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Joseph Rositano
08 Apr, 2008

Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 Review

PS2 Review | Chronically mediocre.
For every decent Naruto game that’s released, there are always a handful of mediocre titles to follow. Late last year, Naruto fans were treated to the likes of Rise of a Ninja for the Xbox 360 and Ultimate Ninja 2 on the PlayStation 2, which were both considered respectable titles. Since then, games such as Ninja Council and Ninja Destiny have also been released, and while they did show some initial promise in their core gameplay mechanics, they ultimately suffered from poor execution. Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 doesn’t break this trend.

While Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is set in the Naruto world, the story is completely original and doesn’t borrow any plot points from the TV series. In the game, Naruto and the other Hidden Leaf Village ninjas discover that the ancient Shirogane Clan, who once waged war against the surrounding nations, have returned and are trying to revive the Master Puppet. The Master Puppet is said to be the most powerful puppet of all, and was sealed away in five spirit orbs to contain its power and prevent the Shirogane Clan from destroying the land. Naruto and his friends must now find the spirit orbs, and discover the true intentions of the Shirogane Clan.

The story progresses via meetings with Tsunade, who discusses what has been discovered about the Shirogane and will give you missions to complete. While the missions have different scenarios such as infiltrating a hideout or capturing a thug for questioning, they usually involve the same goal: defeat all enemies in the surrounding area. Unfortunately, this gets very repetitive within a short period as enemies have limited AI and in general, are just pushovers. Even boss battles are uninspiring, as they’re more or less a buffed-up underling.

Shadow Clone Jutsu!

Shadow Clone Jutsu!
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Typically, environments consist of either an enclosed space such as the deck of a boat, or an entire base that has multiple rooms to explore. In the case of the latter, the developers try to mix things up by incorporating puzzles to solve and different pathways to follow. Unfortunately, the puzzles are very simple and become more of an annoyance than a compelling part of gameplay. For example, in one level you have to stop a swinging pendulum by flicking a switch that is locked in another room. As it just so happens, next to the pendulum is a list of instructions that reveals the room opens at six o’clock. From there, it’s just a simple matter of changing the time of a nearby clock, fighting a few bad guys and then flicking the switch in question. It’s completely unimaginative and just slows the pace of the game down.

Despite the flaws in enemy AI and level design, for the most part the combat system works well. The square and triangle buttons allow you to execute different combo moves, while the X button is used to jump, dash and perform the Substitution Jutsu when attacked. Additionally, at the expense of your chakra meter, the right shoulder buttons let you perform two different Ninjutsus, which reflect back on your character’s signature techniques. For instance, Naruto can make Shadow Clone copies of himself as well as use the Rasengan technique, while Shikamaru can freeze and attack enemies using the Shadow Possession Jutsu.

Arguably one of the more interesting features of combat is the ability to switch between members in your party. The characters that accompany you will differ depending on the mission, and each one will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Kakashi, for example, has higher offence capabilities but weaker defence. In comparison, Sakura is generally more balanced, but has a higher defence and less health. Each character’s abilities can also be levelled up with yellow orbs known as Virtue, which are dropped by enemies once they’re defeated. Unfortunately, Virtue is limited to the character that picks it up, so it’s wise to balance how much time you spend with each member of your party.

You'll be fighting a lot of these guys.

You'll be fighting a lot of these guys.
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Additionally, the game implements a Skill Plate system that allows you to add attributes to individual characters, such as extra damage or even less charka usage. The main idea behind this is that each attribute is a different sized ‘chip,’ and you have to place each one a grid while taking into account space limitations. It’s an interesting concept on what would otherwise be a standard menu, and it’s quite fun to mix and match the different skill chips.

Apart from the main story, there is also a Mission mode which lets you dive straight into the action, with extra rewards being offered if you successfully complete scenarios. Unfortunately, the mode doesn’t really offer anything new - you’re still just fighting generic ninja warriors. It’s really disappointing, especially when other Naruto games like the Ultimate Ninja series give you a variety of objectives, such as defeating an opponent with a particular move, or avoiding damage for a certain period of time.

Uzumaki Chronicles 2 also features drop in/out co-op play for up to two players. At any time during missions, a second player can press the start button and then select one of the characters in your party that aren’t in use. There are however, a few things which hinder the experience. Firstly, the second player can’t switch between characters unless they drop out and then back in again. More importantly, both players share the same screen and as a result, you have no control over the camera. This particularly gets annoying when you have to fight a large group of enemies, as you tend to go off in separate directions. This forces the camera to rotate and get a better view of both players, but also hides enemies who can easily sneak in for a surprise attack. Combined with the low AI, players will eventually get frustrated by this and move on to other games.

Thumbs up and smile!

Thumbs up and smile!
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While the first Uzumaki Chronicles adapted a realistic visualisation of the Naruto world, the second game uses more traditional cel-shaded effects to capture the look of the TV series. Compared to other titles though, Uzumaki Chronicles 2 looks dull and flat. While the character models do resemble their cartoon counterparts, they just aren’t as vibrant or colourful, which will be a real let down for fans. In terms of the game’s soundtrack, there is a mixture of good and bad Japanese-inspired rock. Additionally, before the game loads you have the option of switching the voice dub from English to Japanese, which is a good thing considering some of the English dialog is delivered very stiffly and don’t quite match the moods of characters.

Ultimately, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is an average game. While there are a few redeeming features such as the Skill Plate system and the ability to switch between characters, the generic gameplay, stiff dialog and dull visuals will leave fans with a bitter taste in their mouth. Unless you liked the first game in the series, there are plenty of other Naruto games available that offer a more pleasing experience.
The Score
Despite a well-developed combat system, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is a generic beat ‘em up title with minimal redeeming features. Unless you liked the first game, there are better Naruto titles available that offer a more pleasing experience. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
It also doesn't help that the game is over a year old already at it's time of release here, so it's even less impressive than it could have been. A lot of that time was taken up by the 6 months it took for it to be released here after it was released in the U.S. It was made well before Rise of a Ninja. Disappointing. icon_sad.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  14/03/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Fighting
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  2

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