I have consumed an unhealthy amount of Naruto over the years. I've played way too much of the Gamecube and Wii-games, really enjoyed the Nintendo DS-games and my big favorites were Ubisoft's Naruto: Rise of a Ninja and the sequel Broken Bond. But I've never been a big fan of Namco's Naruto-games, fighting games made to look as much as possible as the original anime where the playability never has been able to live up to the presentation.
With their Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm, Namco tried to make their own version of Ubisoft's games where you freely could run around in the city of Konoha with environs and take on missions. That turned out to be a big sleeping pill, since the city didn't have anything to explore - it was just a source of transports between similar missions that all includes some form of fighting.
And now it's time for Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. A game Namco hopes will be appreciated by both fans of the original and the 360-owners that have been waiting to start up the Shippuden-adventure after Naruto: Broken Bond.
I've hardly start up my adventure before I meet Tsunade who gives me a mission to meet up with Kakashi and Sakura to show them what I've learned since last we met. Sakura wants to warm up with some fighting, before I get to battle with Kakashi for some more fighting. Then I get my first proper mission, to investigate the Naruto-clone that's sneaking around outside the city. Of course I'm willing to deal with that, so I rush out for some more fighting.
To keep things short, there's a lot of fighting in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. It's obvious that Cyberconnect2 have had their eyes on Ubisoft's awesome Rise of a Ninja and have tried to create something similar. But the city is still only there to serve as a backdrop while you go from fight to fight. I run back and forth through the streets of Konoha that doesn't really offer up anything except the bare necessities and a bit of money hidden in urns and some herbs to pick. And every time I get a new mission it always ends in more fighting.
Sure, there's a lot of material here, but it gets repetitive really quickly and I often wish I could run around and do what I feel like instead of being shown the way by invisible walls. And running for ages just to get to a mission you know will only end up being a long fight isn't much fun either. Sadly, you have to play through the whole story to unlock all the characters in the fight mode, which is really annoying when you have to spend hours on something you don't enjoy only to be able to spend time with what you do like.
Because the fight mode in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is the part of the game I like the best. Despite its very basic premise, there's enough depth to it to be impressed by the people I meet online and I see how amazingly good you can get at this game. But that depth is still quite shallow, and it feels a bit like party fighting at times. That doesn't mean it's bad, though - the incredible special attacks and the ability to use support characters to weave long combos make the game look like nothing else. There's a total of 40 characters, including a cameo by the Tekken Swede Lars Alexandersson, but a lot of them - as mentioned above - has to be unlocked before you can actually use them.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 might be Cyberconnect2's tenth game in the series, but I hope that Namco change developer when it comes to the inevitable Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. It's not really a bad game as such, but you undoubtedly need to be a big fan of Naruto to be able to fully enjoy it.