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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2


About a year ago Sony PlayStation Portable owners received Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes. Fans of the loveable ninja cadet had something to be happy about as the series finally made the jump to Sony's handheld. If you were a long time fan of the game franchise then you undoubtedly recognized Ninja Heroes as a miniaturized version of Ultimate Ninja 2 from the PlayStation 2. For all intents and purposes the game was a watered down re-release of the console edition. Despite that, it still proved to be a worthwhile outing for Naruto fans looking for something on the go.

If you found yourself in the category of handheld gamer who loved Ultimate Ninja Heroes, you should be pleased to know that a sequel has finally landed. While there are a few changes afoot for this installment, I'd be hard-pressed to say that there are many differences. For the most part Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress is identical to the first PSP entry and the changes are extremely light.

One of the most notable differences is the inclusion of a new story mode which tells a side story that is unique to the game. Basically Orochimaru is up to his old tricks again and he makes a phantom fortress appear in the sky above the Hidden Leaf Village. Naturally the people are sent into a tizzy because this fortress has been rumored to destroy villages after a short while. Naturally it's up to Naruto and company to go to the rescue and get to the bottom of everything.

Gameplay:


Aside from this storyline there isn't much new with this installment which is kind of a disappointment really. The gameplay is virtually identical, moves are mostly the same, and the character roster features the same personalities apart from three additions. Keep reading on to learn about some of the differences but to save you some time if you played the first Ultimate Ninja Heroes game, consider this version 1.2 rather than a real sequel.

Like the previous Ninja Heroes title, Phantom Fortress is a 3D/2D fighting game thanks to the style of graphics and playing field you find yourself on. If you're a Naruto franchise veteran than you undoubtedly already know what I'm talking about because that has been the staple for a very long time. If you're new to the series though you should know that there are multiple areas of the map to teleport or jump to and the different plains of combat give the game a unique energy. Once again it's probably best compared to Nintendo's Smash Brothers series but that's a fairly loose comparison.

The fighting engine here is very simplistic and straight forward so if you're looking for a punishing amount of depth you're going to be disappointed. Sure the battles are fast and yes they are very fluid but to make a long story short you're going to be spending your time button mashing in this game. Pressing one button over and over again is really all you'll need though some techniques and combination attacks are there if you want to simulate strategy. The Ultimate Ninja series on the PS2 is straightforward and the PSP version makes it even easier with the circle button seeing the most usage.

The 23 character roster includes the same fighters from before but this time around you get Shizune, Kabuto, and the Third Hokage. Their inclusion is nice but it hardly makes much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. For all intense and purposes the special attacks of the original 20 characters are back and the same as well. These still provide a nice way to bring some power to each fight but in the end it feels mostly gimmicky.

Heroes Mode returns once again in Phantom Fortress though the story mode definitely helps to break up the experience somewhat. Rather than just plowing your way through a list of opponents the Mugenjo Mode offers a nice blend of mini-games scattered in between that help the pace a bit. These snippets feels more like distractions than anything else but they do serve the purpose of appeasing Naruto fans looking for something a little different from constant fighting. When you're sick of the CPU it's good to know that the WiFi ad-hoc multiplayer is still available so you can take on a buddy if you wish to.

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress is sadly all too familiar. The gameplay mechanics may be decent but they are exactly the same as the original installment. When you consider that the original game was more or less a port of Ultimate Ninja 2 from the PS2 you're looking at an identical sequel to a version of a game that came out in June of last year. That's not necessarily a bad thing because the game has a good build but the experience does feel rather stalled in the end. Still, if you love Naruto and appreciated the first PSP outing (or are coming here for the first time) this is a well developed romp through the franchise. Sure it's a button-mashing affair almost the entire way through but it's fun enough to take on the road with you.

Graphics


Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress presents almost the same look of the original PSP game. Honestly, I fired up both and could hardly tell them apart. The cel-shaded graphics and overall design make this game a nice representation of the anime as you'd expect. The first Ultimate Ninja Heroes game featured some great animation and thankfully Phantom Fortress is identical once again. This turns out to be a somewhat dated PSP title but overall it's decent looking and in step with what Naruto fans would expect.

Sound


Apart from a few tracks, Phantom Fortress brings the same sound back to the PSP from the first Ultimate Ninja Heroes game. That means you have a moderately successful dub that grates on the nerves after a while and sound effects that come right from the show. The music is good for what it is but once again everything is very familiar here. The least the developers could have done is offer more variety to at least appear as if the sound direction was new.

Conclusion


Naruto Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress is a sequel to a port of a PS2 title. That means you're still playing a watered down version of a console game from over a year ago. If you don't mind that and you simply want more Naruto in your life then this title will suit your needs just fine. Though it mainly boils down to mashing buttons faster than your opponent the combat here is still fun and furious. The story mode helps bring more variety to the package and the multi-player is as enjoyable as always. I'm not sure that this release really deserves the price sticker attached to it because it's mainly just an upgrade but it's still a decent experience just the same.