When the original Naruto: Ultimate Ninja jump kicked onto the scene, any one with the eensiest interest in fighting games and/or advanced ninja education took notice. Trading cel-shaded licks with your favorite characters proved to be slick, easy to pick up, and surprisingly fun. Ask our own Brett Elston, he believed it. And many of you reading this review will be happy to know that Ultimate Ninja 2’s sequel treatment gives those who cared for the first game that much more to love.
If you thought the original Ultimate Ninja tipped the scales with its heaping helping of fan service, hold on to your headbands, because UM2 has plenty more in store. First of all the character roster has been more than doubled to over thirty playable fighters - though a handful are variations on the same character. Each is distinct and a breeze to control, the Circle button acting as your primary mode of attack. If you think that kind of minimal approach to throwin' 'bows is too limiting, go play a bout of Super Smash Bros and calm the hell down.
Also back are the face-mangling, soul-shattering Chakra moves that intersperse the 2.5-D, multi-tiered arena action. But when we say “they’re back” we mean a lot of the same techniques from the first game. Any hoo, below your health bar you’ve got a regenerating Chakra meter, which you can also charge yourself, or more satisfyingly, beat it out of your opponent. To the game's credit, even the returning players are adorned with some flashy new moves, and with all the new characters, there’s still plenty of new cinematic brutality to be unleashed.
Either by hitting a prompted string of buttons, spinning the analog stick, or rapid tapping, there’s more than one way to deliver the pain, and defend against damage, in these tweaked and twitchy battles. Have a look at the new ninjutsus to see just what we're babbling about.
But it’s the Ultimate Road mode that’ll give Naruto devotees reason to rejoice. Here, the nine-tailed fox struts around his Leaf village overworld, interacting with the show's cast and triggering plot-driven brawls. Even if the added minigames aren’t your thing, this is where the revered storyline unfolds, plus you’ll get to familiarize yourself with UM2 ’s robust line-up by playing as multiple characters through the game’s 60 or so missions. You’re given different criteria for winning fights - maintain health, surviving for time, defeat so-and-so using a level 3 Chakra move - and it adds a layer of challenge beyond simply landing hits.
Progression will unlock new characters in the two player Vs. Duel mode, and you can now upgrade character's stats in the manner of your choosing. Uber fans will also dig the money you can put towards purchasing an assortment of goodies, like figurines, videos and music - all viweable within the comfortable confines of Naruto’s house.
However immersive the side games and fetch quests may be to the Naruto experience, they’re hardly the thing that’ll have you and your buddies talking. Once again, it’s the game’s core fighting system that'll prove most memorable, even if it’s been largely unchanged since the first game. The frantic combo melee is as comfortable as ever, but damn, the loud and repetitive soundbites will annoy the uninitiated, punish parents, and possibly send the most devout fan to the nearest mute button.