Friday, November 5, 2010

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

I just got finished up completing the main quest from the latest Naruto game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. So, how about a little review, huh?

It's a decent game, though it's purely for fans of the show only. The fighting system is actually pretty intriguing. It's not like any other I've ever played. There's only a single melee button, as well as a “charge” type button for special moves. Then there's your guard button, a shuriken for weak projectile attacks, and a jump button. And using this very simple control system, you're able to perform all of the moves you'd expect from your favorite Naruto characters.

It threw me off at first, but once I got the hang of it, it actually grew to like it quite a bit. It's easy to just mash buttons and get some results here and there. But in order to take on the harder opponents, you really have to master this system, which isn't the easiest of tasks.

As for the main adventure mode, well, it's a chore for the most part. They make you pointlessly run all around the map to every single event, when they could have just as easily skipped these portions entirely in favor of cut scenes. That probably would have worked best, as there's really nothing at all engaging about running around from place to place. It's boring, plodding, and seemingly only there for the mere sake of artificially lengthening the game.

As a result of this poorly implemented filler gameplay, I have no intentions of playing through the adventure mode again, now that I've completed it. And if I weren't a fan of the series, then I couldn't see myself bothering with this game past the first hour or so. That said, once you actually get down to the real action, the game gets good. Usually, at least.

The Sasuke boss fight is definitely the shining moment of the entire game. It's better than either the anime or manga versions, by far. And the moment where, in the middle of battle, they seamlessly have you returning to their original fight at the Valley of the End was sheer genius, and a real treat.

Not all of the boss fights are this fun, however. Kakuzu was just a straight up pain in the ass. He's simple enough until he gets to his final form. Then it's just a rage inducing chore of a challenge. I can't remember the last time I got so frustrated with a game.

The story changed a few things here and there for the purposes of making the game run smoother, and for the most part, these changes are inoffensive. Some of the changes actually enhance the story, such as the aforementioned Sasuke fight. And in it's own way, even the Kakuzu fight was actually much more fitting than the anticlimactic encounter that took place in canon.

One issue I have, though, particularly later in the game, was the voice acting. There was just no direction at all, and this was made particularly evident after Jiraiya dies. Naruto is supposed to be sad and grieving, but he continues to speak in his normal tone, and it just sounds really awkward.

Also, concerning characters who haven't yet been introduced in the American anime, I'm not sure if their voice actors are finalized just yet. But if they are, I'm not exactly a fan of Madara's. It's far too different from Tobi's, unbelievably so. The Japanese voice is different as well, but it's similar enough to where it's not nearly that big of a stretch. This isn't so much a detractor concerning the game, just a general observation I took notice of.

I do have to say that I'm impressed with the way they handled everything in the Pain portion of the game. See, the game was being developed at the same time that the Pain arc was airing in the anime, so for all intents and purposes, the developers didn't have the anime to go by for this portion of the game. This basically makes the entire finale of the game a full on manga adaptation, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. It's not everyday you come across a video game adaptation purely for a manga.

What's also interesting is the decision to retail this game in America right now, despite the American anime being nowhere close to this point in the story. So for those few who still solely follow the anime as it's being aired on American stations, there's spoilers abound for anyone looking to dip into this game. But it's for these reasons and more why this game is especially for the hardcore fans of the series. The fans who have been streaming the series as it airs in Japan, and have been keeping up with the manga on a weekly basis. This is a game for the fans, and I can respect that about it.

Overall, I'd say that the game is pretty decent. As I said, it was made for the fans, so if you're not one, you probably aren't going to like it too much. But for those of us who are, then there's a lot of fun to be had here. I've still got a few things to unlock (Killer Bee, anyone?), so I'm not putting the game away just yet. But the fact that it's, as of now, only the second game this generation that I've felt compelled to actually complete really does say something of it's quality.

Or maybe that just says something of my obsession with Naruto. Who knows?