Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden

PS2 series installment still packs a chakra-infused punch

You might be wondering what the fuss is about over a yet-to-be-released title that already sounds like old news - Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 is a PS2 installment, Japan%26rsquo;s had the game for a couple of years now, and PS3%26rsquo;s Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm came out last year. We liken Ultimate Ninja 4 to an old friend come back %26mdash;sure, it%26rsquo;s an old friend who wants you to turn him on and play with him, but never fear, it%26rsquo;s a PG-relationship and you won%26rsquo;t have to change your Facebook status to the questionable %26ldquo;It%26rsquo;s Complicated%26rdquo; %26mdash; with some new tricks up his sleeves.

Indeed, just as in the anime, Naruto Shippuden picks up a couple of years after the young ninja has left his home in the Hidden Leaf Village to train with his new tutor, super-ninja and %26ldquo;super-pervert%26rdquo; Jiraiya, and Naruto is now older, more powerful and still as upbeat as ever.

The game is split into several modes. The main quest occurs in the RPG-esque Master Mode, divided into story arcs from the first dozen or so episodes from Shippuden, with teenaged Naruto exploring a 3D world filled with missions, jobs and items. The characters are cel-shaded and the environments nicely rendered, especially the familiar village areas. A minor complaint here would be lack of free camera movement in some parts, like in the villages. There are also real-time battles. These tend to get a bit tedious and we wished the various goons didn%26rsquo;t take quite so long to put down. Still, as you gain experience, you learn new moves, which keeps things interesting.

Meanwhile, fights of the 2D persuasion, a staple of the Ultimate Ninja series, will interject into the story and missions every now and then. Those well versed in the series will find the controls nearly the same %26mdash; pulling off relatively simple but fun to execute combos and jutsu techniques %26mdash; with some new additions to mix things up. The biggest change: the mid-battle minigames that occur if the two fighters dash into one another or they use their regular jutsu moves at the same time, which usually involve a combination of on-screen button prompts and accurate timing to decide the victor.

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