Whenever I get a fighting game, the first thing I do is check the default roster. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 gives players a decent starting selection. Sauske, Naruto, and most of his same aged Leaf Ninja friends are unlocked, but if you want to play say anyone of the Akatsuki or Sage Naruto you have to play through the "Ultimate Adventure" story mode.
Compared to the previous game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has less fetch quests and you don’t have to run around Konoha searching for Konohamaru if you don’t want to. That’s an optional side mission now. CyberConnect2 packed the single player mode with more of what people bought the game for, Naruto-style fights. The downside is the "world" is a beautiful looking hallway. You can’t jump around Konoha or throw kunai at barrels anymore. The only thing that interrupts players from running from one fight to the next are mushrooms, broken logs, and the occasional rabbit. All of these have items for Naruto to gather, which he can give to shops to create ninja tools.
Sasuke’s "missions" were the games nadir. After running down through a bunch of screens to recruit team Taka, players have to run back up the exact same screens to complete the story.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 makes up for all the forest running marathons with excellent boss fights. CyberConnect2 captured the grandiose spirit of the anime so you’ll pull off impossible moves and fight giant… enemy crabs. A few points in the story mode Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 turns into a rail shooter too. Each fight is accented with quick time events for dramatic Rasen Shurikens and finishing blows. Hit all of these on time and you’ll see a secret movie that flesh out the back story behind the attack. Some of these secret scenes have an artificial film grain, a nice touch for flashbacks.
To summarize, Ultimate Adventure’s flow is like this: run, run, pray to statue, found sticky sap x 3, run, minor battle, run, run, run, memorable boss fight. I finished Ultimate Adventure over the weekend and it took roughly ten hours to complete. Unfortunately, you don’t unlock all of the characters that way. I won’t say who, but some favorites require additional work.
The heart of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 are the fights. If you played Ultimate Ninja Storm you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. This game assigns one button for ranged weapons (needles/shuriken) and another for attacks. Mash the strike button, maybe press a direction with the analog stick, and you’ll do a combo. Another button charges chakra, which can be used to perform iconic jutsu moves, charge up throwing weapons or the extremely useful chakra dash. The system sounds simple, but Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2’s is a bit more complex. You can activate a substitution justu to evade an attack and get behind your opponent by pressing guard right before an enemy attack. Fights with experienced players at some point turn into substitution battles.
CyberConnect2 tweaked the system a bit by removing analog stick spinning and button sequences for ultimate jutsus. The animations are much shorter now too compared to previous Ultimate Storm game. Partner characters play an increased role because of the support gauge. Fill it up by calling partner characters and allies will automatically jump out for team attacks or act as a human shield while you’re charging chakra. Keep calling your partner characters and you’ll build up to a team ultimate jutsu move. Fights, especially with computer controlled characters, tend not to get to the point where you need to use it, though.
The biggest addition to Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is online play. Battles are smooth, but one problem the game has is matchmaking. Finding lobbies is easy, but connecting to them can be difficult, roughly than 20% canceled a connect on Xbox Live. This is something I wonder if CyberConnect2 or Namco Bandai will address in the future.
Aside from SP grinding, CyberConnect2 did another fantastic job handling the Naruto series from the style (it’s a playable anime) to fanservice (there’s a special costumes to unlock, one in particular one for Naruto).