Back in 2008, Namco Bandai and CyberConnect2 teamed up to bring the Ultimate Ninja series onto the next-generation of consoles with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm. Well prepare to sharpen those kunai, mold your chakra and fight for your "way of the ninja" with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 takes place 2 1/2 years after the first Storm ended. Naruto is returning to the Leaf Village after being trained by Jiraiya in order to become more powerful. He not only has to protect himself from the Akatsuki, who are out to capture him, but also become strong enough to bring his friend Sasuke back to the village. Naruto is back and he shows everyone that he isn't the same "#1 Knucklehead Ninja" that he once was.
The story of Naruto Shippuden takes a much more darker and serious tone than the original Naruto series. Naruto isn't the only ninja who has trained over the past few years. All of the main characters from the previous game rose up to the challenge and have become more powerful, skilled, and knowledgeable. The ninja world of Naruto seems even larger and more epic than in the previous Storm, with players now being able to travel to multiple villages, hideouts, and battlefields.
Gamers will notice that Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 plays very similarly to the other games in the Ultimate Ninja series, but there have been some additions to gameplay. The support characters are now essential to winning battles thanks to the new 'Support Drive' feature. By calling out support characters multiple times in battle, players' Support Gauge slowly fills up and will enter the 'Support Drive' state once full. The benefits of using Support Drive are that your support characters will jump into the battle automatically in order to block different jutsu from hitting your character, extend a combo, or even just provide time to gather chakra, which is a character's energy that is used in a variety of ways in battle. This adds a very deep layer of strategy because if used correctly, support characters can help you easily land an 'Ultimate Jutsu' on a opponent.
Ultimate Jutsus have taken a pretty drastic change in Storm 2, but it is a welcomed change. When a character lands an Ultimate Jutsu on an opponent, there are no longer any buttons to press or analog sticks to twirl in order to successfully do damage. Each Ultimate Jutsu is drastically shorter than in any of the previous Ultimate Ninja games. This makes the fighting both in Offline and Online play go much smoother and is more fluid than before.
The Online Mode is a completely new feature in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 and provides a competitive and addictive gaming experience. Players are able to set up a profile with a Ninja Info Card, which is a screenshot from the anime used for a profile picture. Players start off with a Beginner rank and can progress by acquiring Battle Points (BP), earned through defeating other players in Ranked Matches. There was not a hint of lag that I experienced in playing against other gamers online.
The game's Ultimate Adventure mode puts you right back into the Hidden Leaf Village, which acts as a central hub used for picking up new missions, collecting items, and talking to both main characters and NPCs. This mode differs from the first game by switching to a fixed-camera system which allows players to easily navigate to multiple locations not only within the Leaf Village, but outside the village as well.
There are over 42 playable characters in the game and most of them have to be unlocked in order to play with them both offline and online. This process is made easier by fighting and winning matches as much as you can to earn Special Points (SP). The more SP you acquire the more content you unlock, like more characters, more support types, and titles. Unlocking every character will take around 20-25 hours, or much shorter if a player is especially skilled at the game. Playing and winning matches in the game's online mode would be a great idea in order to expedite the process, because more SP is gained in online mode versus most of the matches offline.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 does a great job with it's presentation. Its ability to get players to actually care about not only what is happening in the story and the fates of each of the characters is well set. This is one beautiful game and it is amazingly respectful of anime's visual style. Players will get the feeling that they are really fighting just how their favorite characters fight in the show. English and Japanese voice acting are both featured in the game; the English voice acting is horrendous (much like the American anime dubs), but players have the option to switch to Japanese voice acting upon starting the game.
The boss fights in Ultimate Adventure mode prove to be very challenging but at the same time rewarding. Whenever a boss takes a certain amount of damage cutscenes begin that are beautifully choreographed. One of the best boss fights actually deals with two characters that fought each other in the first Storm. In the middle of the fight, it flashbacks to the previous fight between the two, but you still maintain control of your character. The seamless way you transition between the older and younger versions of the characters is wonderfully performed.
The fighting system may be seen by some to lack complexity, but watching fighters play online shows the depth of the gameplay. There are certain characters that work best with others, especially when it comes to picking which support characters to use with your main fighter. This really provides players with a great deal of ninja team combinations to try out. The fact that each character plays differently than the others, but feels very balanced in action is testament to the work that has gone into the game.
The lack of a practice or tutorial modes could be a disappointment for any players that are new to Storm 2. However, the fighting system in Storm 2 is one that is easy to use but hard to master, so new players shouldn't have much trouble picking this game up and fighting right after the opening cutscene.
This is truly not only the greatest Naruto game to date, but also a great option for any console fighting game fan. With all of the characters featured in the game, insane boss fights, and robust online mode, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is game you'd be sore to miss.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is now available for PS3 and Xbox 360.