Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is an ultimate storm of slick discord, featuring a stalwart character-action game structured like an average fighting game. While the battle mechanics are almost strong enough to stand on their own merits, the overall structure of the game becomes cumbersome and inept at times, forcing the player into a dimwitted RPG-style adventure. Despite its dissonant mash-up of genres, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 shines when battle begins.
Ridiculous Ninja Action
Within the battles themselves, the cel-shaded animation slithers without the slightest stutter – it’s some of the best in-game animation to date that maintain harmony with the game mechanics. Cyberconnect2’s mission is clear and their success is obvious: a faithful recreation of over-the-top ninja battles featured in the titular anime and manga. Rather than resorting to a standard-fare fighting game formula, the Ultimate Ninja Storm series has taken a character-action approach to combat.
The clear-cut control scheme serves the purpose of generating fluidity and forcing speed into a battle system that remains easy and accessible. There’s not an expert level of depth that’s present in a more serious fighter, but that’s not saying that Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is shallow, either. Functioning more like Devil May Cry than Street Fighter, it is easy to pick up and play – each character is played exactly the same as the next – complete with single-button combos, variations on dashes and flips, and ranged attacks. The style fits well with the source material.
Early on, quirks and stutters sometimes interrupted game-flow, but as I became more comfortable with the game’s controls I started to feel more connected to the character I was controlling. The synchronization ratio isn’t zen-like; there are times when it seems that the game favors style over precision, but this doesn’t dilute the experience.
As mentioned, the variation in style, speed, and technique makes each of the many characters feel slightly different, even if they are all essentially played exactly the same way. Conversely, I never felt that mixing up my combos offered any benefit other than visual style. It may change the timing necessary to initiate a counterattack via a substitution jutsu, but it doesn’t seem to add any meaningful depth to the combat strategy. Proper usage of items, assist moves, and well-timed specials seem to have more impact; Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 never degrades itself to a button masher, but never scratches the massive amount of potential this type of fighter has.
I don’t want to do this anymore, dattebayo
The game’s featured mode is the Ultimate Adventure, which guides players through several story arcs seen in the manga. During major story points, the basic gameplay is streamlined with a series of eye-popping quick time events at critical points in the battle. Normal combat sequences flow seamlessly with the recreated events and transition into large-scale boss battles. For a Naruto fan, it’s top-notch unadulterated fan service. There’s a strange omnipresence created by the well-paced quick time events that somehow aesthetically connects the Naruto-saavy player to the action. Simply put, there’s a great deal of tender love and care put toward these events, and Naruto fans will be pleased.
While quick time events are inherently grounded to the animation, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 makes them feel reactive and immersive. It is when gameplay falls into these critical story points that Naruto is at its best. As brief and as sparse as these moments are, experiencing a high-quality rendition of iconic Naruto moments such as the Itachi vs. Sasuke showdown will satiate the fan service pangs of Naruto fans. Unfortunately, you have to put up with a great deal of drudgery to get to the good parts.
Outside of the crucial story battles, Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is the same type of mess generated by the goofy story modes of fighting games of the past. While the environments are quite scenic, the Ultimate Adventure feels cumbersome and unfinished during traversal of the map. The incessant amount of loading between unnecessary cutscenes full of unnecessary banter is completely unforgivable. The lull between major events is hollow and bland. There’s simply a lack of sensible design mechanics and polish; it’s almost degrading to be forced to trot back and forth for hours, collecting meaningless items off the ground and completing unfulfilling side missions just to get to the good parts. It’s the kind of pacing that wears an otherwise interesting game thin. The level of polish exerted in the epic story sequences is absent here and is simply off-putting.