Naruto Clash of Ninja 2
Anime fighters are a dime a dozen now and several publishers are scrambling for licenses in an effort to squeeze more money out of otaku. Next to Dragon Ball Z, Naruto seems to be the hot commodity coming from Japan now so it's not very surprising that the GameCube got the latest sequel. Anime games have done well on Nintendo's console and while not every one of them is worth checking out; this one is.
Based on the franchise and loosely following the story from the manga and anime. In case you don't know what Naruto is all about it's quite simple really. There is this ninja village and a young boy named Naruto lives there. He aspires to be the greatest of all ninja and with help from the demon fox spirit living inside of him he takes big steps on that road. He's joined by teammates Sasuke and Sakura and each episode showcases them fighting some bad guy or learning something. It's a timeless concept that kids love though the quality of the storytelling works well for older audiences as well.
Gameplay:The nice thing about Naruto: Clash of the Ninja 2 that separates it from other anime fighting games is that you don't necessarily have to be a fan of the show to enjoy it. The gameplay designed by Eighting (Bloody Roar) actually revolves around the fact that this is a game (go figure). With the fighting structure built from the ground up it's about as solid an experience as you're ever going to find. Sure it's not Soul Caliburů caliber, but it's certainly better 70% of the rest of the genre.
When you first fire up the game you could go into the Training Mode to learn the basics and see what Clash of the Ninja 2 is all about. I personally didn't bother with that and dove straight into the Story Mode.
Instead of presenting a story for each character though there is a singular plot that revolves around Naruto. Just about every character gets involved and you play as a myriad of ninja throughout the course of this mode. This offered a nice change of pace compared to other anime games which feature a single story for each character. It keeps things more accessible in the long run though it does kind of limit the replayability of the mode. Some bits matches involving three on one and other variations on the gameplay were also a welcome addition. The difficulty escalated immensely after I cleared a couple hurdles though and it got pretty frustrating. It came to the point where I had to put the controller down and take a breather so younger players might get a little dejected.
Other modes bring stuff like straight versus, survival, time trial, and a four player brawl to the table. Out of these hooking up with three buddies to play a game is easily the best experience that you're going to get out of this title. The time that you'll spend fighting the CPU is fine and dandy but after a while it becomes predictable and dry. Having four players duke it out with an abundance of random insanity is truly where Clash of the Ninja 2 shines.
Of course a good game mode would be nothing without solid gameplay. In that regard Clash of the Ninja 2 delivers with a simple to get into yet difficult to master fighting style. Each match becomes a bout of frantic flips and twitchy reactions as you'll pound on the controller yet gracefully pull of a counter all in the span of a second. Two buttons attack, one throws, and another does a special move.
Shoulder buttons are used exclusively for dodging though when pressed at the right time they allow you to use substitution ninja magic to avoid damage. The beauty of this technique is that you also perform a counter attack in the process if you time it right. Once you and your opponent start whipping out the shoulder button maneuvers the fight escalates and can be very intense. It's also good to see that the implementation of this feature was done fluidly and without pause during the flow of gameplay.
My only real complaint about the control itself is that each of the characters basically operates the same. Some of the moves are a little different but each fighter is essentially the same. There are a few that break the mold but they do so at the expense of balance. Don't be surprised if you find your buddies constantly picking one of the super characters while you try to diversify things.
Balance issues, frustrating AI, and somewhat limited modes aside Naruto: Clash of the Ninja 2 is a solid anime fighter. In fact, next to the Dragon Ball Z Budokai I'd say it's probably one of the best that I have played. Whether you're a Naruto fan or not giving this game a spin is a pretty good idea if you are looking for a decent brawler.
Predictably and sensibly Naruto: Clash of the Ninja 2 utilizes cel-shading to craft its world of ninja mysticism. For the most part the visuals are solid with smooth animation, vibrant colors, and innovative environments. There are times when the action can get to be a little too intense but others where it flows so well that you'd swear you were watching a fight from the anime.
A couple complaints of mine involved clipping with the cel-shaded effects and regurgitated bits from the first Clash of the ninja. It's not necessarily a bad thing because the game does look gorgeous but from a creative standpoint there's something to be said for building things from the ground up. Still, this is a good looking game and one of the more pleasing anime titles on the GameCube.
From front to back this game is covered with sounds from the Naruto anime. Voice actors lend their talent for hours of dialogue and the music has been pulled straight from the show's soundtrack. As with most any fighter listening to the game can get a little old after a while but the action will keep you so distracted you probably won't care. This is a great production overall and will definitely keep fans of the series happy.
It may not be the most technical fighter on the market but Naruto: Clash of the Ninja 2 certainly packs a punch. Despite its flaws this is a solid experience but it's one that you'll enjoy more with some buddies to beat up on. The single player game is good though I found the CPU to be a little frustrating at times. There's nothing worse than cruising through a game only to hit a brick wall along the way with no rhyme or reasoning behind it.
If you are going to be the only one playing the game then I'd say it deserves a rental but if you have some friends who are itching for a fight then this is a solid purchase. The four player matches are some of the best that I have ever played, particularly for this genre. Either way though this is a fun title that D3 and Eighting should definitely get attention for.