Sept 4, 2007
Once again the Nine-Tailed Fox's marketing jutsu is in full swing, with yet another game for the long in the tooth PS2. The adventurous brawler is back, but you'd have to be well versed in all things Naruto if you want to tell the difference. Same as with Ultimate Ninja 2, it's an ever so slight upgrade on the original Uzumaki Chronicles. In other words: More stuff for the the fans, and not much else. You can switch out and play as multiple fighters on the fly, and a second player can jump in for a little two-player or co-op chicanery, but will anybody who doesn't own a Leaf Village headband going to care?
Speaking of the Ultimate Ninja series, we gotta wonder why Uzumaki Chronicles didn't adopt the artful, cel-shaded visuals of the fighting games. The graphical update is barely noticeable, hardly enough to keep the game from looking butt-ugly, or your thoughts away from purchasing a fancy new console. But that's something we could've easily accepted, as long as we're provided with ample time to bury our fists in baddies' faces. Not the case. In between guiding a Naruto icon across a typical map, enduring a lengthy cutscene, or sitting through many, many (many) load screens, you'll occasionally get to hit something.
When you do get the chance to throw down, pulling of combos is pretty bad ass. Timing all of the symbol buttons, in conjunctions with shoulder button jutsus is pretty damned great, even if the camera is a mess. Targeting doesn't really work, but that matters little since the gooey controls will eventually find you something to satisfyingly pound the snot out of. Where the camera flat out sucks, is the game's exploration and platforming aspects, and especially any thing that requires an accurate jump. Besides, the game should be about kicking ass and taking names, right? But the scant battles and handfuls of similar enemies make that a moot point.
It's unfortunate because Uzumaki Chronicles 2 has a nice little RPG system going for it. Fitting in skill chips like a puzzle to enhance abilities is cool, and leveling up the numerous characters is almost enough to justify the grind. That is, if it weren't for the orb collecting. Fallen enemies drop Virtue orbs, a la Kingdom Hearts, which you'll collect as XP to level up. But when you're not getting killed trying to get to them, they fall over ledges, scatter out of bounds, or in some cases, you'll accidentally hit an unmarked exit and leave them behind.
Instead of “believing it,” all of this had us screaming infinitely more profane varitions of “Fiddlesticks!” at the screen. Then, before we knew it - it was over. There aren't a lot of missions in Uzumaki Chronicles 2, but if you diehards feel like you can get some hours out the side missions and survival modes, then more power to ya.
You can't blame us for growing a little weary of the Naruto - we've played so many sparsely updated games of his as of late he should have his own damn genre. We're still anxiously awaiting his upcoming 360 outing Path of the Ninja, but with it's mediocre fighting, subpar platforming, and meager additions, Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is strictly for the fans. The only thing a causal fan will appreciate is they toned down the excruciatingly annoying soundbites. That, we do applaud.