Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 requires Zen-like patience and the same dedication ninjas exhibit during their training. Not because of a complex fighting mechanic or noob-destroying difficulty levels, but because of the colossal amount of boredom you’ll endure between the engaging stuff. If you approach Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 for what it is (an anime fighting game) then you’ll be fine. The problem arises when you have to play through the storyline in order to unlock any decent characters to fight with (only 18 of the 42 are available at the start).
Any review of Ninja Storm 2 would be remiss without mentioning the visuals because they really are gorgeous. From the beautifully painted backgrounds, meticulous village streets and hyper fluid fight scenes dripping with anime pizzazz, everything you encounter is a visual orgy of colour and attention to detail.
The “Grand Adventure” mode of Ninja Storm 2 has grand moments. The visuals ensure that you’ll feel like you’re playing a season of the anime series as the story arcs over six chapters with you taking control of various characters. Some of the more dramatic encounters with enemies are utterly amazing and quite a lot of fun.
It all sounds great so far: you have a visually stunning fighting game that features some awe-inspiring fight scenes. What more could you want? Well, it’s not so much a case of wanting “more” as it is a case of wanting “less”. In Ninja Storm 2’s case, less would definitely have been more. For a start, less mundane fluff between actual fights in the Grand Adventure would have made the overall experience far superior. The game tries hard to sidestep brevity in its six chapters by making players run backwards and forwards between the same locations over and over. What’s more, there are hundreds of useless items to collect that serve no purpose other than to satisfy various shops’ delivery requirements so as to unlock additional items. Granted, some of these items may prove useful in debuffing your opponents or boosting your own stats before going into a fight, but I honestly wouldn’t have bothered to collect anything had there not been an achievement for picking up 500 miscellaneous items. There’s nothing “Grand” about delivering toad oil to a supply shop; all it amounts to is bland filler to make the story mode seem longer.
And then there’s the reading. You will read thousands and thousands of lines of information, most of which could have been summarised into a five minute, playable tutorial. There are reams of irrelevant dialogue between characters and dozens of occasions when characters will “say” nothing but: “…………”. It’s all very anime-ish but that does not necessarily translate into compelling gameplay narrative. Had they opted to eschew the buckets of text and vapid scenes between certain characters, and rather focus on a few key cutscenes between fights, then the Grand Adventure would have been a much better experience.
Finally there’s the actual combat system; nearly all of my fights would dissolve into button mashing. I never had any tactics and the items I’d spent ages unlocking made no noticeable difference. I’d start a fight, rush towards an opponent, activate my character’s Chakra and pull off some Justu-infused moves. Of course all that actually entailed was hammering the Y button twice and then mashing B non-stop. Two buttons are pretty much all you’ll need to get through a fight. The blocking mechanic is useless because you cannot block an opponent after the first blow in their combo string (and some strings can go one for 30 plus hits) so if you miss that initial opening you’re screwed. If the tables are turned however and you floor opponent after a Jutsu move or devastating combo (B, B, B, B, B, B, B, B, B!) then you have to wait until they stand up before you can continue beating the hell out of them. Sometimes that takes about three seconds and the wait completely destroys any fluidity you may have generated in the combat.
It’s a pity the game forces you to play through the frustrating story mode. There is a good story to be found and some excellent fights to experience, but the boring fluff in between coupled with the dull combat system leaves much to be desired. Bypassing the story mode allows you to play two-player versus fights or single-player fights, but as previously mentioned you’ll need to slog through the story to get all 42 characters. There is an online versus mode for those of you who want to put your B-button-bashing skills to the test against online foes.