I was a huge fan of the original Naruto anime, so when the opportunity arose to review NS:UNS2 I used my strongest persuasion Jutsu – which I call ‘eyelash flutter of many distractions’ – to make sure I got the chance to play through it.
Now for a little back-story, although it will be greatly condensed as there is hundreds of animes worth of narrative to get through. Naruto Uzumaki isn’t just an ordinary child ninja; sealed inside of him is the most feared demon of them all, the Nine Tailed Fox, and because of this Naruto is ostracised by his fellow villagers who remember the devastation caused by this beast when it was free. What follows is Naruto’s tale of trying to gain acknowledgment, acceptance and ultimately trying to master the Nine Tail’s power to become the strongest ninja in history.
NS:UNS2 picks up three years after the original Ninja Storm finished. Naruto returns to the Hidden Leaf Village after three years of intense training with one of the legendary Sannin; the aptly named ‘Pervy Sage’. I’m trying to keep this review spoiler free, but needless to say that if you are a Naruto fan the story is as epic as they come, with the last chapter leaving me with my jaw firmly on the floor. The main thing I found with the anime is that it will make you hate the enemy with a passion for hours on end, and then the instant you find out about their past hate becomes compassion, and then guilt, and then sadness. This emotional rollercoaster carries over to the game well, with some events/revelations leaving me heartbroken, whilst others making me feel elated. Those who have never watched/read anything to do with Naruto may struggle slightly with this game. Although it is still perfectly playable, events lose their impact if motivations and back stories are unclear.
Visually the game is a veritable feast for the eyes which matches, and in some instances surpasses, the anime. Village scenes are chocked full of delightful little details, each matching the location; the cutscenes pick up the various ninja’s mannerisms and the battles look just as OTT as you would hope, with special Jutsus being flung about left, right, and centre. A good 98% of the time the game’s engine copes with all the mayhem without skipping a beat, but I did experience some slowdown when there were several characters on screen at one. The dialogue in the game is delivered with all the gusto, and at times menace, that Naruto fans have become accustomed to, so I have no complaints in that department.
At its heart NS:UNS2 is an arena based fighting game. Yes there are sections that give the illusion of exploration, but when you break it down you are simply running from one fight to the next. This is no bad thing though, as the fighting mechanic is fantastic. Every character has the basic kick/punch attacks, throws, dashes, and shurikens. Building up ‘Chakra’ throughout a fight allows you to unleash special moves such as Naruto’s ‘Rasengan’. These specials can also be tagged onto the end of other combinations allowing for some mind blowing moves. Then of course there are the ‘Ultimate Ninjustus’ – the best of the best in terms of power, style and pure “oh my gosh did I just do that?!”.
Fighting is very much a tactical affair, and knowing when to use what move is crucial. Timing is also key, as pressing the block button at just the right moment will see you teleport behind the enemy’s attack, allowing you to get in a few sneaky digs (or in fact, a super hyper mega death combo blast). ‘Battle Items’ also play an integral role, giving you the chance to stun opponents and slow them down, or in fact use them on yourself to gain a power/defensive boost. Some characters can also transform into an alternative version of themselves, gaining a massive power boost for a limited time. Deciding the best time to use this can easily turn a match in your favour, or see you waste it and get pummelled into the dirt.
Does that sound good enough for you? Well wait, there’s more! During certain fights you will have access to support characters, who you can summon into the arena to perform a one shot special attack. Once again brains rule over brawn, and knowing how to utilize your support characters is a must.
The battles throughout NS: UNS 2 are intense, and over the course of the game you will have taken control of dozens of familiar characters. Each main boss battle is a real test of skill, and varies nicely as they will transform into various incarnations and completely change the way you have to fight. It’s hard for me to convey without actually giving away plot points, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that you will not breathe when fighting some of the tougher opponents, and you won’t realise this until you have emerged victorious and let out a massive exhale. They are tough, epic and some of the best gaming moments I have experienced.
Not content with following the major story arcs, the game also packs in a number of side quests for you to do. Whilst these are ok, I found them to get a bit samey and to be honest all I wanted to do was find out what happened next in the main story. Still, these side quests are totally optional and well worth doing for completionists.
When the main game is done and dusted, you can move onto the ‘Free Play’ mode, which is essentially an entire fighter thrown in for free. Choosing from over 40 characters you can fight against the computer, or a friend. An immense addition.
Those who have a penchant for all things online fear not! The game allows you to participate in online battles, and they are an absolute joy. Trying to out-think another human opponent is so much fun, and when they fall for one of your traps the satisfaction is off the scale. Finding a ranked match was easy, and the online community seems to be thriving. Expect a tough challenge though, as some of the players are phenomenally good.
So now on to the negatives. You will see the word ‘loading’ far too many times in this game. Going between areas, between dialogues, at the start of fights; loading is everywhere! Granted, most never last longer than ten seconds, but it still begins to grate somewhat. There is also some frustrating back-tracking when you must make your way from one side of the village to the other for a cutscene, then go all the way back to where you’ve just come from. This happens far too often, leaving you to trudge back and forth wishing you were beating someone to death with a frustration Jutsu.
- Looks & sounds amazing
- An in-depth battle system
- Epic storyline
- 15 hours + long
- Lots of loading
- A bit too much back-tracking
Despite a few small niggles, NS:UNS2 impresses from first to last. The entire game radiates quality, and really does the Naruto story justice. This is one of the few games of 2010 that has hooked me in with its story and left me wanting to play more. If you are a Naruto fan just buy it, play it, and bask in its glory. I simply cannot wait for the third game, but until then I’ll catch you online; Team Lee for the win!
NS: UNS 2 is out now on PS3 & Xbox 360. Review copy was for the Xbox 360.