IGN Review of Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2
If you've been frequenting IGN GameCube for the last few months, you've most likely seen new assets or hands-on play for Nartuo: Clash of Ninja 2. Not only is the game one of the last solid GameCube titles we'll be seeing on the system, it's also exclusive to Cube owners only, making it a high-profile game to keep in our sights. More importantly, however, is that the Clash of Ninja franchise is extremely solid not just as a licensed videogame, but as a fighter in general. The character roster is deep, the combos walk the line between simplistic and overly-complicated (for you hardcore gamers out there), and the team over at Eighting studios (responsible for the Bloody Roar series) have done an awesome job on the franchise, treating it less like a licensed product in need of shelf space, and more like the kick-ass fighter that it truly is. And with the anime growing more popular here in America as the days go on, it's no surprise that we're now seeing Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 hitting shelves here in the US.
For anyone not familiar with the Clash of Ninja franchise or Naruto in general, fear not; it's a simple series to get into. Both the game itself and the anime/manga series follow the story of Naruto, a young ninja student that dreams of becoming Hokage, or "master ninja" of his town. What he doesn't know, however, is that beneath his seemingly harmless and carefree surface is a fire from his past that will come back to both haunt and aid him along his adventure. Naruto has inside him the magical power of the "nine-tail fox", which nearly wiped out a civilization years ago. From there, the anime basically routes into the same week-to-week tempo so familiar to its genre. Naruto meets new allies, fights baddies, learns, loves, and lives on. Simple enough.
For the Clash of Ninja franchise, Eighting decided to go all-out with the gameplay, offering the same speed and style of the battle anime in playable form. In the first Clash of Ninja, players could chose from just a handful of the series favorites, such as Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Zabuza, Rock Lee, and a few others primarily featured in the first season of the show. With Clash of Ninja 2, however, the character base is far deeper, allowing for over 20 fighters to be unlocked. We can't go into the specifics about the roster quite yet (as D3 wants to make you do the dirty work), but we have been featuring each of the fighters in our "Fighter Profile", which is finishing up next week with the final unlockable characters. We can tell you, however, that the amount of depth and complexity in the new characters is just awesome, featuring abstract weapons and very unorthodox fighting styles. If you're a fan of the anime, you most likely have an idea of who else you'll be fighting with. When/if you achieve 100% completion, you'll have a wide array of fighters at your disposal, featuring good guys, baddies, masters, students, and even alternate forms of pre-existing characters.
Even more important than the cast of characters in Clash of Ninja 2 is the amount of depth added to the actual battle system. With the first Clash of Ninja, battles were one-on-one only, and while there was still a fair amount of added modes, the mechanic eventually wore thin. With Clash of Ninja 2's ability to have up to four players battling at once, the depth of the fighter increases exponentially. The challenges in story mode now have Naruto going up against multiple enemies at once, and the two-on-two fights make four player multiplayer extremely entertaining. Combine that with an abundance of unlcokables (art gallery, voice tests, character profiles, the list goes on), and you've got a game that looks and plays like the original, but has a ton of added depth through the character roster and gameplay modes.
In fact, the general theme for the entire game centers around expanding what was already shown in the original. Players who mastered the previous Clash of Ninja game will already know the core players and their combos (though more moves have been added even to the original cast), and the same fighting strategies that worked in game one will still work in game two. Zabuza is still amazingly lethal with his sword, while Rock Lee continues to be the counter-attack master. Obviously keeping the original fighters true to the first game (as well as the series in general) was important, but in our experience it was far more entertaining to check out the newer fighters than it was to go back to the classic ones. That being said, the balance and feel to the game is still just as solid as it was in the original, as players can air-juggle and link combos together if they've mastered the timing and button presses from the original. We would have liked to see a bit more attention put into the special attacks, as they still get repetitive rather quickly, but with the amount of fighters and tactics in the game, it's a minor complaint.
On a presentation level, Naruto manages to bring a bit more to the table this time around. There's a far more in-depth story mode, though cut-scenes are handled with basic boxed portraits of the fighters rather than full-sized cut-outs, but the overall depth is definitely there. Clash of Ninja has more characters, more modes, an overall sharper look (especially in the animation effects department), and a ton of recorded voice work that, as with the original, fits in nicely. Is there room for growth in the series? Yes, and importers that have played Clash of Ninja 3 and 4 have already seen the series get consistently better version after version. Is Clash of Ninja 2 worth the asking price? Definitely.
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