After a successful appearance two years ago, Naruto is back with Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. Developer CyberConnect2 produced a very fan orientated interpretation of the original series last time and now they are back to continue the story with the later series known as Shippuden. It's safe to say that the game doesn't fail with regards to its anime roots and even the combat should appease even the most ruthless of fans.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 begins three years after the events of Naruto, and follows closely in line with the major arcs of the anime/manga series. Expect all major plot points to occur in great detail and all the epic battles to be given due care with their implementation. Though some aspects of the story are glossed over slightly, the game presents a lot of the more emotional elements extremely well. One thing it does seem to have a habit of doing is expecting players to have a knowledge of either the anime and/or the previous game. If a player is completely new to the game for the first time, then some of the flashbacks, name mentions and other entities will be a little bit bewildering.
The standard world-based gameplay is very linear. Hidden Leaf village, the starting area and the hub for the majority of the story, consists of only a few screens with cameras placed at fixed points. Players are not able to really explore and instead the village only really acts as a way of making each journey from place to place seem long. However, it's often fragmented by numerous loading screens that spoil a majority of the transitions from one screen to another. Each zone is also littered with various objects to investigate for items, either used to make items in the order list or to be sold for the currency Ryo.
It is a bit of a laborious process, as collecting each item seems to involve a painfully slow animation. Perhaps this sounds a bit harsh, but considering the speed and flow of the battles it does really do a complete contrast of that. Also in certain screens there is also noticeable slow down which is a little bit baffling with all the loading screens the game constantly has.
The real fun comes from the battling, especially the very intense end of chapter fights. These tend to mark key areas of the story and they'll actually introduce players to a lot of the characters, characters which you'll get to control. This is great, as it means the combat never really has the chance to get too similar. You'll frequently get to see the combos for other characters and their Ninjutsu moves.
Combat itself is fairly simple as all of the attacks are done with a single button. Guards are fairly straight forward too, with the added ability to perform a substitution-jutsu and appear behind your opponent. This can be achieved by timing a guard just as an attack is about to land. You'll also have the ability to dodge and throw a shuriken. Furthering this, and adding a bit more depth, is Chakra. This is displayed through a nice energy bar and it allows you to perform special attacks.
The only problem is that all of the above is exactly as it was in Ultimate Ninja Storm. But, as the saying goes, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. And that's very much the case here. Players familiar with the previous game will find it easy to pick up again, and players new to the series won't find it too hard to get to grip with the controls as they are very intuitive and straight forward.
The other great thing about the combat is that while it sounds simple, its difficulty lies in its tactical implementation. For example, if you mash the attack button you'll be stuck attacking instead of being able to evade, which means timing strikes effectively is important. Support characters also play a role in both offline and online battles. They can be chosen by the player, or in the case of the story, automatically assigned for certain fights.
More often than not though, the battles won't really provide that much challenge. And even if they are difficult, the game provides more than enough checkpoints and retry options. To try and make things a bit more tricky, the developers put in some quick-time events and also some mini-games in boss fights. They actually work too, making the game more enjoyable, especially in the really intense fights.
The game as a whole is attractive to look at and the anime cel-shaded stylings work well as a transition from the anime to game form. Unfortunately voice acting is hit and miss. The English voice acting hasn't been dubbed in very well as the lip-sync is quite poor, but most of the Japanese voice actors seem to be present. The music can be a bit repetitive in areas, but for the fights and the areas of more deep story involvement, it fits perfectly and enhances the game without becoming distracting.
After completing the main scenario players can finish off any of the sub-quests they started previously. They will also gain access to a few new objectives. There's a ton of collectables to obtain and bunch of titles to earn for the true completionists out there too. The online component is also a nice addition, but due to the interface it can be a bit annoying. There's no auto join method, and creating a game can bring in players with connection issues. Players can also do versus offline as well against a friend and subsequently there are quite a few characters to unlock as well.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is a perfect game for fans of the series and for anyone else it's pretty easy to pick up and play. The controls are simple, but effective, and the combat is thoroughly fun and crazy. The only downside is the monotony of the travelling areas, which is compounded by numerous loading times. There are also some elements which are far too easy to completely overlook. Above all the game does what it set out to do well and does it really well.