Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
If you're a Naruto fan then you already know that the game series falls into two categories: those with a storyline from the original series, and those with a storyline from the sequel. As you may have already discerned, this title is from the latter half of the series and focuses on the exploits of a slightly older Naruto. The game really leaves no stone unturned as it follows the episodes of Shippuden essentially to the letter. Keep that in mind if you were hoping for a new experience.
For those readers who don't happen to know what Shippuden is all about, well...I don't want to spoil much for you. Let's just say that Naruto is older and has come back to Konoha Village. The series follows as the world has advanced along with Naruto and all the ninja from the first time around have new tricks up their sleeves. The plotlines are a little more mature and the battles are slightly more intense in this installment. Basically all you need to know is that Shippuden is mostly better than the original series and it's where the real interesting stuff happens. This game follows most of the path that has been established already.
Like nearly all other Naruto games before it, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 blends in adventuring, collecting, and fighting elements. It's a simple structure that has served the franchise well and it continues to do so with this latest iteration.
The structure of the game follows a rigid progression of the story with very little narrative exploration. Missions are attached to the main plot and there's really no diverting from the set course, though some side missions pop up from time to time. This linear pacing works well enough to keep players in check and there's plenty of supplemental stuff to do. Collecting items, unlocking ninja cards, and finding clips will take up a lot of time and generally speaking players can look forward to spending plenty of hours with the game.
When not making their way from one mission/cut scene to the next you can expect a heavy dose of fighting. The combat here is once again simple to get into, yet difficult to master. Realistically there's only one attack button. That's right...one. Expect to be pressing the heck out of B. Fortunately the rest of the gameplay mechanics compliment the single button use quite well. There's a button that allows players to employ difficult chakra techniques, a button that uses ranged attacks, and a guard feature that doubles as substitution Jutsu or throw, depending on the situation. It's rather a versatile system that offers nice variety and there are plenty of differences from one character to the next.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 also gives you the ability to pick support characters, though it's not available in every situation. During the single player campaign there are various points where addition characters can be called in for brief bits of backup like an attack here, or guard there. In versus battles the system works the same way and when both players have two support characters the match can get pretty crazy.
Oh, and speaking of pretty crazy. The single player game absolutely hits it out of the park when it comes to boss encounters. These story-based moments are epic. In fact I'd go on further to say that they trump their animated counterparts. Timed button sequences become prevalent in each encounter and successful timing rewards with stunning cut scenes. Even regular battles pull this off successfully with some Jutsu maneuvers and transformations, depending on the character.
Of course there's local multiplayer, but Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 introduces online matches to the series. Players can search via Ranked or casual Player matches. Player matches are the more casual of the two and really give you a chance to practice, while Ranked matches...well, expect to get your ass handed to you. Granted a lot of problems with online play stems from latency issues, but there are plenty of people out there who just spam one move again and again with great efficiency. Or maybe I just suck. It's one of the two.
Aside from lag bringing down the multiplayer the structure that's built up around it is fine enough and the core gameplay really shines through. One area that does hurt the single player experience, however, is the lack of platforming. You're really limited in terms of what you can do and where you can go, and that's rather disappointing given some of the other Naruto games already on the market.
At the end of the day Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is a safe bet if you're a Naruto fan and you own a 360. The game has a solid online mechanic if you can look past the lag, and the single-player campaign is definitely meaty and rewarding. Small gripes really don't ding the experience too much and in the end it's worth picking up. Is it better than the first Ninja Storm? I wouldn't necessarily say it's "better", but rather that it's different. It's still good in its own way and it really stands apart in manga categories.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 offers 1,000 achievement points for the hungry point monger. Be prepared for a great deal of monotony, however, as most of these achievements are rather difficult and annoying to grab. There are little points for unlocking characters and completing chapters, but more achievements are available for winning online and completing collections of stuff. Expect to drop probably 40 hours or more in order to get everything, and that's probably being conservative in some respects.
When I played the original Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm on the PlayStation 3, I was impressed with the visuals. The game really had a sharp look to it and it was an authentic Naruto experience. With that being said the sequel is better in nearly every regard. From the characters to animation, backgrounds, and menus, everything here pops. The cinematic boss fights are really what takes the cake and there isn't a dull moment in the mix. Awesome stuff all around!
Similar to the graphics, the sound in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is a nice, familiar package. English and Japanese voice actors all sound like one would expect. Authentic sound effects and an impressive soundtrack also make their way onto this title. I would have liked a better presence on the soundstage with a greater sense of immersion, but as it stands the game is rather front-centric.
Whether or not you played the original Ultimate Ninja Storm for the PlayStation 3, the sequel is totally worth picking up for the 360. The combat is a blast, the single-player game is faithful to the source material, online matches are appreciated, and the game looks and sounds the part. This is a solid sequel and a great Naruto game no matter how you slice it. The design is such that even the uninitiated could get into it, though really the material is much more suited for fans. Highly Recommended
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