It's a sad fact that among the constant flood of games based on popular anime series, many succeed at delivering lots of characters, music, and other content that appeal to devoted fans, but can't manage to support all these goodies with a compelling gameplay experience. It's refreshing, then, that the Ultimate Ninja Storm series continues to deliver moments that capture the bristling energy and excitement of Naruto. Unfortunately, these terrific bits are separated by a great deal of dull filler, but the intensity Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 delivers at its best makes enduring these tedious stretches worth it in the end.
6282868None The fights lack depth, but they're packed with over-the-top anime style.
The tale you experience in the Ultimate Adventure mode is told with a great deal of dramatic flair, and it's clear that a lot of care went into doing these characters and events justice. As the hotheaded young ninja Naruto and his friends struggle against evil forces to protect Hidden Leaf Village, moody music, effective camera movement, and great voice acting all enhance the impact of their brave struggles and the poignancy of their noble sacrifices. Unfortunately, the story also casually throws around so many characters, organizations, and obscure terms without explanation that much will be lost on those who come to Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 without knowing their Akatsuke from their Kazekage. This game is unapologetically one for the fans, and it makes no effort to embrace anyone else.
The Ultimate Adventure mode has a lot to offer, but you need to slog through a lot of boring exploration to get to the good stuff. A map always tells you exactly where you need to go next to advance the story. The locations along your way may be gorgeous, but having to run through screen after screen of Hidden Leaf Village streets to make your way to the Hokage's chambers, click through a bunch of text, and then run back through those same streets again is just dull. Yet you need to run through these streets and many other locations time and time again during the course of the story. The only significant thing to do on any of these screens is to push a button in specific spots to look for materials you can give to merchants so that they can make new goods to offer you. But while these items offer a range of beneficial effects like slowing down your opponent for a little while or temporarily increasing your attack power, stopping every few steps to pick up a mushroom, feather, or arrowhead gets tiresome, and the benefits of these items aren't worth the added time it takes you. You'll want to get through these boring stretches as quickly as you can. Making matters worse, you're frequently interrupted by load times that, while not painfully long, are long enough to break up the flow of the game and make the already unwelcome process of traveling even more unpleasant.
Ultimate Adventure mode's tale is spread across seven chapters, and the highlights that punctuate these chapters are the epic boss battles that conclude them. Particularly memorable are the quick-time events that you must complete to emerge from these struggles victorious. As a gameplay mechanic, quick-time events aren't novel anymore, but the ones you experience here are made terrific by the surprisingly intense action that accompanies them. To go into much detail about these events would be to spoil some of the game's best moments, but suffice it to say that towering monsters do battle, entire cities are threatened with destruction, and hundreds of Naruto clones fill the sky at once. These jaw-dropping sequences are packed with all the massive summonings, speedy chase sequences, and impossible fight choreography that typify the action of the anime. And although you don't have direct control at these times, needing to quickly push specific sequences of buttons or wildly pound the same button repeatedly makes you feel far more invested in these dire moments than you would if they just played out in cutscenes.
The locations are gorgeous, but you'll soon grow tired of running through them over and over again.