Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 Hands-On

Namco Bandai affords us our first look at Naruto's next PlayStation 2 adventure.

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Earlier this week, while attending Namco Bandai's 2007 Editors' Day in San Francisco, we had an opportunity to spend some time with a work-in-progress version of Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2. Currently scheduled for release in September, Naruto's next adventure appears to follow much the same formula as last year's game, but it will benefit from new features, improvements, and, of course, an all-new storyline.

Kankuro can beat the puppet walkers at their own game.
Kankuro can beat the puppet walkers at their own game.

Your enemy this time around, at least based on what we saw during our demo, is the Shirogane Clan, which is attempting to collect spirit orbs that can be used to resurrect some ancient, mechanical evil. The Shirogane Clan controls an army of "puppet walkers" who menacingly employ what appear to be life-size marionettes both as weapons and as shields. We played as Kankuro during one sequence of the demo, and found his similar puppet-based fighting style to be very effective. Other playable characters confirmed for Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2's roster include Naruto, Kakashi, Shikamaru, Rock Lee, Guy, Neji, and Choji.

We spent much of our time with Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 playing as Naruto, while other event attendees moved in and out of the player-two slot at will. You'll be able to play through the entire story mode adventure cooperatively with a friend, or, if you prefer, the two of you can go head-to-head in versus mode. Other gameplay options will include a mission mode, which tasks you with completing a number of tough side missions, and a challenge mode, which includes various objective-based challenges, such as surviving against an overwhelming number of enemies for a period of time.

Special moves are as over-the-top as ever.
Special moves are as over-the-top as ever.

As you progress through the game, you'll gain virtue (experience) and money that can be used to customize and enhance your favorite fighters' abilities using a "skill plate" system similar to that in the first game. In case you're not familiar with the system, the idea is that you place skill "chips" on your "plate" like jigsaw pieces to activate them. The chips and plates come in all manner of irregular shapes, so even as you unlock larger plates later in the game you'll often be forced to choose between different abilities and attribute bonuses because you don't have room for everything--no matter how good your jigsaw or Tetris skills might be.

After spending a little time with Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2, it's hard to imagine that anyone who wasn't a fan of its predecessor will be won over by it. There are some new features, and the scope for customizing your characters appears to have increased, but the actual combat that makes up most of the gameplay feels largely unchanged. We look forward to bringing you more information on Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 just as soon as we're able to spend some quality time with a more finished version of the game.

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