Fighting games always strive to offer the player great character design, player choice, gorgeous looking environments and breathtaking moves. Street Fighter 2, Virtua Fighter, Tekken, Soul Calibur and a few other franchises, all delivered such aspects of gameplay and that’s pretty much what made them fly off their retail shelves. But what if you crave an in-depth story? What if you actually want to care for the characters and want to believe in the world they’re cast into and what they’re fighting for? Suddenly it’s hard to think of such a fighting game that delivers the expected, but then raises the genres bar.
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, is not only a game from the hit Japanese anime, but is also quite possibly the fighting game the genre needs. Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 will introduce itself with gorgeous visuals, that’s not only true to the advanced Shippuden animation, but actually outdoes the anime visuals in a truly immersing, imaginative and beautiful manner. From the very moment you start-up Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, you’ll appreciate the animated front-end, with Naruto leaping and posing his way around the menu screen. It’s simply a small taste of what’s to come as the visuals and true-to-anime OTT battle scenes, will just blow you away!
Selecting Ultimate Adventure from the games front-end, will allow you to play through the entire Naruto Shippuden story. You’ll begin exactly where the series starts, as Naruto returns from intense training with Jiraiya. The games developer (Cyber Connect 2) have also considered gamers unfamiliar with the Naruto anime, and have included story recaps that will fill-you-in on past events leading up to Naruto Shippuden. These recaps will display as the Ultimate Adventure mode loads up for the first time and unlike many other story elements in similar games, (that you always completely miss before getting the chance to read them) will continuously cycle through the story until you’re ready to begin the Naruto Shippuden adventure. Memory Crystal collectables, scattered throughout Ultimate Adventure mode, will also allow you to view scenes prior to Naruto Shippuden. This attempts to pull-in new players and is really what all Naruto games need.
Now matured and with new tactics and jitsu under his belt, Naruto begins his Shippuden adventure. You’ll take control of Naruto in his hometown of the Hidden leaf and explore the new added features of Ninja Storm 2. The art of both the characters and environments are amazing and we honestly don’t think Naruto fans could have asked for any better. The villages look true to the anime and the detail of stores and landmark locations, pull you into the world of Naruto. Employing almost 100 committed artists, Cyber Connect 2 have done a superb job in creating a beautiful and immersing anime world.
As you make your way to your first destination, you’ll notice that Cyber Connect2 have added more to village stores. Adding to the basic healing ointments and stat boosting Bento’s (that offer pre-fight boosts such as attack, defense and speed) you’ll now have the ability to collect materials from the environment and ask shop keepers to order-in better supplies for you. These new items will instantly become available to purchase and will lead to stronger/longer lasting healing and pre-fight stat-boosts. Materials for such items can simply be found in pots, under shop ad boards, in cabinets and even from animals (i.e a carrot from a rabbit). This gives a nice sense of pre-fight preparation and introduces mild strategic planning, with what items to use for certain fights or boss battles.
Between hunting for materials and purchasing better item’s from stores, you’ll be required to carry out missions and requests. Missions will be essential to the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 story and arrow-guides on your hud’s map, will always lead you to their exact location. Requests are found more toward the beginning of your journey and act as side-quests, ranging from investigating bizarre occurrences around town, to hunting for a mothers missing child. Successful missions and requests will earn you items and money (Ryo) which offers a good incentive to hunt such side-quests down.
If you’re familiar with the previous Ultimate Ninja Storm, you’ll know that the game is really a beat em’ up at heart. Missions (and some requests) will always lead to VS battles that relate to the actual plot of the popular Naruto manga and anime. During the course of Ultimate Adventure, you’ll come across ninja foes who you must take-down to progress the plot further. Controls haven’t changed since the first Ninja Storm, with A enabling your character to jump, B attacking your opponent with punches and kicks (unleashing combos if tapped repeatedly) and X will enable long-ranged attacks, which vary from character to character. Of course any beat em’ up must have grapple moves and Ninja Storm 2 offers truly creative and visually stunning close-combat maneuvers. These can be performed while holding either trigger + B and feel much more rewarding than any other beat em’ ups take-downs. The shoulder buttons also offer a skillful reward for well-timed use. Pulling them both at the exact point of attack from your opponent, will result in your player vanishing from harms way and re-appearing behind an unaware opponent. This not only looks cool, but gives you a great advantage to perform basic, charged or Ultimate Jitsu attacks.
Possibly the most important button to remember is Y. Pressing this just before an offensive button will either charge such an attack or use powerful jitsu. If you’re able to hold Y so your chakra bar fully charges, you’ll be able to pull-off Ultimate Jitsu (such as Naruto’s Giant Rasengan) and even morph into more powerful warriors/beasts if your energy bar is at its final stages (Awakening Mode). Once in such powerful forms you’ll also notice different Ultimate Jitsu techniques, adding some nice variations which are always breath-taking to watch. Many players will also be pleased to hear that button prompts for Ultimate Jutsu maneuvers, have now been taken out completely. This was due to the prompt method being far too bias toward experienced players (in Free Battle mode).
Just like the first game, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 almost moves toward Marvel vs Capcom territory, but doesn’t fully embrace its multiple character method. Ninja Storm battles will usually consist of a leader with a number of support fighters lending a helping hand. For instance, if you’re playing as Naruto in a plot driven battle, you’ll more than likely have his early mentor Kakashi and/or friend Sakura offering their support. Before battle you’ll choose a party leader (being the main character you’ll fight with) and then you’ll be able to select supportive roles for the other characters. These support characters are non-playable and will only momentarily intervene to offer support. Each shoulder button is assigned to a support character and they’ll instantly be able to enter and give a few seconds of support when needed. Another interesting addition to the support system, is the ability to assign offensive and defensive roles to your supportive characters. The left shoulder button could call upon Kakashi to lend a defensive hand if you’re taking damage or are caught in a combo, and the left shoulder button can call Sakura into battle, to punish your opponent with brute force, whenever you need quick take-downs or need valuable time to replenish chakra.
As you progress through story driven elements of Ninja Storm 2, you’ll notice that many bouts will use quick-time events. These will have you pressing buttons at the moment they appear on the screen, to have your character evade, attack and perform truly awesome jitsu. What really makes these quick-time events are their loyalty to the Naruto Shipudden anime and of course, the breath-taking visuals used by Cyber Connect 2 to truly bring Ninja Storm 2 to life. Such battle elements play a major part in immersing you into the hidden ninja world of Naruto, as well display the power and fighting-will of its characters.
Winning battles during Ultimate Adventure will earn you Ryo, Items and Storm Points. These will vary depending on how skillful your battle was (how much health you finished with, items used, Jitsu performed etc.). While Ryo and Items can be used to your advantage immediately after battle, Storm Points are for Titles and unlockables. Build up enough Storm Points and you’ll unlock title awards, Extra Characters for Free Battle mode (VS Mode), Extra Support-character abilities and Ninja Cards.
Many fans of the Naruto anime and mangas, may be surprised to hear that Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 lacks the licensed music. However, this isn’t a negative point at all as the music fits the gameplay and environment, superbly. Wondering welcoming villages will have you relaxing to soothing soundtracks, while seeking-out hide-outs and exploring dangerous environments will offer a variation of suspenseful and intense musical scores. Of course, you can expect the OTT blood-pumping score when it’s fight-time, as the soundtrack fits perfectly with fight locations, story-driven character battles and the overall feel of the anime. You may be surprised at the absence of the licensed soundtrack at first, but you’ll certainly have no problem exploring, shopping and fighting, to the custom-created score.
Once you’ve completed the lengthy Ultimate Adventure mode (spanning just over 20hrs with the story and over 30hrs with all requests and extras) and re-lived some amazing story battles with clever gameplay elements, (Naruto, Orchiramu and Jiraiya battles) you can go head-to-head with a friend via Free Battle (VS mode) or take your battles online. The simple but cleaver control system, ensures that Naruto has a pick-up-and-play advantage and with the added gameplay twists that the chakra gauge offers, it all blends together to create fast flowing and visually stunning gameplay. Online Battles even offer Ninja Cards that can be purchased from town stores (and unlocked with Storm Points). These act as online player profiles and can be edited with player titles.
The Verdict on Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Review:
In many ways Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 raises the bar for fighting games. It not only offers the best visuals ever seen in the genre, but also offers a story true to its anime/manga roots. The story is absolutely huge and villages and stores are brought to life in such superb detail, really immersing the player in the anime world. However, Cyber Connect2 have also let their guard down by trying to implement RPG-like elements. Although it’s amazing to have such a great story with villages and stores to roam, Ninja Storm 2 does fall short with exploration. Items and materials are simply found everywhere and it can actually become a chore to pick up every one of them (we only went all-out when praying at a statue before-hand, which temporarily raises luck). There are simply too many to be found and you never really feel like you have to work to get them (especially with the stat-boosting items they’ll create).
One other negative would be the attempt at puzzle solving…but it’s so dumbed-down that we can’t really call it that. Whenever you’re required to search for particular story-driven objects, they’ll always be in the same area you’re in. Often only requiring you to turn the camera in order to find them. We were also stunned at a mission which required us to hunt down a specific ninja, from many others standing around in a forest. We couldn’t believe that the map-arrow actually guided us right to him! One thing is for sure with Ninja Storm 2…it’s all about the story and fighting, so don’t exactly expect Broken Sword.
Although we have to criticise exploration and puzzle solving, we still can’t help but think that Naruto is faithful to its fans and original goal. It’s a visually stunning fighting game, that’s loyal to its manga/anime and offers great unlockables and an immersing world. You simply can’t say that with Tekken, Street Fighter and so many others. Even after completion of the game, you can still carry out other requests to unlock a hidden chapter regarding a hidden/missing character! Storm Point will also have you unlocking a huge variation of hidden support moves, ninja cards, player costumes and other hidden characters. Cyber Connect2 have put a lot of work into giving Naruto fans everything they’d want to see, play with and play as.
Our main concern is that Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, still isn’t offering itself to new audiences. Yes, there are Memory Crystals and load-screen recaps, but maybe Cyber Connect2 can offer free Naruto episodes, or other Naruto incentives (possibly teaming up with Cruncyroll), to encourage new players to get into the world of Naruto and truly enjoy this impressive beat em’ up. Cyber Connect2 have created and assembled most of the perfect jigsaw puzzle, that is Naruto. They now only have to add and tweak a few missing pieces, in order to be left with possibly the greatest fighting game of all time.
D4Gameplay awards Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2: