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Jeremy Jastrzab
31 Dec, 2010

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Review

PS3 Review | The ultimate teacup storms.
Anime-based game titles are a rather fickle genre. More often than not, they’re either slap-dash efforts created to cash-in on flash-in-a-pan successes or driven far too closely towards the younger audience. Oh, and a lot of them tend to be pseudo-fighting titles too. Unfortunately, aside from often being barely accessible outside of the fan base, a lot of them tend to miss what makes the corresponding show so exciting, or be too geared towards fan service and not enough towards playing an actual game. And with all these factors in consideration, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 gives some interesting material for critique.

Fans of the Naruto anime/manga need no introduction to this title. In the last generation, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja games were an annual hit to go along with the anime progress, while the current generation title Naruto: Ultimate Ninja took the series in a new over-the-shoulder direction and summed up the main story cannon. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 now summarizes the main story so far of ‘Part II’, otherwise known as Naruto Shippuden. Of course, the game struggles to follow the plot exactly (e.g. there is no explanation behind the Sharingan enhancements), but the overall job is quite solid and will definitely placate the fans. Mind you, you will have the story spoiled if you're not up to date.

Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 primarily comprises of a story mode (Ultimate Adventure) and a few competitive modes. It’s not the actual story that matters here, though as fans have found, the series has hit some surprising emotive highs (outside of fillers). No no, here it’s more about the presentation of the story, and whether it’s able to match the highs that have been displayed in the anime. It’s not a straight answer, as there are times where the highs are matched, times where the highs are transcended and times that it doesn’t even come close.

I call this move... The whirly-twirly death sphere!

I call this move... The whirly-twirly death sphere!
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And there are a few reasons for this. Aside from playing through the main battles of the anime, you’ve got a few other little things to do along the way. Retaining a similar over-the-shoulder fighting style of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, where it plays more like a wrestling title than a traditional fighter. The closest comparisons would have to be Powerstone and the Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi Budokai series. However, what sets the Ultimate Ninja Storm games apart is the approach to the main 'boss' battles.

Even though there are only a handful of them, the main battles are easily the highlight of the game and will alone, be virtually worth the price of admission for fans. At various stages of the battle, players will switch into over-the-top face-offs controlled either through mini-games or quick time events, or thrown some variety to the standard battling template. And it’s this part of the game that shows off remarkable cinematic sequences that manage to occasionally out-do the anime (e.g. the battle between Naruto and Kakuzu). In these battles, you are treated to some of the most breathtaking visuals, cinematic direction on display and good use of variety.

The problem of having such unbelievably awesome sequences to look forward to, is that they are few and far in between and everything else comes off as bland. As such, the lesser battles and exploration can’t even come close to matching up. Unfortunately, some of the important battles (such as Shikamaru vs. Hidan) don’t get the ‘awesome’ treatment and are resolved in token cut scenes. It’s disappointing that some of the features (such as awakenings) are locked for the vast majority of battles. If you’re not going to make battles objective based, why not let players go all out? Finally, so much time is spent with talking heads and that a lot of the cut scene interactions are so slow and off-putting. It makes the wait between the really good battles seem so much longer.

Only Godzilla is missing from this picture.

Only Godzilla is missing from this picture.
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Like virtually all anime-based fighters, the fighting system tries to be very simple, with all fighters having the same (if not, very similar) set of combos. The series also employs your typical set of Ninja moves, such as projectiles and substitutions. Aside from tweaking the combo system from the last game, the combos and jutsus of certain characters (Naruto and Sasuke in particular) will change as you progress and earn, while the main additions concern the Support characters, which are called to assist you in battles, where you now have Support Types (Attack, Defence and Balanced) and Support Drives. While the simplicity of the system makes the game accessible, it's often clunky, shallow and also partly responsible for making the non-boss battles feeling routine. It’s probably too simple, as you can very easily progress without using much of it.

Unfortunately, everything else outside of battle is so slow, mundane and aimed at such a base level that it feels totally pointless and a waste of time. There are long stretches where you’re faced with aimless wandering and talking-head cut-scenes. There is less time spent doing mindless fetch quests to advance the story, but everything outside the story is desperately uninspired. Rather than an open world, the developers have opted for an approach similar to a traditional JRPG. Within this overworld, you’re meant to race to your objectives (re: next battle), explore the shrubbery for random items and complete banal optional missions. These random items are meant for you to create items to assist you in battle, but you can very easily play through without resorting to anything more than healing ointments. This further takes away from the already simplified battling system.

Interestingly, the clock runs relentlessly regardless of what you do. So there is every chance that it will read between 15-20 hours once you’ve finished the Ultimate Adventure. Still, we can’t help but feel that a sharper 10-12 hour experience would have been more enjoyable. Within the Ultimate Adventure, there is plenty to do, especially if you’re unlocking characters and achievements/trophies. However, everything outside of the boss battles is very dull and make for an over-simplified ‘game’. None of the features are broken; it’s just that they all feel redundant. However, fans will at least have the option of playing online with a fairly level playing field. The usual suspects are here, with quick and ranked matches, and also the ability to play solo or with support characters. And it plays solidly and is well populated enough to keep you in the game.

This is what happens when you don't pay.

This is what happens when you don't pay.
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An area that Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 manages to nail quite well is the audio/visual presentation. It’s very difficult to think of an anime-based title that looks or sounds better. And it’s not only technical quality that astounds though, as the direction is excellent too. The boss battles have some amazing effects harnessed through excellent direction and scale (so, not just flashy for the sake of flashy), while the serious and well-considered use of music solidifies the package. On a technical level everything is excellent, and it's a huge surprise at how well the emotions are captured. Again though, it’s the ‘downtime’ that’s a letdown, as there are too many lengthy, uneventful scenarios interspersing the top quality ones.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is that it’s excellent fan service, but not that much of a ‘game’. While there is a heap of fluster, plenty of bluster, outside of a remarkable presentation (easily among the best seen in anime-based games) and the endearing ‘boss’ battles, the rest of the ‘game’ is slow, mundane and redundant. It's a table with a few storming teacups. This seems to be the side effect of attempting to make the game too accessible and long. Ironically, it won't work for the seasoned gamer. Rather than running through vapid environments and listening to talking heads, there would have been a lot of benefit from making a sharper and more varied experience. As mentioned, fans will get a great kick (so add a point to the final score), but anyone actually looking to play a game will need to look elsewhere.
The Score
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has plenty of fluster and a heap of bluster for fans but little to keep the interest of non-fans and seasoned gamers.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 Comments
3 years ago
Agree with some of your points here but disagree with many as well. Saying its not much of a "game" other than boss battles is not how I saw it. The fighting might be simple but its still very deep once you egt around to it. Playing online you will see just as many tactics as you would in any other fighting game if not more since you can have support characters who do different things and of course awakenings.

Just like smash brothers has simple controls and everybody has the same move set does not make the game shallow it just makes it easier to pick your favourite characters without spending hours in training (which strangely the game does not have).
3 years ago
Cheers icon_y1.gif The point was not that the fighting system wasn't deep, it was that you barely forced (and in Ultimate Adventure, often restricted) to use it. Hence, it's something of a false depth (a very common problem, these days).
3 years ago
Ok yer you are right in that respect I misunderstood. The adventure mode is a lot of running around and does as you say feels like a JRPG, but I as a fan enjoy that aspect. I know what you mean by padding the game making it longer but personally I enjoyed that in this game and liked playing through most of the story. Yer some battles were missed, but it was still pretty impressive, but for most games I agree I would rather have a quality game than just quantity.

When you just want to battle though going online or against a friend was a lot better than I thought (not having played one). Biggest problem for me in the fighting was how unbalanced some characters were. You see the exact same characters online.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  14/10/2010 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Namco-Bandai
Genre:
  Fighting
Year Made:
  2010

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