Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Hands-On
We take a brief look into the life and times of Naruto Uzumaki in his latest fighting game.
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There's probably a pretty good chance that you've at least heard of Naruto in one of its many forms--TV show or manga. But for the uninitiated, Naruto follows the story of a young ninja who not only struggles to become more skilled in the ways of the stealthy, powerful warrior through training, but also struggles with his own identity. Naturally, some of that also has to do with Naruto becoming more mature and more comfortable with friends who are uneasy when he's around (at least, initially), but Naruto has something special about him. He's the vessel for the nine-tailed fox--an evil creature imprisoned inside Naruto--and he's not too happy about it.
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The early portions of Ultimate Ninja Storm 2's Ultimate Adventure mode focus on Naruto and his return to Hidden-Leaf Village after training with Jiraiya. Wasting no time, Naruto then meets up with some old friends, like Sakura, who then join him on some simple missions issued to him by the Hokage. These missions are used to help familiarize you with some of the basic elements of the Ultimate Adventure mode. You'll learn about collecting materials that can then be used to make items that have stronger status effects than most standard items. You'll learn how to properly equip certain items before battle--these items range from offensive weapons to items that give you increased chakra (also known as magic). Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, you'll learn how to incorporate attacks from your partner when fighting an opponent.
Fights happen pretty regularly in the Ultimate Adventure mode, and it doesn't take long to get a pretty decent strategy going quickly or to discover an enemy's weakness. Actually, one of the very first missions has you venturing just outside Hidden-Leaf to the forest where there's a doppelganger of Naruto, which has similar skills and abilities. Fights take place in a full 3D arena where you're able to move in just about any direction. All characters have a relatively weak projectile attack, as well as a throw, a default combination attack, a jump, and a variety of chakra attacks. Interestingly, you can actually change the kind of chakra attack you launch, not only by using different face buttons and their corresponding basic attack (like using a chakra-powered projectile), but also by pressing the chakra button multiple times. Of course, if you do this, it means that you won't have as much magic left over when the attack is finished, but you can always run for safety and attempt to charge it back up.
When they're indicated, you can also perform special attacks with your in-fight partner that deal out massive amounts of damage, but using your buddy usually involves more strategy than that. Simply pressing the bumper button to have them come in and attack won't get much done because their attack is usually restricted to a certain area or where your opponent was standing when you pressed the button. If you mistime it, then you basically waste one of your partner attacks. At any rate, you'll learn how to use support characters more effectively as the game progresses, and you'll also learn how they differ from each other in their skills.
As you progress through the Ultimate Adventure mode, you'll encounter more characters and more fights. At one point, Naruto has to engage in the bell drill with Kakashi with the aid of Sakura. The three then form Team 7 and continue performing missions for the Hokage. But you won't always play as Naruto and his team, even in these early parts of the game. As you'll quickly find out, Gaara the kazekage (who, like Naruto, also has a powerful evil trapped inside) plays a big role in this mode, and his similarity to Naruto will be a driving force in what our hero does to save him.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has more than an adventure mode to take part in. It also features a versus mode where you can go up against a friend or computer opponent in any one of several battle arenas. This mode is perfect for refining your skills as well as finding out the offensive and defensive capabilities of various characters that you encounter in the adventure mode. It's worth noting that a good number of the characters in this mode won't be available to you until you get through Ultimate Adventure, but there are several well-known characters to choose from right off the bat. Also, you can choose to fight with or without partners, but it's a good idea to fight with them in the early going in case you're not too sure how they factor into a fight. Additionally, Ninja Storm 2 features an online mode, and while we weren't able to try it, the single-player mode does drop hints about it--particularly the profile system that lets you edit various ninja info cards that ultimately serve as your online descriptors.
Like most Naruto games, Ninja Storm 2 already looks pretty fantastic. The characters appear nearly identical to their TV show and manga counterparts, and some of the especially dramatic moments (or more specifically, those involving the powerful jutsu skills that incorporate some light quick-time-event button presses) are impressive. That aside, we're interested to see how the Ultimate Adventure mode expands in the later chapters and just how well the online fights work. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is scheduled for release on October 19.