The young Ninja with a fondness for Ramen makes another video game appearance.
Anyone who has the vaguest interest in anime will know of Naruto. He is a yellow haired Ninja boy suffering from an extreme case of ADHD. As a youngster, Naruto had a demon trapped inside him to save the village. As a result he was kinda shunned by the village and thus craved attention. Anyway, the Naruto series of anime revolved around Naruto and his classmates progressing on their journey to become fully fledged Ninjas.
Naruto left the village after several hundred episodes to continue his training with Jiraiya (the pervy sage, called so because of his interest in erotica and watching women undress) on a one to one basis. His return was heralded by a new name to the series, Naruto Shippuden, which saw that Naruto had grown up and become more powerful. He was still just as annoying as ever, mind you. With his new power came new enemies and new adventures.
I actually stopped watching Naruto when it became Naruto Shippuden, simply due to lack of time. However, the background knowledge that I had of the Naruto series allowed me to slip easily into Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, from Namco Bandai, with many characters that I recognised and places that I remembered from the show. But is Ninja Storm 2 a game for the fanboys only? Or can the average Joe actually get any enjoyment from this game?
The first thing it is important to note is that the story found in Ninja Storm 2’s campaign is reasonably easy to get in to, even with no prior knowledge. That being said, it will be the Naruto fans that get the most out of it.
Ninja Storm 2 is essentially a fighting game, with a big chunk of free roaming adventure added in. Players can indulge in either some straight forward vs fighting, with either the AI or a friend, both online and locally, or they can jump into the campaign. In the campaign, the player will start off in control of Naruto as he returns to the Hidden Leaf Village. The player will then find themselves able to wander the village, following missions that can be picked up from the various characters that can be found within. The gameplay extends beyond the village, with other locations made famous by the anime series making an appearance.
For obvious reasons there is a lot of fighting in this game, be it part of a mission or just random encounters. This is all handled in a manner that will be familiar to fighting game veterans. But more on that in a minute, as there are other things to do in the game. There are things hidden all over the place for players to find, some useful, some not, giving the game a minor element of exploration and collecting.
But, in reality, the adventure mode acts only as a way to link together all of the fighting into a story. And what amazing fighting it is. Like so many games, Ninja Storm 2 can be said to be “easy to play, difficult to master”. The controls are incredibly simple, with just a couple of attack buttons. But this hides the fact that the combat system is actually incredibly complex and allows the player to perform some amazing moves. During the battle, players will fill their Chakra meter and this can then be used to make the moves even more powerful and impressive.
Some of the items that have been collected during the players wanderings can be assigned to be used during battle, giving the player a defensive or offensive advantage. The player can also take other characters into battle in a support capacity. These characters can be called into battle with a quick press of a button to attack the opponent, defend the players character, or a combination of the two. As you can imagine, there is a lot more to this fighting game than just mashing a button and hoping for the best.
The battles in adventure mode start off fairly easily, but quickly ramp up the difficulty as the player gets the hang of the various controls. Fans of the Naruto series will recognise some of the epic battles that take place during the game, allowing them to replay these battles using their own skill. The boss battles are usually a bit more complex than your simple round of fighting and interspersed with some amazing cutscenes, making for some truly memorable moments.
But that brings me to the most outstanding aspect of Ninja Storm 2, the visuals. The game is simply stunning. From the backdrops found within the Adventure mode, that are so detailed that it feels there is always something new to look at, to the actual fighting itself, the game comes across more like an interactive episode of the anime than a game. This game is simply one of the best looking games I have ever seen.
Leaving the Adventure mode alone, the player can still get into some serious fighting action with friends, both locally and online, although it should be noted that, like a lot of fighting games, online players can be extremely proficient and will likely put newcomers in their place. A lot of the more interesting playable characters have to be unlocked in either Adventure mode or Free-play before they can be used in multiplayer. This is a shame but there are a fair selection of characters to choose from straight out of the box.
Naruto has a massive fanbase who will probably have already bought the game, especially as it features some of the most popular characters from the series. But for fighting game fans Ninja Storm 2 offers a solid and enjoyable experience with a surprising amount of depth. Even gamers that avoid fighting games and have never heard of Naruto will find this easy to get into and satisfying to play. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is simply stunning, incredibly easy to play and a whole lot of fun.