It’s clear from the off that Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has been developed with its fanbase solely in mind and if-like me-you’re unfamiliar with this particular slice of manga/anime you may find the tale of a young boy’s journey to become the Ultimate Ninja, (or as it’s known in the context of the story, a Hokage), more than a little daunting. Never the less as far as fighting games go it’s a pretty solid affair, one that’s resplendent with beautifully drawn characters and environments and the kind of super slick, stylish animation found in many of today’s Japanese animated cinema.
What makes each fight so visually engaging is the camera frantically following the action frame by frame; from simple combo to spectacular finishing move it’s almost difficult to keep up with at times and it'll have your head in a spin. Unleash an Ultimate Jutsu and the camera will zoom in to capture your chosen fighters determination etched across their face and then just as quickly zoom out to show the entire arena before smoothly panning around as each fighter jumps back from a flurry of blows. The real skill involved in Ninja Storm 2 is being able to use the ever shifting three dimensional environments to your advantage, especially during team battles where you and your opponent can call upon others fighters to help out with guard, defensive and balance attacks. Constantly moving around the arena, using Chakra to quickly zigzag forward to then launch into the air at just the right moment to get behind ones opponent in a surprise move is a requisite for success. Done right it can be immensely satisfying and once mastered you’ll be able to give even the most challenging of players the run around, chipping away at their life force in a dazzling display of skill before taking them down with an audacious finishing move.
Ultimate Adventure also allows you to unlock a huge array of extras and goodies for use in online play, VS and single player modes. Like with many of today’s beat em ups gamers expect more than just a simple Single Player and VS mode for their hard earned cash and so between Ultimate Adventure, Free Battle, VS, Online Battle and tons of hidden extras there’ certainly a lot of bang for your buck to be found here and as such you may quickly find yourself spending hours trying to discover and unlock all these hidden extras. It’s also worth noting that Ninja Storm 2 is infused with some fantastic audio. From the ‘whoosh’ of air as your fighter zip, flips and springs into combat; the deafening crack of lightening exploding forth from fingertips; and the thunder of the ground being ripped up through sheer force of will; there really is nothing quite like it in the fighting genre and will leave anime fans, new and old, breathless.
Still, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 won’t appeal to everyone outside of the core fanbase and with its strong leanings toward Japanese culture it could be off-putting for some audiences. It’s lack of depth, when compared to other fighters currently on the market, will almost certainly have beat ‘em up aficionados turn their collective noses up at it, and that it’s considered a ‘kids cartoon’ by many will undoubtedly see Ninja Storm 2 ignored by the older generation. Having said that, what it does do is not only offer up a unique spin on the traditional beat ‘em up, but it does it with a sense of style and razor sharp direction rarely seen in many of today’s video games. It’s not perfect, but its damn good fun and that alone is perhaps enough for Naruto to garner a few more fans outside of the land of the rising sun.