation (Sasuke vs. Naruto comes to mind), there are other sequences where the story is shortened or abridged to where certain plot elements are changed or even skipped over for gameplay purposes, providing the player with more gameplay in exchange for storylines being gimped as a result. Overall, the good vastly outweighs the bad and makes up for these minor story blemishes.
The gameplay in the game is much like the first Ninja Storm, with a few changes to the system and an overhauled support system. This time, the game supports 44 characters instead of the meager 25 of the last game, with everyone able to be used as playable characters instead of Support Only. This game has pretty much every single character you could want from the covered source material, and even adds in a guest character in the form of Lars Alexandersson from Tekken 6. There are also two manners in which to unlock every character: Story Mode or Storm Points. With the new Storm Points, you gain SP instead of Ryo for every fight that you participate in, whether it be Free Battle or Story Battles. Once you reach a certain point threshold, things start getting unlocked, such as the game's character roster. There are plenty of ways to earn decent Storm Points, so this makes the character unlocking quicker when used in conjunction with the actual Story Mode.
The battles themselves are nicely done, with a few hitches that fans of the first game will not appreciate, but perhaps grow into and get used to. Gone are the jutsu clashes of Ninja Storm 1 as well as being able to change jutsu before a fight (Only a few characters could do this anyway, but it's still a noticeable hitch). Also gone are the cinematic Ultimate Jutsu from the previous game. Now, to replace the Multi Jutsu system, every character now ends at least one of their combos in a jutsu. Gaara can end his Up + O combo with Sand Burial, Sasuke ends his regular O combo with Chidori Stream, and so forth. Also, several characters have what is called "Enhanced Ninjutsu", where if you charge the jutsu, it changes into another form. Kakashi, for example, can charge his Lightning Blade into his Lightning Beast Running Jutsu which he used against Pain. As for the Ultimate Jutsu, they're still in the game, but their length is extremely shortened in some cases, allowing the game to go back into the action instead of the player watching a cutscene in mid fight. Overall, the faster Ultimate Jutsu in the game allow the action to stay more true to the anime without going overly extravagant and the Enhanced Ninjutsu helps to fill the void left by the lack of selectable jutsu.
The Support System in this game also received a major tune-up. Now, there are three support types for each characters: Attack, Defense, and Balance. As you call in your Supports in battle, you fill up a gauge called the Support Drive, which replaces the Drive Gauge from Storm 1. Instead of giving you infinite chakra for about 30 seconds, the Support Drive fills up in two sections. In the first section, the support type comes into play. An Attack type will join in on combos with you, the Defense type will guard for you while you charge chakra and will intercept opponents if they perform a ninja dash, and the Balance type will provide covering fire with chakra shuriken and even take an Ultimate Jutsu for you. Once they've been called in enough times, it fills to the second level which allows players to use the brand new Team Ultimate Jutsu, where, once initiated, the opponent is knocked into the air while a teammate does a combo to knock them back. Once this happens, the player is treated to an extended version of the Ultimate Jutsu cutscene as the UJ connects. Overall, a nice touch, but potential in Team Specific Ultimate Jutsu (which were done in UN5 on the PS2) goes to waste.
Also seemingly added to make up for the lack of cinematic Ultimate Jutsu were the brand new Awakenings this time around. Most of the characters in the game have Awakenings which completely change their movesets, while others offer a minor power boost. Lastly, you have Awakenings, such as Sasuke's, Kankuro's, and Sasori's, that are COMPLETE transformations, in some cases changing the scope of the fight. These new Awakenings are fun to play as, but once you recognize how utterly broken some of the Awakenings can be, you'll spend ALOT more time running from them, which makes sense since you shouldn't be eager to fight an Awakened character anyway. A notable addition to the Awakening Mode is the immunity to ANY type of cinematic move. While this helps the game when it comes to the giant or "boss"-like awakenings, this also hurts since combos feel unfinished if you land them on an Awakened character.
The game also features the series's first jump into Online Multiplayer (Unless you count NA3/Ultimate Ninja Heroes 3 on the PSP), which is where many of the game's flaws become apparent over repeated playing. With the new Awakening system, a player can EASILY turn the tide of a fight by going Awakening and going on a rampage, tearing into their opponent with ease if they're not careful. Also, the game does suffer from a bit of button latency lag, where you could press a button, and the character won't respond to the press for 1-2 seconds at times. It can be very frustrating, but playing with friends or finding a good game often makes it worthwhile. Also added for the Online Multiplayer are Titles and Ninja Info Cards, allowing you to basically deck out your Online "Identity" and, at the end of each battle, you exchange cards with your opponent, allowing each of you to track the other's progress. A nice touch and it acts as a "Players Met" section that the game itself takes care of.
This game shows the absolute pinnacle of cel-shaded graphics, perfectly replicating the game's characters, facial features and expression, and clothing as you battle with your opponent in one of the game's 23 different stages, each one with something pretty to look at (Some moreso than others). As some characters go into their Awakenings, their clothing flaps in the wind, underlining the obvious power increase and making for a nice visual touch, as several Akatsuki members in the game get this effect. The level of detailing is also astonishing in both the Story Mode and the actual fighting in the game as jutsu are perfectly animated, characters have their own unique jutsu well drawn, and the Ultimate Jutsu, for the most part, are amazingly well done. Another nice touch is the ability to change what kind of Substitution Jutsu you get to use, whether it be a log, a stuffed toad, Tonton, or even an Octopus Tentacle. The graphics department outdid themselves with UNS2.
While the game has some downsides in its fight system and a minor fault in the Story Mode for those who get the game without following the anime or manga, the game itself is perhaps the best Naruto game around and most certainly feels the most complete, sticking true to the source material in the fight department by removing the jutsu clashes (Of which only 4 happened in the anime, 3 of which happening in Part 1 and the other replicated in the respective boss fight) and the over-exaggerated/cinematic Ultimate Jutsu, which may be a downside to some, but for others, it allows the game to keep a fast tempo and stay truer to the anime than ever before.
Buy, Rent, or Pass: Buy if you're a Naruto Fan or would like to get into Naruto. Rent if you're interested. Pass if you hate Naruto.
For Naruto fans, this game could be their dream game. The game's Story Mode is so full of content that even those who aren't Naruto fans and are new to the series can follow along for the most part. The only people who SHOULD avoid this game are those who dislike Naruto as a whole and, as such, this game isn't for them.
+ Story Mode is very fleshed out
+ Gameplay is fun and fast paced
+ Tons of unlockables, making this a long and fun game
+ Graphics are amazing at times
+ 44 Character Roster
- Awakenings CAN be over-powered
- Online has its issues
- Story Mode sometimes leaves out story elements
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 (US, 10/19/10)
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