Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 Hands-On

The second chapter of the Uzumaki Chronicles promises the same accessible action as the first, but with a more involved plot.

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For those of you steeped in the cartoon ninja lore of the anime show Naruto, we have good news: Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is dashing its way toward retail shelves with the look and feel of a playable episode. From what we saw, the game doesn't depart too drastically from its predecessor, the first chapter in the Uzumaki Chronicles. You still sock and bop enemies on your quests for the leaf ninjas (this is a third-person beat-em-up at heart), but the game's commitment to telling the contents of a good ninja scroll seems brand new.

The story begins when four scary-looking robots scheme in the barely lit darkness of a cave--you can tell by their sinister, gravely voices that they're up to no good. The chief beastie, a mechanical-looking lizard, informs the others that with the power of the five spirit orbs, they will be able to resurrect the Master Puppet, an oxymoron of sinister proportions. And shock of all shocks, they already have four of them!

Sakura has the bad guys falling all over themselves.
Sakura has the bad guys falling all over themselves.

Meanwhile, Naruto discovers that Hidden Leaf Village is under attack by puppet ninjas! After fighting them off with the help of Kakashi, the lizard appears and ingeniously informs them all of his diabolical plans:

Lizard: Do you have the spirit orb?
Ninjas: What's a spirit orb?
Lizard: The thing I need to bring doom to you all! So, you don't have it?
Ninjas: What?!
Lizard: Nevermind (disappears)

Yep, that's Naruto alright. After learning that evil puppets are after the final spirit orb, your ninja team hatches a plan to cut the strings on their villainous efforts. This mostly involves beating up scores of bandits and puppet ninjas, as well as saving the villages damaged by the puppets in the course of their search. In one early level, a village has been set aflame; Naruto and company must clear out the remaining bandits while fighting the fire.

You can always do battle as the eponymous Naruto, but at any given point, you'll also have two comrades you can instantly switch to with the push of a button. Usually, you can switch between Sakura and another, such as Sasuke or Neji. All have roughly the same controls: a light attack, strong attack, a few power attacks, and shuriken. But switching between them now and then definitely keeps the corpses you leave behind feeling fresher.

You aren't limited to one path either. You'll frequently have several missions to choose from, and you'll travel to them via a map screen complete with random bandit encounters, just like in the first game. On top of that, you'll be able to spend points you earn in battle to increase your attributes. Even though it's a beat-em-up, this game could have a role-playing game core.

It's like a rave on his face, and his brain's not invited.
It's like a rave on his face, and his brain's not invited.

You wouldn't think so to look at it though; Naruto looks and acts like an action game through and through. The graphics look much like those of the previous game, with a smooth frame rate and cool-looking light effects on the super moves. It's not the best looking game we've seen all month, but it's not bad for a PlayStation 2 game.

But few games can boast this much quality voice acting because this one has tons of spoken dialogue, all of which is delivered by the cartoon's voice actors. The result is a game that feels like a playable episode.

Whether it's worth 30 minutes of your time--or a week--will not be known until the game is released in September. But it looks like Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 will have all the charm, personality, and blade-bending action of the show right at your fingertips, just like a ninja puppet waiting for its master.

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