Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is a relentless action packed roller coaster of a beat ‘em up, with a sprinkling of RPG elements on the side. Its bombastic, clichéd and downright ridiculous but it’s these traits that make it such a fantastic and original game.
It’s not 100% original mind. Being a sequel to the PS3 exclusive it brings a lot of the same elements along for this multiplatform ride. Once again in Ultimate Adventure mode you play as boy ninja in training Naruto and loosely follow the same story as the anime, with the same cast of friends and enemies padding out an impressive roster of characters. For the uninitiated, bits of it won’t make any sense, and the jargon is laid on thick, but it’s comprehensive enough to fill you in as you go, just don’t expect to understand or remember all the terms and character names for a few hours at least. For current fans however, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2’s retread over familiar ground is appealing and true enough to the source material to make the journey inherently enjoyable.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2′s primary element is combat, and the majority of these bouts are dazzling displays of animation and lighting effects that are some of the most cinematic seen in a game so far. They are absolutely fantastic treats. Meticulously detailed animation and excellent presentation all round makes them a sight to behold, although unfortunately you can’t always enjoy the spectacle as much as you’d like.
The ordinary encounters starts off standard enough. Using an extremely basic but easy to learn selection of attack combos, with throws, items and special attacks, kicks things off in a predictable manor to chip away at your opponent’s health. Additionally you can summon two support characters to aid you in the fight, calling on them to perform a variety of different attacks unique to that character to compliment your own. Everything is very simple to use and pull off but a dash of tactics are involved with positioning and timing, and the effortless feeling of being a bad-ass ninja is rewarding. The boss fights start off the same but then takes things to a new level with the addition of the cinematic mayhem and the occasional real time event – such as rail shooting sections – that completely change things up. Unfortunately they’re heavy on quick time events, and whilst it’s a fitting mechanic to reward the fast reactions of a ninja, it’s difficult to enjoy the background when you’re so engaged looking out for the next button sequence. It’s not overly distracting fortunately, and there’s still plenty of non-interactive animation to enjoy with the punishment for messing up a quick time event being simply to redo that sequence.
On the subject of interactivity, that’s where Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 falls a little short. It feels a lot like an interactive anime with combat making up the majority of the ‘game’ experience and cut scenes portraying the narrative. To its credit it’s a good story with good pacing, and the interactive storytelling setup – reminiscent of Dragon Lair – is fairly unique, but the remaining RPG features are very light.
Focused is perhaps a better term than light. Whilst the original Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm had large areas to explore with platforming sections thrown in, the RPG elements in the sequel consist of small linear maps with a selection of shops and side quests to keep you amused and nothing more. There’s nothing substantial about them but that plays well to the pacing of the main story. It adds several more hours to an impressive 15 hour long narrative, and some of the mini games involved are fun distractions even if it feels a little like a step back with the lack of exploration.
Bringing the game forwards however, is the inclusion of online Verses mode. It’s a pretty basic mode, the initial roster is small, requiring unlocks either through Verses mode – online or off – or Ultimate Adventure mode, and the aforementioned simplicity of combat means the competition aspect is a little sparse, but its addition is an improvement over the original that will more than please the fans and pads out the experience nicely for everyone else.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 doesn’t disappoint as a sequel. The combat is as enjoyable and accessible as ever and the presentation is even grander than before. Load times are can grate a little, and even an install can’t prevent this, but it’s nothing more than a nitpick. There’s simply nothing else like this on the market right now, and if you can look past the clichéd anime then Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 will pull you in a blow you away.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Xbox 360 (PlayStation 3) Release Date: 15/10/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.