Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Review
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, also know in Japan as Naruto Shippuden: Narutimate Storm 2, developed by CyberConnect2 (famous for its Naruto and .hack series of games, and most recently Asura’s Wrath), and published by Namco Bandai, is primarily a fighting game based off everyone’s favorite (or hated) anime series.
As if the Naruto story and timeline wasn’t convoluted enough for a summary, the game itself is a summary and retelling of the entire Shippuden story, up until the Pain arc, and I have to make a summary of this summary, if you get where I’m coming from. Basically, the first installation of the Storm series (Storm 1) is a retelling of the anime that has been done several times in earlier versions of the Narutimate series on the PS2, and exists simply to HD-ize everyone’s favorite characters on 7th generation consoles, and as well as for completion’s sake (for what is a fighting game without at least a story mode to spend time on and collect stuff). It narrates the formation of a team of Leaf-ninja, composed of Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, under the tutelage of their captain Kakashi, as they embark on missions to increase their ninja rank, all the while operating in a constantly unfolding plot detailing Orochimaru’s search for power along with his dangerous Sound-ninja cronies, as well as the advent of an even more dangerous group of outlaws called the Akatsuki. Now, Storm 2 continues that story from the time skip that occurred when Naruto left to train with his master, Jiraiya for two years, and when Sasuke betrayed his team and went to Orochimaru in search of power. The story extends even further as Naruto, and other Leaf ninja encounter and fight the different members of Akatsuki, as well as Sasuke and Orochimaru. And seeing as Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is nearing its release date, we’ll be seeing that story retold once more and drawn out even more, as it catches up to the Confining of the Jinchuuriki arc, which I am at a loss to summarize, since the series has long left me behind, and I haven’t had the time to catch up.
The gameplay is made up of two parts: one part quest-driven story-mode-adventure-campaign strewn with occasional mandatory battles, and one part multiplayer fighting game. I said that the Storm series is primarily a fighting game, and that’s because its entire gameplay mechanic revolves around fighting, and this fighting aspect is the series’ chief appeal.
Barely anyone, if no one at all, gets this game for the story. If they would, they’d have read the manga or watched the anime for that. Perhaps the campaign mode is simply there to acquaint newbies to the franchise with the different characters of the story, but it provides little to no immersion, thus dampening any emotional effect the original series had on its viewers. The fighting aspect, on the other hand, is a revolutionary piece of gaming technology. It built on the previous CC2 Naruto games’ movement and fighting style, used the exact same controls, but made it entirely three-dimensional.
This style is unprecedented and hasn’t been used in any other 3D fighting games (none that I’ve played, anyway), that utilize fixed overhead cameras. The Storm engine’s camera is fixed—but in a completely different way: it’s anchored to the exact distance between the two fighting characters, and extends and contracts to fit both of them on the screen., showing the back of one character on one side of the screen, and the front of the other character far off on the other side of the screen. As the characters move, the camera moves as well.
Movements are quick and fluid, as fighting scenes in the anime are, and really shows how nimble these ninja are on the field. You can jump around and perform ninja moves, throw and
dodge and unlimited amount of throwing knives and stars (kunai and shuriken), perform taijutsu (physical punches and kicks to form a string of combos), and utilize your stored chakra to perform more powerful attacks called ninjutsu. The fighting engine is smooth, has a decent number of combinations depending on different analog movements and button presses, and is both epic and cinematic, given the short cutscenes of super-special attacks.
The game’s selling point is its fighting aspect, and it does well on that respect alone, given all the tired and reused things hanging off it. But of course, it wouldn’t work well if it weren’t for the graphics and soundtrack. There is something about CC2’s form of cel-shading that far outdoes those in most game adaptations of anime, making the characters seem more alive and movements less mechanic. The stages and towns in the anime seem large, colorful and vivid, although constrained by narrow paths that restrict any free movement all throughout. With a feudal Japan and kabuki-influenced soundtrack infused with a graceful modern touch, faithful to the anime, the game generally looks and sounds possibly even better than the original, with the cost of storytelling stunted to a crude summary, albeit supported by full 3D.
This is a game I thoroughly enjoyed for its complete fighting engine, and challenging online community. It’s a game that when played alone, is less the worth of the money you used to purchase it, but more than fulfills its purpose when you have a decent working online connection, or at least friends to share it with. It’s a revolution in fighting game mechanics, and is a jewel of multiplayers that is overshadowed by more popular, more technical but less engaging fighting games.
Are you a Naruto fan? Tell us why or why not, won’t you?