Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
October 19th, 2010
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm surprised many by mixing the world of anime and video games into a whole new level of presentation. If you have never gotten the chance to play the first entry in the series, donít be afraid to jump into Storm 2. With a large cast of colorful characters and a dramatic story that even non-fans can get into, the worldís most popular manga and anime series is back for another round of ninja action.
Two and a half years have passed since Naruto left his village to train with his mentor Jiraiya. Upon returning to his hometown of Konoha, Naruto learns of an evil organization known as the Akatsuki that is bent on dominating the world. The Akatsuki plan on harnessing the power of the Tailed Beasts, nine creatures of immense power who are sealed within different hosts. The host of the Nine Tailed Beast is none other than Naruto himself. Unbeknownst to Naruto, the Akatsuki have already begun to make their move by capturing one of his close friends. Storm 2 stays faithful to the story of the anime and starts at the beginning of Shippuden and ends at the Invasion arc. Each character introduced gets developed as the story moves along, and you will definitely grow attached to some by the end of the game. This makes Strom 2 the perfect game for people who have never watched the show to experience the story of Naruto.
CyberConnect2 really outdid themselves in recreating the feel of the Naruto world. The main menu features Naruto jumping around each time you scroll through the game modes. Even the loading screens have a Naruto feel to them. The graphics are always crisp and fluid when youíre fighting. There are also lots of characters, items, and titles to collect but Iíll touch up on these later on.
Storm 2 features the best cel-shaded graphics I have ever seen in any game. CC2 blends the 3D character models with beautifully painted 2D backgrounds . This 2.5D cel-shaded perspective makes the characters and landscape come to life and give the impression you are immersed within the actual anime. In the Adventure Mode you can see a wide variety of locations including forests, deserts, rocky mountains, and even other ninja villages. Each area stands out by having incredible handrawn detail; you can see the cracks in the mountain, the light shining into the forest and even the Japanese kanji written into the different signs and stores. During a battle is when the graphics really shine. Every special attack that is launched looks colorful and true to the source material. The characters move fluidly when they are attacking and itís fun to discover what flashy technique each character will use to end their combos. This is especially prevalent during any of the boss battles that take place in the Adventure Mode. Each boss battle involves large scale attacks flying across the screen, and it is just so satisfying watching it play out. There are quick time events during these bosses, but you may get too distracted by whatís happening on screen to react quick enough which just goes to show how amazing this game looks.
Every one of the original voice actors has reprised their role for Storm 2. You can even choose to listen to either the Japanese or English dub. Each character sounds loud and empowering when they are yelling out their signature attacks in battle. The more dramatic scenes are performed perfectly, if not better than in the anime. Most of the Adventure Mode is voice acted with only a few speech bubbles from side missions that are mute.
Storm 2 features an original soundtrack that is skillfully orchestrated to match the drama and feeling that occurs in both the story and free battle stages. For example, The Forest of Quiet Movement (Daytime) stage music feels very vibrant as though the action is quick paced, but smooth. On the other hand, The Village Destroyed stage has a feeling of dread due to the vocals and organ while keeping a sense of hope with the string instruments popping in once in a while.
The combat system in Storm 2 is simple enough for anyone to access, but it also has a layer of depth for those who want to invest time to learn its workings. The controls are pretty straightforward you have the circle button to do combos, square to throw projectiles, triangle to charge and activate chakra, and the X button to jump. A basic combo is executed by repeatedly pressing the circle button along with holding the control stick up, down, forward, or not at all. By choosing a direction your combo will be performed differently and could be used to follow up with another move. A very important element to keep in mind while battling is your chakra bar. Although chakra isnít needed to perform basic combos, it will help unleash the full potential of your character. Chakra has its own meter below your health and it allows your character to perform their jutsu, ultimate jutsu, dashes, substitutions, and throw stronger projectiles. For example by pressing the chakra button and then the attack button you will perform your characterís signature jutsu attack. The drawback for using jutsu and other chakra based techniques is that it will deplete your chakra bar. At any time you can refill your chakra bar by standing still and holding the triangle button. This will leave you open to enemy attacks so you have to manage your chakra bar wisely. Any attack in the game can be blocked by holding down the R2 button, but eventually your characterís block can break. This can be avoided by using the substitution technique. Whenever you are getting attacked by someone your supposed to hit the guard button at the correct time in order to appear behind your opponent and strike them back. The only problem with this though is the timing is incredibly hard to land, which means youíll be mashing your R2 button like crazy in order to escape your enemyís combos. Another problem with substitutions is that they can be easily abused since they only require a small amount of chakra, and chakra charges fast enough that you practically always have enough to substitute.
Of course it wouldnít be a Naruto game without your ninja team supporting you in some way. Similar to Storm 1, along with choosing your main fighter you also get to choose up to two support characters. Each support character can be called in during battle to attack the enemy. Every support character uses a signature jutsu that can be used for a myriad of different tactics. Once your support character is done attacking, they will leave until their cooldown time has expired in which they can be called again. Support characters add a whole new layer of depth in Storm 2 since there are 3 different types: attack, defense, and balance. Each type has unique properties that activate automatically as soon as your team synergy bar reaches a certain point. For example, attack types can launch back your foe back to you after you finish a combo so you can follow up with another attack. Defense types will come out to block for you, or jump in to stop your opponent while he is dashing to you. Balance types will throw chakra shuriken whenever you do, and even sacrifice themselves by taking the hit of an ulitmate jutsu for you. As I mentioned earlier a team synergy bar grows over time the more you utilize your teammates and once it hits its maximum you have the possibility of landing a Team Ultimate Jutsu that causes a huge amount of damage. This is where the final piece of Storm 2ís battle system comes into play: the awakening mode! Once your character loses a certain amount of their life they can access a powered up state for a limited time that gives them enhanced strength and speed. Some characters like Naruto will even transform into a whole new character that can cause unbelievable destruction. The drawback to the awakening state is that you canít use any of your support characters, or ultimate jutsu. However you do gain immunity from your opponentís ultimate jutsu and grabs.
In the Adventure Mode you will play the story of Shippuden through the perspectives of different characters like Naruto, Sasuke, and Jiraiya. The main story will have you complete different chapters of the Shippuden saga by battling different opponents to advance the story. This is good if youíre new to Naruto since you will be learning each characterís individual style, but veteran fans might get bored of having to fight another enemy before their favorite part of the story. After certain battles you will unlock a character for free battle and online use. There are 41 playable characters with a majority of them locked from the very beginning. It might take you awhile to reach your favorite character, but the story is quite enjoyable to play through. The absolute best part about the Adventure Mode is the colossal boss battles that take place in each chapter. These bosses always take place at the most pivotal and important parts of the story. Every single one has a cinematic feel to it and itís amazing how CC2 made some of these fights better than the ones from the anime and manga. A boss battle usually opens up with a normal one on one fight. Once you get the bossís health down to a certain point, an interactive cutscene begins. To pass these cutscenes you must correctly hit the right buttons when they pop up on the screen. These quick time events keep you engaged in the action. If you fail to hit the right combinations then you will lose some health and have to retry that part of the scene again. If you are able to get enough of the quick time events correct then you will be treated to an extra scene that happens towards the end of the boss fight. I have to say some of these fights get really intense, and have the most drama within the story. You can watch these scenes over once youíve collected the scroll for it. There are a lot of collectibles and hidden items to find throughout each area that you visit within the ninja world. It does get tiring after a while to walk to one area and track back all the way to the Leaf Village. It also becomes go back and check old areas for new items as well. This isnít to say that the exploration is bad but it would be better if there was some more interaction with the beautiful environment. Besides the main story there are side quests to complete. Some are the typical go to place A and fight this person, while others are quite silly like having to catch messenger birds. There is even a mission to become friends with each of your comrades in the village. Missionís like these will appeal more to the Naruto fanbase instead of newcomers, but completing them actually unlocks more support types for your characters.
Storm 2ís story mode will run a good 15 to 20 hours or longer if you want to collect everything. There is also an Online Mode which was absent in the previous game. Online offers both ranked and player matches. You can even set up a private match to challenge your friends. Unfortunately there is no lobby system so you will have to fight your buddy and switch to another room in order to join a match request. Playing player matches with random people is isnít too bad, but once you try ranked you will be greeted with a slew of spammers. There are legitimate ways to defeat spammers but itís only possible if you spend time learning the gameís battle system. There is a beginnerís only area as well for those who just want to button mash. There is a slight lag compared to the offline free battle mode but it doesnít affect the gameplay. The only time lag becomes a problem is when you connect with someone who has a bad connection. During these types of matches the game can either have extremely delayed control input or pause every few seconds. Itís easy to avoid these people since it shows their connection status before a match. Playing battles both online and offline is an alternative to unlocking all the characters since you gain points after every match that go into a bank. Ranks, titles, and even avatar images can be unlocked with points as well. Another cool feature of the online mode is your Ninja Info Card that is displayed before every match. It displays your records, title, and avatar which is based on different scenes and characters from the anime. Outside of the online and story mode there is the free battle mode that is used to play local versus matches.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 does an amazing job of recreating the world of Naruto. The combat is simple but has a lot of depth for an anime based fighting game. There are still a few fixes that could be made to the chakra and substitution system. If you have never heard of Naruto or have been wanting to see what all the fuss is about this is the perfect game to jump into. The Adventure Mode takes you through a grand story full of drama, revenge, action, and even tear-jerking moments. Get your ninja skills on point, charge your chakra, and launch into the world of Naruto!