Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 Updated Hands-On

We head back to ninja school to learn some new moves with Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 on the Nintendo GameCube.

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The Naruto series of fighting games is well established over in Japan, but it's still trying to get some legs over here in the United States. The first Clash of Ninja game was released earlier this year, and while it wasn't anything special as far as fighting games go, it captured the spirit of the license fairly well and gave fans of the anime series yet another way to enjoy the exploits of their favorite ninjas-in-training. Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 follows the same path by offering fairly simplistic fighting that's flashy and accessible enough to entertain fans of the series. In fact, the game feels almost identical to the original Clash of Ninja game, because the only real additions to the game are some new characters and a four-player battle mode. So while it's nothing revolutionary or even new, Clash of Ninja 2 looks like it will please fans of the anime as well as GameCube owners who just want to knock the dust off the old console with a new brawler.

Naruto and the rest of the ninja-wannabes are back for more action in Clash of Ninja 2.
Naruto and the rest of the ninja-wannabes are back for more action in Clash of Ninja 2.

Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 picks up where the original left off. The students have all finished their studies and must now put their skills to the test in the real world. The story mode starts out with you playing as Naruto as he proves his might against Kakashi, Sakura, Sasuke, and others. As you progress through story mode, you'll also have to take control of other characters for certain fights. The fights vary from basic one-on-one battles to four-character brawls and survival fights where you have to fight off wave after wave of enemies. When you finish story mode, you earn coins, which can be spent in the shop to unlock extras like new characters.

The fighting engine is identical to that of the previous Clash of Ninja game, so you can expect to see the very same moves and animations throughout the game. The B and A buttons are your primary attack buttons, Y performs a grapple, and the trigger buttons are used to dodge left or right. You have a chi meter at the bottom of the screen that fills up as you fight. When it's full, you can press the X button to unleash a devastating special attack that's usually accompanied by some entertaining and overblown animation. The system is simple enough that you can easily pick it up and start performing all kinds of over-the top moves, which should make this a good game for younger players.

The four-character battles are the biggest addition to the series, but they play pretty similarly to the regular one-on-one battles. You can have a free-for-all, three-versus-one, or two-on-two match. If you're teamed up with other characters, you don't have to worry about hitting them or getting in their way, so you can just go all out and try to crush your opponents. The action can get a bit more frantic with twice as many characters and attacks happening onscreen at once, especially when the camera pulls out to keep all the characters on the screen. The four-character battles aren't especially appealing on their own, but they should be a welcome addition to the series if only for the change of pace they provide.

There are 23 characters in the game, which is more than double the number from the previous game. In addition to Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura, you'll get to fight with Rock Lee, Gaara, Kankuro, Hinata, Neji, and many more. There are also more than 30 stages to fight in. Between all the characters, stages, and gameplay modes, there should be plenty of variety for Naruto fans.

This time you can participate in four-player battles for even more outlandish anime-inspired action.
This time you can participate in four-player battles for even more outlandish anime-inspired action.

The presentation in Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 is identical to the presentation in the previous game in the series. The characters all look good and animate well, and the stages are nicely detailed. The focus is on the crazy attack animations, though, and those do look good here. The cutscenes between battles are all fully voiced in English, and they all sound just as good as they do in the show.

Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 doesn't bring much new to the series, but for Naruto fans, more of the same isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are more characters, stages, and game modes this time around, and the four-player battles should add a new twist to what is otherwise a standard anime-style brawler. Clash of Ninja 2 is scheduled to ship in the third quarter of this year, which means you can expect to see it on store shelves sometime between now and October. Be sure to check back before then for more details as well as screenshots and movies from the game.

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