Friday 26 November 2010

Game Review - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360

Ah it's been a while since my last Naruto video game review. I feel that in that time, I have developed my literary skills and sharpened my wit. So it is fitting that I should review Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, a game set two and a half years after the events featured in Ultimate Ninja Storm, in a time where Konoha's favourite Jinchuriki has just returned from a period of intense training.

If the last sentence left you more than a little confused, Naruto Shippuden: UNS2 is probably not the game for you, and I won't be offended if you decide to stop reading at this point. Go on it's ok, you can scoot off to Facebook or TheChive or whatever you cool kids are internetting nowadays. Leave this review to us Naruto geeks, since NS:UNS2 (ok that's officially the shortest I can make the title) is definitely only for the hardcore Naruto nuts.

Now that we're alone, let me get this out of the way first: I did not enjoy playing this game. I may not be the most hardcore of Naruto fans, I know the difference between the Sharingan and the Rinnegan, but I still found the majority of NS:UNS2 a bore and at worst a chore.

The fighting system present in the first game is still in place, a dynamic mix of excellently animated taijustu and ninjutsu (that's combos and magic to everyone else), and is pretty much the game's only highlight. Each of the game's 44 haracters has a range of standard combos (all activated by mashing the attack button) and one special and ultimate technique. While this may not sound very dynamic, the key to using these attacks well lies in your spacing, movement and ability to avoid or defend against your enemy's techniques. It certainly is impressive watching two ninjas dash and dance around each other, waiting for the right moment to strike before unleashing a devastating attack. Combined with the newly upgraded team support system, things can certainly get hectic on screen, with up to six ninjas unleashing different techniques at once. The new Support Drive system rewards layers who use their team mates effectively by allowing support characters to appear automatically once they have been summoned enough times. Once the relevant meter has been filled, your team mates will lengthen combos, bolster your defence or run interference, dependant on what support type they are assigned.

With all of this crazy action blistering across the screen, it would be easy to believe that the graphics suffered because of it. This is not the case however, as the 'Almost Anime' presentation from the first game returns, along with a dynamic camera which manages to keep both combatants on screen and showcases some of their cooler attacks without sacrificing practicality. I was particularly impressed by the elemental effects such as fire and water, which flicker and splash realistically. Or unrealistically, I suppose.

Unfortunately, the single player component of the game frames this fun (if not particularly deep) fighting system with an utterly monotonous story mode, wherein you navigate Naruto (or which ever character you are controlling at the time) through essentially empty and flat environments until you reach the next part of the story, at which point you must sit through extended conversation scenes. If you thought some of the dialogue in the anime was tiresome, imagine having to press a button at the end of every sentence. The animation, in contrast to the superb stuff seen during battle, is stiff and robotic, with most lip synching not done at all (so very much like the show then! ZING!). These dialogue sequences are thankfully abbreviated compared to the TV show, but doing so causes some key plot points to be missed out. The actual battles are pretty cool however, as key moments from the anime are fully playable, such as Nauto's struggle against Orochimaru and Sasuke's reunion with Itachi.

It would be forgivable if you could enjoy this title by skipping out on the story mode and head straight to the Free Battle or Online modes. However, only a handful of characters are available without trudging through the story. A lot of the fun I had with this game was trying out all the different characters and seeing how all their different abilities and attacks were represented. After having to sit through several hours of boring gameplay to unlock them all, it's difficult to say it was worth it.

I say only the diehard Naruto fans would enjoy this because I can't imagine anyone else getting a lot of fun out of this game. The story mode would be boring and unintelligible to most newcomers, and the fighting system would probably be too haphazard for any curious fighting game aficionados. Sorry Naruto, but it seems as though, like you, I have outgrown my childish obsessions. Maybe I should start watching DeathNote...

Lukao gives Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
5 rasengans out of 10.

Lukao, CeX UK Contributor.
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