IGN Review of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2
There are two things that unite every ninja: pain and patience. If you're thinking about picking up Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2, a worthy addition to any anime fan's library, prepare to be hazed into the warrior brotherhood. This game causes pain and requires patience by the throwing-star load.
If you clicked here by accident and have no idea who or what Naruto is -- don't worry, you can get back to checking IGN Babes in a second -- the simplest answer is wacky anime. In magna comics and on TV screens worldwide, the young ninjitsu warrior Naruto and his buddies are on a constant quest to best evil through brain-busting moves and explosive techniques.
The unique style of the series -- fights stop mid-punch to cinematically showcase devastating attacks in crazy cutscenes -- carries over to the videogame franchise quite well. When Naruto: Ultimate Ninja dropkicked its way onto the PS2 last summer, fans got their fix of wicked knockout animations, terrible English voiceovers and combo-laden battles. All those qualities have been carried over to this bright, colorful sequel, but it's that refined combo system that's going to bring pain to your life.
It's not that the fighting style is hard to understand. Circle attacks, square uses items, X jumps and triangle performs Secret Techniques that use Chakra (i.e. special-move juice that depletes when used but slowly regenerates when you hold down on the D-Pad). These Chakra-powered moves are the bread-and-butter of your offensive arsenal and will require you to hit the initiating combo and successfully pull off an ensuing mini-task such as pressing a line of buttons in the correct order or tapping a button faster than your opponent. If you succeed at the mini-event and your opponent fails, your move dishes out more damage. If you fail, the move has little effect.
However, all the pain you pour on in the game is nothing to the pain you'll need to endure to pull off the granddaddy finishers. To rock Naruto's unnamed, face-melting knockout move, you'll need to nail the button combo and then spin the right analog stick in a circle more times than your opponent. You can try doing it with your thumb, but it's going to come down to palm-burning action. As you match wits with your opponent and fall back to the move again and again, don't be surprised if holding things is touch-and-go in the morning. This is the life of a ninja -- sacrifice!
While the controls have pretty much remained the same from the first game, the game modes have been altered just a tad. Whereas the original Ultimate Ninja let you choose a character and run through the story mode in Scenario, this sequel puts the story in Ultimate Road. Here, you'll switch to predetermined characters as the story dictates. As you progress through the tale, you'll unlock all 32 playable characters, who each have their own special moves, alternate outfits, voice work and animations.
Fans of Scenario might be alarmed to find it missing from the sequel's menu, but the mode, which tossed people into battles with specific win conditions, has been integrated into Ultimate Road. As the story progresses, you'll be faced with a number of battles where you need to finish with a certain amount of health or simply survive until the time limit is reached.
This feature, grasshopper, is where patience comes in.
Everything will be going great in the story as you move from the Chuunin Exam to beating up invaders to trying to avenge the village Hokage, but then you'll slam into a progress-stopping brick wall. Mine was named Kabuto. To beat the man in black -- whose health is constantly regenerating -- Naruto had to win via a level-three Secret Technique. You can't understand how difficult that is just by reading it, young one. Kabuto -- and the computer in general -- blocks everything in this game, while you seemingly can't block anything. That means, if Naruto's lucky, he's going to land one level-three attack the whole match.
So, whittle Kabuto's health down past the halfway mark and decimate him with the level-three move. Sounds easy, right? The problem is regular old punches and kicks aren't going to get Kabuto's health low enough for the deathblow -- especially when he's blocking everything. You need to hit him with a level-three attack in the beginning, replenish your entire Chakra bar (a process Kabuto's going to interrupt anytime you try it), and hit him with level three again.
Yeah, have fun with that.
Gameplay options don't end with Ultimate Road. Vs. Duel lets you duke it out with a friend or the computer as the unlocked characters in one of the 16 arenas that feature interactive stuff such as buildings, a giant snake, and multiple planes for you to teleport back and forth between. Iruka's Training allows you to fool around in the dojo and practice each character's moves without the fear of losing and having to restart the battle. Tanzaku Market lets you spend the Ryo you've earned in Ultimate Road on dozens of figures, videos, music and Ninja Info Cards, and then, you can go look at your purchases in Naruto's house.
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