|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CyberConnect2||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: March 24, 2009||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
January 20, 2009 - Naruto Shippuden is the second part of the Naruto series, which takes place two years after the original. The Shippuden series features new enemies, grown-up characters, and a whole lot of drama. It is also a lot darker in tone, and it represents a very large turning point in the series. Those that follow this Japanese series will be very familiar with Shippuden, but North American fans have been waiting a long time for this follow-up series to come west.
Since the series' viral premiere in early 2009, the question in many fans' minds was whether or not the flood of Japanese games based on Shippuden would ever be localized. But luckily, we know that these previously import-only titles will in fact be coming to North America, and the first one will be Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden. Although the latest entry in the Ultimate Ninja franchise, Storm, was released on the PlayStation 3, Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden is will be released on the PlayStation 2, where it originally debuted in Japan in 2007.
The game's main story mode, also known as "Master Mode" will take place at the very beginning of the Shippuden saga and will serve as an introduction to this new part of the series. It takes place during the first 17 episodes of the show, and it will tell the story of Naruto and Jiraiya's journey back home. Although most of the story in Master Mode will recount events depicted in the anime, there will be a few extra plot elements involving other characters that will be added to make sure the game feels like more than just a prolonged anime episode.
Master mode will feature a semi-open world similar to that of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 and will let you explore the changing Konoha landscape and perform various quests relating to the beginning of the series. Although the game's scope will not be as big as it was in Ultimate Ninja Storm, you will have a limited amount of freedom to run around and accept unlocked missions at your leisure. In addition to the different story-based missions, you will also have access to collection and mini-game missions that help to boost your character's stats.
But, as any fan of the series will tell you, the Ultimate Ninja series' biggest strength lies in its versus mode. Ultimate Ninja 4 will boast the series' biggest roster yet, with more than 50 playable characters. The roster will feature a mix of older versions of characters like Shikamaru, Gaara, Rock Lee, and Sakura, as well as new characters like artsy bad guy Deidara, and sand ninjas Chiyo and Sasori. There will be new locations and stages in the versus mode. These stages generally consist of familiar areas that have been altered by the passage of time. There will also be areas from Naruto and Jiraiya's traveling.
In addition to the story and versus mode, many fans are hoping that the North American release of Ultimate Ninja 4 will include the Hero History mode. This mode in the Japanese version allowed you to jump back to the regular Naruto series and replay key battles from past Ultimate Ninja games. Although the mode has not been confirmed yet, it certainly would be nice for fans of the series that may have missed one of the earlier Ultimate Ninja titles.
The battle system in Ultimate Ninja 4 will feature many of the same elements as previous Ultimate Ninja games, but will have an improved jutsu system. Instead of being completely fixed, the character's jutsu will adapt to certain battle conditions. For instance, if your character is low on health, jutsus will be more effective to reflect your characters' status. These jutsus will also adapt when a secondary status is invoked. However, despite the new jutsu structure, the core battle mechanics used in previous Ultimate Ninja titles will remain the same in Ultimate Ninja 4, including the tiered combo system that has been the hallmark of the series thus far.
Although Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden might not be the current-generation release that fans might have hoped for, it will definitely be a great introductory title for the Shippuden series as a whole. The Ultimate Ninja franchise has been very successful on the PlayStation 2 platform in the past, and Ultimate Ninja will undoubtedly be a comfortable title for Naruto fans to transition into the new Shippuden series. Now let's keep that hurricane coming!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor