Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Review (Xbox360)

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has a split personality. On the one hand it’s a fighting videogame, while on the other it’s an RPG nestled cosily inside an anime story. Long time fans of the cartoon series will be familiar with the tale of young ninja-in-training Naruto and Team 7, and if you’re not then at first this game’s Story Mode will leave you completely confused. Much like watching Urotsukidoji: Legend Of The Overfiend. But just like with Urotsukidoji, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is compelling enough to see through to the bitter end.

Oh all right, Legend Of The Overfiend isn’t compelling viewing, it’s disturbing and downright filthy. Watching it is like cruising past a ten-car pile up in a dogger’s car park, your brain is telling you to look away but your eyes just don’t want to. The point is I’m glad I’ve seen it and I’m just as glad I’ve played Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.

The story kicks off with Naruto returning home after three years away with Pervy Sage, who’s been tutoring the lad in the ways of ninja. He rejoins Team 7 and busies himself with missions handed out by Grandma. Missions mean fights, but Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 doesn’t take the easy option of tacking fights onto the end of a cut scene ad infinitum, it expects you to get to them under your own steam.

The game world opens up slowly as Naruto is sent on new errands in new areas, and throughout the anime world there are plenty of reasons to get side-tracked. There’s the constant need to investigate every screen for ingredients to make battle aids, requests dropped in your lap by townsfolk, cursed dolls to gather, pig pearls to hunt down and online ninja cards (cards that tell opponents who you are and what you’ve unlocked/achieved in game) to tinker with.

What this means is that it can be anything up to twenty minutes between fights. In truth, and I’m well aware of how incensed Naruto fans will be about this, the running around collecting stuff wears thin, especially when you’ve just been totally blown away buy an amazing, epic battle. When you’ve just watched an incredible blend of pure anime action, and fought your way to the end of an over the top battle, going back to running through the woods digging through flowers for a Solid Nut isn’t that enthralling. Of course the story is important to fans, the game is made for them, and as such moving around freely inside Naruto’s anime rich world to a fan must sound like heaven. But for those of us on the outside who love a good game regardless, the gathering and the going from point A to point B gets tiresome.

And yet the way in which certain key battles in Story Mode switch between full 3D fight and eye candy anime action is delightful and worth every minute of item collecting. Sasori’s 100 Puppets as a fighting force is a fantastic creation, distinctly Japanese and all the better for it. They’re a thrilling site to behold and a tasty change to the regular fight mode. These battles, the big ones with all the dramatics, are made even more glorious through one of the best uses of quick time events in a game that I’ve seen.

As fights reach a crescendo, CyberConnect2 pull out all the stops to deliver superb quality anime action that demands lightening quick response times and increasingly complex button bashing sequences. Get them right and the action continues with whatever character you’re playing pulling off some huge attacking and defensive moves. The faster you pull them off, the more stars you collect, which in turn give you access to secrets inside the main story. I found just getting the stars reward enough.

It’s these three elements, explosive fights, over the top boss characters and beautiful quick time events that make playing through the Story Mode well worth it. I have absolutely no interest in Naruto as a show and not that much interest in anime, but playing through an epic battle in this game is sensational.

The fighting mechanics seem at first to be devoid of any depth. There is only one attack button, with one ranged weapon button and one chakra power up. Playing in easy or normal mode means all you’ve got to do is button bash for the first four hours of the game and you’ll win every fight. But Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has more to offer. Switch over to Online Battle and your button bashing tactics will most definitely be trashed. You’ll need to have mastered quick dashing, grabs, evades and counter attacks to have any chance of winning a match. On top of that, your selection of supporting characters is significant since each character is either an attacker, a defender or a balance between the two. In addition, battle aids picked up in Story Mode, can change the course of a fight. With four slots, one for ranged weapons, one for health items and two for attacking and defensive modifiers, the online fights offer a wealth of tactical options.

Aside from the non-fan gripe about the tedious running back and forth, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2’s biggest problem is its glut of load screens. There are times within the Story Mode where you’ll be confronted by a series of cut scenes and in-game speech sandwiched between layers of load screens that are maddening. It’s moments like these that make the game feel more like an interactive DVD than a current gen fighter. It’s never a good thing to be sat in front of the TV moaning, “Oh, come on!” at the screen while the game cycles through cut scenes and loading bars.

There will be few fans of Naruto that will find much to gripe about in this game. Its story is huge and detailed, the epic battles with the incredible quick time events will dazzle gamers regardless of their opinion of Naruto and anime in general, and the online fights have hidden depth, but those irritating load screens and the mundane aspects of Story Mode put a large pinch on the glories found within each battle.

Top Game Moment: The quick time events are phenomenal, worth every loading moment.

Game advertisements by <a href="" target="_blank">Game Advertising Online</a> require iframes.


By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Oct 24, 2010
I've played 2 of the Naruto games. Wonder if I will bother with this one..!
By TheDinger (SI Newbie) on Oct 25, 2010
Let us know what you think if you do…