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Jeremy Jastrzab
04 Nov, 2007

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 Review

PS2 Review | Bringing sexy back.
It’s sexy jutsu time again! The orange jumpsuit clad teenage ninja is back on the PlayStation 2 with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2. But wait a sec, isn’t there an Xbox 360 title around the corner? Well, even though it’s (obviously) following up on last year’s Ultimate Ninja, this title isn’t as new as it may seem. It has more characters, more modes, more options and more things to collect, which is sure to please any self-respecting fan. And sure enough, as a fan service, Ultimate Ninja 2 certainly does a good job. But there is a little more beneath the surface.

All the Naruto games that have been released on the PS2, including the Ultimate Ninja series and the Uzumaki Chronicles, were released years ago in Japan. So essentially, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 is a three year old game that has had an English translation and voice over slapped on top. This holds the game back in some respects, as there are elements that would have passed in 2004 but not so much in 2007. At the same time though, there are some things that it still does well. Oddly, the Xbox 360 game, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja has just been recently released as well.

In terms of story, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 doesn’t cover that much of the rather massive Naruto story. Basically, it covers the Chunin exams, starting with the final nine bouts. From there, it goes through to the war in Konoha (the home village of Naruto), Akatsuki’s attempted abduction and the instatement of the new leader of Konoha. So while this may not cover that much, the game tries to make up for is with a few divergent and made-up story arcs. Essentially, it does what some of the earlier Dragon Ball Z Budokai titles did. Firstly, it covers the story, then plays around with some “what might have been” scenarios.

Mmm... Ramen.

Mmm... Ramen.
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And just like the Dragon Ball Z Budokai titles, you’ll be fighting through the main battles that occurred through out the TV show. All this plays out through the ‘Ultimate Road’ mode. Divided into four chapters, the entirety of the first chapter strictly follows the story. Once you’ve finished that, the game opens up a little bit. As Naruto, you’ll be able to run around Konoha, talk to people and accept various little side missions. From there, you’ll eventually follow the second chapter, pretty much as you did the first. Since the third and fourth chapters are original to the game, it allows for a bit more openness in the structure.

Aside from the Ultimate Road, players will be able to take on the versus and free training modes. While the Ultimate Road is fairly substantial, players will get the most out of this game when they get a friend over and slog it out in the two-player multiplayer. Furthermore, the game is littered with numerous Naruto themed goodies and unlockables. Playing through the main mode alone steadily unlocks content as you play. You can also buy skills and customise characters to then be taken into the side missions and versus modes.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 is great fan service. There is so much here that just reeks Naruto. It successfully captures the spirit of the series, just as the Budokai games did with Dragon Ball Z. Again though, this is a game that was originally released three years ago, and it shows. In terms of being a two-player game, it holds up reasonably well. However, there are aspects to the single player game that we would have struggled to accept in 2004.

Mr. Sandman, bring me dream.

Mr. Sandman, bring me dream.
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All the games in the Ultimate Ninja series are quasi-2D fighters. They’re played on a 2D plane but are in full 3D and allow you to change planes. Every character has the same commands for performing their moves, and all have the same basic moves such as substitutions and blocks (they are ninja’s after all). Their moves are quite faithful to the individual character. Furthermore, weapons, chakra and bonus pickups constantly litter the stage. Occasionally, you or your opponent will be endowed with special conditions that require you to get around in order to win. For example, the enemies defense will be boosted.

The best part in these kinds of games is the ability to recreate the moments from the show where characters pull off their signature moves. In Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2, there are three levels of moves. By pressing the triangle button, you’ll charge your attack. So press it once and you’ll be at level one. Press it twice or three times and you’ll be in levels two and three respectively. If you successfully hit your opponent in this state, you’ll go into a typical mini-game sequence where the attacker tries to continue the attack, while the defender tries to minimise the damage. There are conveyed through quick-time events and the types of attacks depend on what level you charged up to. We must say though, pulling off level three attacks is fairly awesome.

Apart from the fact that pretty much all the characters control identically, the fact that the controls are a bit on the sloppy side and that the enemy AI is awfully skilled, really drags the game down. It’s the AI that really puts a dampener on the experience. Even on easy, they incessantly block your attacks, are always ready to counter and at times, we went sequences where each player would teleport five to six times behind each other before the CPU character out timed the player. This issue would have been a bit easier to bear if the controls weren’t so sloppy. Often players can get into a favourable position, only to be denied by a sloppy response.

Now that's cool.

Now that's cool.
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Things look up a bit on the presentation front. While most of the 3D structures in the game start to show their age, the mix of manga and anime presentation works wonders. In terms of style, the game looks really good and the special attacks are extravagant and breathtaking. We’d really like to see how far cel-shading could be taken on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, after seeing this. In terms of sound, the actual sound track is quite a surprise. It’s nice, upbeat and really captures the scenarios quite well. That, and you’ve got a choice between the English and Japanese voice-cast. However, there are no subtitles during battles so some of the things said in Japanese would be lost.

As fan service, particularly for the newer fans, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 is a game that would keep them happy. Veteran fans have probably picked this up in one way or another previously, so they should know that it’s essentially the same game released three years earlier. While a good fan service, the game doesn’t hold up as well as some would like with sloppy controls and lop-sided AI. It’s not a game that fans of the fighting genre would be lining up to play though, unless it's with a friend. Still, it can be quite a ball in multiplayer, as both players are subject to the games strengths and deficiencies. So if you’re a fan, you’re likely to get something out of the game. If you’re not, well, then there are other fighting games out there that will likely suit your tastes more.
The Score
If you're a fan of Naruto, then Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 will float your boat. Non fans need not apply. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
Good review. icon_smile.gif

I think you were a little harsh on the AI tbh, I actually find the computer players quite easy to beat, only on hard mode do they begin to give me trouble, so I feel you might be exaggerating the difficulty a bit there.

I agree that the manga style of the game looks great, the game may not have the best graphics on the PS2, but it still looks really nice, quite impressive cel shading. The signature moves are awesome, and fairly challenging to pull off, especially in multiplayer mode against a friend.

It appears that the Japanese voices have been specially added into the PAL version, since the U.S version doesn't have them.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  26/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Fighting
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  2

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