I love Naruto. Well actually I don’t, I’m more of a Kakashi, Jiraiya or Yamato type of girl, but I do enjoy the anime itself. So much so in fact, that over the years I’ve cost both myself and my dearest friend a small fortune in anime related merchandise, and all of it is associated with either Naruto or Bleach. I’ve played several Naruto based games, ranging from mega tat on things like the Nintendo DS and some incredible brawlers the Wii, but nothing quite compares with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm and the recent follow up, aptly named Naruto Shippudden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. You wanna know what makes this branch of the franchise any different from the rest though? Two words: The battles.
I’ll admit, the Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution games on the Wii have a pretty decent feel to them during the fights, but unfortunately don’t offer much in the way of looks or story, and while they try to plate up variety with stylish special moves, they can often be more annoying and repetitive than fun. Speaking of annoying and repetitive though, those two words massively apply to any handheld Naruto game I’ve ever played, along with the words hideous and heinous crime against gaming. Now, this just leaves us with the bigger games on the Xbox 360, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja and Naruto: The Broken Bond, and both of these titles are of exceptional quality. The exploration and platform elements within the game are remarkable, and both of the games are thoroughly enjoyable, except one part in NROAN, where you have to complete a horrifying 77 check point race. You know the one I mean? That can die!
The only thing those two near perfect games did lack however, were battles that had a little more substance. Fighting could have flowed significantly better, the showdowns could of felt a lot more epic and for the love of God, a full removal of those tedious random encounters, against the exact same generic Ninja which you flawlessly pummelled into submission 3 seconds ago, would have been very welcome. Thankfully, these three issues were rectified upon the release of the first Ultimate Ninja Storm title and the second one competently follows it‘s lead. Anything I say in an effort to describe the sheer magnitude of the battles within this title just wouldn’t do them justice, and the fluidity of the 40+ characters on offer is exactly what I’ve always wished for in a beat ‘em up. Essentially that’s what this is too, a beat ‘em up, and the game doesn’t let you forget that, but just occasionally you could be fooled into thinking it’s gone over to the RPG side of things. Read on….
There are short and sweet character requests to fulfil, inbetween all of the button mashing, towns, merchants and varying ninja tools to dabble with prior to battle. However, the platform aspects have been removed and a new style of exploration has been introduced, in the flavour of RPG’esque sectioned areas. Walk to the end of the road, screen goes black, and then loads up the start of the next road. This can feel extremely restrictive if you expected a sandbox village, but you can easily forgive this choice when further areas continue to unlock throughout the game. Fancy a stroll over Tenchi Bridge, or want to go and threaten some toads in the middle of the Hidden Leaf Forest, until they drop their sweet, sweet toad oil? Well, why not! Wait, what is it with me and toads?
In terms of appearance, UNS2 reminds me a lot of Tales of Vesperia, crisp black lines and bright colours, and naturally shares some of the same English voice talent. The game remains beautiful throughout too, and everybody you love from the anime itself has been faithfully recreated. For instance, on several occasions you run around in a party of 4, and during the course of the game will have to play as almost every conceivable character. This really isn’t as much of a burden as it sounds though, as a lot of thought and individuality has been put into each and every one of them. Everybody has their own unique combination of basic combo, Ninjutsu, Ultimate Jutsu and Awakening Mode, (in laymen’s terms: NINJA MAGIC) and no two characters play alike. The learning curve is also very gentle, apart from one Kakuzu fight which had me screaming at the Television like an obscene Banshee, and most of the major showdowns include the odd QTE to liven up the action with some predetermined dramatic scenes. Actually, let me touch back on that Kakuzu fight. Seriously, what was that? You can get close enough to smell his breath for the first few sections of the battle, and then he becomes Mc Hammer and it’s all “U Can’t Touch This!”
For fans of the series, I can confirm that UNS2 follows the main plot very nicely, with a few inconsistent minor details, but the anime never faithfully followed the manga anyway and was sometimes tweaked to become more audience friendly. As the game doesn’t contain any coma inducing filler or do a 20 minute recap every 7 minutes, I really didn’t care that “what’s his face, didn’t get stabbed in that arm!” etc, as none of this spoilt the satisfaction gained when I finally killed “who’s his face, in the whatchyamacallit?” and got an S Rank! When mentioning rank, let me explain that you’re graded upon completing each battle and gain SP, money and occasional bonus items. Items are used to upgrade a shop’s stock or to sell for cold hard cash, SP is used to unlock varying content and money is used to buy general junk, like Ramen. Shops throughout the environment also offer you the option to purchase in-game music and various other imaginative goodies, and all of this has been very cleverly done in order to drive you crazy trying to get all of the unlockbles. While most of the trophies, achievements and Easter eggs in the game are attainable with minimal frustration, they can be fairly time consuming, but thankfully aren’t necessary for story progression.
All in all, this is a very well presented game and will massively appeal to fans of the series. Unfortunately, you will need prior knowledge of the franchise to fully enjoy the story, but as a stand alone beat ‘em up it can strongly hold it’s own within the genre. The fighting on offer here is the best I have experienced from any Naruto game, and the lure of the online battles will be sure to keep everybody entertained for quite some time.
- 5 Stars!
“A must have for any Naruto Fan, but still a silky smooth beat ‘em up for those who aren‘t!”