I'd like to start by saying that, while I used to be a fan of the original Naruto when I was younger, I have never cared for Shippuden, nor have I watched Naruto in recent years. I bought this game on a whim - I'd heard whispers of good things about it, and with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations' recent launch, this game was only $30, so I decided to take a chance. I'm glad I did.
Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is a 1 on 1 3D fighting game for the xbox 360 and the PS3 (the version used for this review is the xbox 360). Characters can move around in every direction as opposed to just back and forth, and facing one another. There are over 30 characters to use in the game, including a guest character from Tekken 6, Lars. Despite the large character roster, I found no real qualms about balancing. Pretty much every character is just as powerful as any other character, just with a different move set.
Most of these characters have to be unlocked.
Unlocking all of these characters may seem like a daunting task, but much like Super Smash Bros Brawl, there are 2 ways to go about it. Characters will be unlocked as you play through "Ultimate Adventure", the game's story mode. Alternatively, you can just fight online or against friends to collect battle points and unlock them.
There are two types of battles in UNS2. Single battle is as it sounds - you and your opponent select a single character to battle. the other option is Team battle. In this mode,each player picks 3characters. The first character selected will be the one you control, while the other 2 will be your support. You can call upon your support characters by pressing the shoulder button associated with them. This mechanic is similar to the Marvel vs Capcom series, only you can't actually switch to these characters.
Unlike most fighting games, there are no rounds in this game. Instead, each fighter has 2 life bars - a green bar, and an orange bar underneath that. The first fighter to have both bars drained loses. It's an excellent mechanic that makes battles a little bit more intense.
This game has a very simple control scheme that is easy enough for newcomers to learn, but deep enough for the hardcore to develop interesting strategies. The B button is your primary attack button. Pressing it repeatedly will result in a simple combo, but combining it with different directions during, before, or after certain inputs will result in a different attack. The X button will throw a projectile, such as a shuriken or Kunai depending on your characters. The A button is how you jump and doge, and the trigger buttons are how you block. Pressing a trigger as well as B will initiate a grab. Also, tapping guard as soon as you are hit will activate substitution jutsu, teleporting you behind your opponent. Finally, the Y button is the chakra button. It can be held to charge up your chakra guage, which special attack use up. By pressing the chakra button in combination with other buttons, you power up that attack. For example, pressing chakra and attack will use a special jutsu, or pressing chakra and them jump will let you dash swiftly to your opponent no matter how far away you are. One you have been drained of enough health, you may also hold the Chakra button until it is fully charged, and you will transform. For example, Kakashi goes into Sharingan mode, Sasuke enters curse mark, etc. Finally rappidly tapping the chakra button until chakra engulfs your body and pressing attack will activate your ultimate jutsu. It this alnds, it will do devastating damage.
When an ultimate jutsu lands, the game enters a pseudo cutscene. It is a really cool dynamic, and really makes you feel like you're watching the anime. In fact, at times this game feels more like a Naruto battle simulator than a game, and that's just awesome. This is especially true during boss fights in Ultimate Adventure.
Ultimate Adventure is the story mode in this game. It mixes the standard fighting game elements already present with light adventure RPG elements. You will explore the overworld with various characters (most often Naruto) and collect items, complete quests to earn money, and buy new items and abilities. Many of the backgrounds in this mode are literally ripped from the anime, and it looks amazing. It took me several hours to realize that they were prerendered and that the characters were walking on backgrounds from the show. It just blends so well, and looks so natural that you don't notice.
Each chapter of the story is, in true video game fashion, concludes with an epic boss battle. These battles start off as normal fights, and then afterward they shift into a true boss battle where dodging and strategy is key. Finally, they end with a cutscene consisting of timed button presses and quicktime events.
The story starts at the very beginning of Shippuden, and continues to the end of the Pain arc. Once the story has been completed, you can still continue to play and complete various sidequests as well as build your relationships with other characters to unlock story events related to them.
This is the first UNS game to take the battles online. The large, balanced character roster ensures that you will have plenty of variety, but if you don't have really good internet you are out of luck. The game moves at such a fast pace, and such a bad net code that if you have a mediocre IP, you will be disconnected constantly. If you somehow do make it through a battle, it will be extremely laggy. However, if you have a really good internet provider (such as my friend who allowed me to use his internet to play) you're in for a treat. Players are generally mature (surprisingly enough) and the battles are much more intense when you are putting human wit against human wit instead of trying to outsmart a CPU. If you're looking for a cheaper fighter with lots of characters, depth, and great mechanics, give this is a look even if you aren't a Naruto fan. If you're willing to dish out a few more bucks, however, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations just came out. I haven't played it, so I can't say how it compares but if it keeps the same elements, it must be amazing.