Naruto Ultimate Ninja 2
The amount of Naruto games has lately received a gigantic boost. I don’t know exactly how many games have been released this year but I doubt you can count them on two hands. The start of the American version of the popular Japanese anima may have something to do with that. Anyway, I received Naruto Ultimate Ninja 2 for PS2 on my plate. Hajime!
Next to a standard VS-mode that forms the basis for any fighting game, there’s also the so-call “Ultimate Road” in this title, an adventure mode that follows the storyline of the series starting with the Chunin exams. In principle you can just skip all the dialogues as their only purpose is to bring you from one fight to the next, but it’s nice to see a decent story in this type of game for once. Sometimes you notice a free-roaming part but you don’t have to do much more than walk to your next mission. The fun thing about this is that the city and surroundings are perfectly recognisable from the series.
NUN2 looks more like the Super Smash Bos-series than a real Tekken-style fighter. There are tons of items like Shurikens, scrolls and bombs used and on top of that the stages on which fighting is done add tremendously to the gameplay. You can go from the front to the back, climb trees and roofs, and even fall from stage at certain times.
Button bashing won’t help you much. The problem is that you’re immediately dropped in the action and nothing is explained about how combos and so-called justus work. These latter are special attacks that come with great movies where you for instance need to spin your analog stick as fast as possible or push a combination of buttons to do better.
So, you’re focused on the attack list in the menu which doesn’t make you much wiser. The conclusion is given by Samson himself: practise, practise, practise and those that do their best will learn. Forget the movelist, try out some stuff and after a while you’ll have various moves that you know. The practise mode can help you with that as all the buttons you push are shown at the bottom of the screen and when you’ve performed an existing move you’ll be given its name.
The ideal graphical representation of an anime game was chosen: cell-shaded graphics. All characters (and that’s tons of them) look exactly to their “real” version. The animations are fluid and varied and filled with hyperkinetic effects and Japanese cries. Sometimes the anti-aliasing of the PS2 falls short but in the hard action you won’t notice that immediately.
The sound is a bit less admirable. There’s nothing wrong with the background music but the devs didn’t put any effort (or money) for the music from the show itself. Then comes the highlight of rape for an anime-game: American voices. If you’re used to seeing the series in Japanese, it’s quite an adaption in a negative way. Some voices aren’t too bad but that they’ve made the main character a mix between Fran Dresher and Ash Ketchum isn’t something I like very much.
When you’re done with the whole Ultimate Road mode you can still occupy yourself with the multiplayer part and practise, or you can buy all kinds of gadgets (like music or statues) and check them out. Mostly playing against your friends will make you won’t put this game in your closet immediately.
I usually don’t like license games that much but this one managed to pleasantly surprise me. The graphics are very atmospheric, the moves really fat, the gameplay spicy and the light storyline is a pleasant substitute for putting one fight after the other in a sterile way. The Naruto atmosphere just drips off of this game, only too bad for those damn voices.