When Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm arrived exclusively on the PlayStation 3 two years ago, the anime-style visuals and animation did an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of the source material. This October, the sequel is bound for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360, and we got to spend some hands-on time with the Xbox 360 version at Tokyo Game Show 2010. As we battled AI and human opponents alike, it become clear that the fast-paced fighting mechanics and slick visuals that made the first game so good are going to be reprised with gusto in the sequel. And yes, it's still a lot of fun to punch Sasuke in the mouth.
Though there are single-player missions and epic boss fights aplenty in Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, our time with the game was limited to head-to-head battles. The character select screen had a decent number of characters unlocked, and though it mostly featured predictable favorites, we counted a total of 42 spots in the complete roster. In addition to picking your primary fighter, you also choose two support fighters that you can call on midbattle to lend an extra fist, foot, or conjuration to your efforts. Each character has three different unlockable support abilities that you can choose from, and there are 21 battle arenas to choose from that cover a wide variety of familiar locations from the anime.
Once the fight began in earnest, it became clear that the fighting system retained most of the tight mechanics that made the first game so fun. The face buttons are used for jumping, throwing projectiles, striking your opponent, and charging your chakra. Any action can be modified by injecting it with a bit of chakra power, and managing your chakra levels remains a key strategic consideration. The D pad buttons are mapped to items that can help you or hinder your opponent, and blocking is both easy to do and essential to your survival.
While the combat remains fast-paced and fun, the visuals are once again a real highlight. Every character moves with a crisp fluidity, and attacks are flashy and satisfying. Many jutsu-powered attacks look as good as if not better than in the anime, and each stage contains a number of thoughtful touches that make them lively battlegrounds. Both Xbox 360 and PS3 owners can look forward to repping their favorite ninja clan and handing out jutsu-powered beatdowns when Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 arrives in the US on October 19.