Review / Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 (PS3)

This review may well be quite different from others that you read about this game. Why? Because I know next to nothing about Naruto. Or rather I knew nothing going into the game. Maybe that’s a stupid thing to admit; maybe you think someone with knowledge of the franchise should be heading up the review. It’s important to remember though that a lot of gamers will be in my position, not knowing much (if anything) about the series. That’s why it should be reassuring to hear this newbie say that Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is absolutely awesome and a lack of knowledge shouldn’t hold you back from playing one of the most colorful, enjoyable fighters around.

Like the first game before it, Ninja Storm 2 closely follows the plot of the manga and anime series, putting you in control of the key battles that take place. There’s some exploration and collecting to do, plus a whole lot of cut-scene watching, but for the most part this is a straight-up fighter. The game’s Ultimate Ninja mode serves as the story that’s split into seven chapters. Each chapter tells a story in itself and will last you about two hours depending on if you take on side missions or not.

The story is actually a huge focus for the game, which means a lot of cut-scenes. I might even say a few too many; while they’re expertly crafted and evoke the spirit of the franchise incredibly well, they can start to drag when you realise that nearly every battle will have at least five minutes worth of footage attached to either end. At least they’re supported by strong voice acting; I applaud developer CyberConnect2’s decision to keep all languages in the game too, so purists can enjoy the original Japanese voiceovers.

Even with the hefty amount of story, the brunt of the game focuses on letting you smack other people in the face, ninja style. Ninja Storm 2 boasts 44 playable characters; a variety of which you can take control off throughout the course of the campaign. Actually, let me just rewind there, back to the point about 44 PLAYABLE CHARACTERS. It’s a huge amount, and yet each one manages to be a fun, interesting play.

This is largely down to the fact that every character has the same template for moves; a mashing button for standard attacks, a button for projectiles, and then a button that charges the power of your other attacks letting you unleash more deadly moves and finishers. There’s a parry system in place too, and each character has their own distinct visual style and move list to keep them different and interesting.

On top of that there’s an assist system like Marvel vs. Capcom, letting you call in a support character for a quick attack, or to build up a combo. And when things get really heated you can unleashed your super-powerful Ultimate Jutsu to really punish the bad guys. It’s a really fun fighting system that doesn’t demand top skills from the player, meaning anyone can have a good time with the game, while there’s enough depth to master it too.

And if you do end up mastering it, you can show off in an online mode this time around, as well as the standard local multiplayer. Despite still sucking at the game, I got online and had a fun few matches. It’s sure to keep fans playing for a good long time; especially when I can only name one friend near me who knows anything about Naruto.

Some of the more serious fights are accompanied by quicktime events too; however don’t roll those eyes just yet. On scale alone the QTE’s are pretty amazing, often showing a character perform jaw dropping moves or avoiding a huge attack by the skin of their teeth. Button prompts show up so quickly and demand such reflexes that they actually are exciting, and checkpoints in the sequences keep things from getting frustrating if you fail.

If you’re not watching a cut-scene or beating someone up, you’re most likely roaming around the scenes, gathering items and completing side-quests. There’s enough here to tear you away from the story every once in a while, although there isn’t much room for objective variety. What you get is a bunch of fetch quests that might sometimes have a fight thrown in. Not especially exciting but this is a fighting game and there’s not much else you can expect to do within. Collectibles are plentiful though, with most offering worthwhile rewards to keep you playing those few hours more.

And then there’s the graphics, the beautiful, stunning, eye-popping graphics. Ninja Storm 2 is packed full of smooth animations, vibrant colors, and mouth watering settings. Even the lively orange of Naruto’s clothes adds a smattering of charm to any shot they appear in. You could spend all day looking at the game and still have your breath taken away the next time you turn it on.
It all adds up to a tasty package. Naruto might not be for everyone considering the heavy investment in the franchise, but it’s sure to entertain those who do pick it up. It’s a highly enjoyable title that will serve its fanbase well. It might not be the ultimate fighting game, but it’s certainly set to be a pleasant surprise for those that give it a go with its rich graphics, fun combat, and content heavy template.

+ A fun fighting system that caters for a wide audience
+ A lot of content packed into a game that could have easily had a lot less
+ Stunning graphics that remind developers of one vital thing: color

– Huge amount of cut-scenes start to drag
– Not much mission variety
– Assumes you’ll know pretty much everything about the Naruto universe when you pop the disc in