|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cyber Connect 2||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 12, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
June 19, 2007 - Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2, like the name implies, is a follow-up to last year's Naruto Ultimate Ninja. At its heart, it is an arcade-style fighting game that is a great vehicle for Tekken-style 2-player battle royales with friends and family. But look deeper and there's a very challenging one-player mode, with an engaging story, not to mention a variety of play modes and added content. This game is absolutely essential for fans of the Naruto series, and still a good buy for those who are unfamiliar.
The game's story mode starts you off retreading some of the ground that was covered in Naruto:Ultimate Ninja. You begin play as Naruto, and you're still training with the Senin Jiraiya for the chunin exam. This may sound a little familiar to those who've played the first Naruto:Ultimate Ninja, but the new material begins fairly soon, so don't fret too much. Now I will provide somewhat of a caution here, because one thing that the game does not do is provide any semblance of a tutorial mode at the beginning of the story mode. So if you need to work on your ninja skills, you'll have to head on over to Iruka's training mode before you begin the story mode
Controls will have you using the PS2 face buttons for jumping, using items, attacking and using chakra. Now since there's only one button for attacking, you might think this limits your available moves, but that's really not the case. As the ninjas say, you must master the tapping. The speed and frequency of your pummeling of the attack button will determine what moves you perform. Also, using the directional pad can trigger some interesting low-level chakra moves. But for the High chakra moves, you'll have to use your chakra button, and then hit your opponent with your attack button. Now to use these high-chakra special moves, you'll have to do a series of precise button mashes or joystick twirls to make sure your move is super-effective. If you mess up, then your attack will still land, but it will only take away a fraction of the hp.
Once you've honed your skills, and gotten through some of the Naruto re-hash, you'll find a detailed storyline that follows our main character up to the Tsunade arc of the anime. One thing that's completely new in the story mode of the game is a semi-open world system. In the former Ultimate Ninja, you would just go from cutscene to battle with nothing in between. But in this year's follow up, you'll be able to run around, perform minor sidequests, look for characters, and even buy helpful items. Of course none of the sidequests are vital to finishing the game, but they make for a helpful diversion from the usual cutscene-to-battle format.
But of course the shining glory for this game, and the reason why most people will buy it is for its 2-player vs. mode. And the game really delivers here. You've got your choice of more than 30 characters, all with a host of animated special attacks and status settings. One thing that might be a boost to those who have the game and have already played through the story mode extensively is the ability to "level up" characters in the vs. mode. This feature works by allowing the user to collect character points in the story mode, and then giving the opportunity to spend these points via the pause screen on characters in the Vs. mode. You can spend these points on several areas of your character such as speed, chakra, and attack power. However, since you can only use your upgraded characters in Vs. mode, it could be somewhat unfair to those who dare to cross the path of your super-upgraded characters. But never fear, you don't have to use your upgraded characters if you prefer a more even playing field for your Vs. battles. Now the first time you play through your story mode, you may only get a couple points for your favorite characters, but if you decide to replay, you'll get many more and can eventually make your favorite character the Ultimate Ninja!
One thing that I was really happy about with this game was the sound quality. Every stage has unique music that's actually really good, and in most cases, comes straight from the anime. So it's a really good thing that you can eventually unlock the game's entire soundtrack and play it back at your leisure via the game's music player. Another great thing is that there's almost 100% voiceover here. All scrolling dialogue is read by the original voice actors from the American dub of the anime. And aside from some really horrible mouth-timing (which I don't really mind all that much, but it is funny to watch sometimes), the dub sound quality is pretty much perfect.
Visually, the game is on-par with the cream of the crop of the last generation. It features fully 3D manga-stylized graphics interplayed with anime cutscenes. The environment looks like it has had the most visual upgrade since the last installment, and this is probably due to the semi-open environment system. But nonetheless, everything looks great, and the game's visuals are yet another great thing about this game.
Naruto is one omnipresent ninja. Between the Ninja Counsels, the Clash of Ninjas, and all the other spin-offs of franchise out there that bear the Naruto insignia, I can definitely understand that the sheer volume of games can get pretty confusing. I mean, if you want a Naruto game, which one should you get? My advice is that if you pick up just one Naruto title this year, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 will be your best bet.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer