Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2

Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

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PS2 Review - 'Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2'

by Geson Hatchett on Dec. 2, 2007 @ 2:07 a.m. PST

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 is an action fighter features over 30 playable characters, as well as 16 unique stages and the intense head-to-head anime-style fighting fans of the series know and love. Gamers can play through pivotal storylines as well as unlock an original plot in this follow up to last yearÂ’s immensely popular Ultimate Ninja.

Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: CyberConnect2
Release Date: June 12, 2007

Naruto's been around for a good long time now — over five years, if we trace it back to its Japanese roots. Its categorization as "Dragon Ball Z with ninja" isn't too far off the mark. Replace fast fists and beam-shooting with kunai and special ninja techs called "jutsu," then factor in its popularity, and we're pretty much back in familiar territory. Fortunately, while it's easy to be cynical about Naruto, it's not quite as easy to be cynical about its games, which have actually been pretty good so far. The Clash of Ninja series on the GameCube and Wii let people brawl en masse with a unique battle system; Uzumaki Chronicles provides the prerequisite ninja beat-'em-up; and just when you thought the system was going to get bogged down with fighting games, you have the just-released Rise of a Ninja, an action-fighting-RPG that immerses you in the Naruto universe.

Those unlucky enough to not possess GameCubes or Wiis (or for that matter, Xbox 360s) can still get their fighting fix with Naruto Ultimate Ninja 2 for the PS2. Fortunately for these people, it's pretty darned decent, too.

Ultimate Ninja 2 goes the traditional sequel route and makes everything about its predecessor bigger, better and badder. The fighting engine, which is a mishmash of fast runs, item assist and simple combination strikes, has been sped up a bit, with tweaks here and there to make the flow of fights more enjoyable. Log Trick Wars (where each player counters each other with the Disappearing Log Trick, faster and faster, until one finally flubs it) are a little easier to perform and enjoyable besides.

We've also got more characters represented here, each with more powers, and super jutsu techniques. The Chuunin/Ninja Tournament arc, which is pretty much the second season, is where the second half of main characters from several rivaling ninja clans are introduced. There's a lot of them.

In short, people who've already played the first game will be able to ease into this one with little trouble. Odds are they won't even need any sort of tutorial. Newcomers will, but the fighting system's not difficult to get a hold of anyway.

The mark of a good fighting game is for it to be able to hold people's attention outside of versus fighting since you won't have a willing challenger around 24/7. Thankfully, Ultimate Ninja 2 knows this. The Ultimate Road story mode is quite decent, and until Rise of the Ninja came around, it pretty much set the standard for virtual Naruto adventures. You get to run around a 2.5D rendition of the Leaf Village, helping out your favorite character — usually by following the directive to find another one of your favorite characters … and beating the snot out of him or her.

You can also go on ninja missions, and this is where the game truly shines. Ultimate Ninja 2 is utterly packed with these, giving fighting fans plenty of replay value as they attempt to win battles under certain conditions, with different rewards to be had for each mission type. Conditions range from battle slowdowns and speed-ups, attack frequency conditions, health modifications and more things that most developers would not have even considered. It all culminates in the Infinite Mission mode, where an endless amount of randomized-factor missions can be fought. This mode actually trumps the game's Training Mode in terms of skill-raising usefulness. The whole thing's a lot like the mission mode in the original Soul Calibur, and just as well done.

The rest of the game's frills come in the form of the Tanzaki Market, a shop where you can buy everything from tiny virtual figures of the characters, videos of the jutsu techniques, extra ninja hosts for the menu screens, virtual trading cards and other collectibles. After buying them with the money you receive in Ultimate Road, you can then view these collectibles in Naruto's house.

This game's pretty much the total package — honestly, the only thing I can bring myself to complain about is the localization. I'm one of those crazy folks weaned on Naruto in its pre-dub era. Given that the series has been running for no more than a year over here, I'd say that folks like me still make up for half of its U.S. fan base. I know we're trying to sell the thing to kids these days so that even more money can be made, but would it really have been that much trouble to leave in the Japanese language track instead of excising it completely in favor of inferior dub work? I'm a dub defender, and the voices here make me want to dry heave. The fact that you can buy these voices and listen to them at your leisure serves as a sort of extra insult. Namco Bandai learned its lesson with the DBZ games, but they're lagging behind here, for some unknown reason.

Still, let's face it — if the best one can do in critiquing a game is to sound like a bitter fansub dork while waxing on something that has little to do with actual gameplay, then the game must be doing something right.

Even months after its release, Naruto Ultimate Ninja 2 remains one of the best Naruto fighting games. It's got lots to satisfy solitary players, and versus mode matches are both fun to play and watch. With its large character cast, solid fighting system and plenty of things to do when friends aren't around, it's easily a solid buy for Naruto fans, and even people starved for new fighting games. Lord knows they're dwindling fast.

Score: 8.3/10


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