The demo for this fall’s release of Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 is out now on Xbox Live and PSN. It’s the first time that the Ultimate Ninja series will be released on the Xbox 360, so I was interested to see how it ran in comparison to Ubisoft’s rival franchise Naruto: The Broken Bond.
The demo takes players through Kakashi’s bell test, an event situated near the start of the anime’s Shippuuden arc. Naruto and Sakura need to capture two bells from their teacher in a two versus one brawl. It’s a memorable moment from the anime and does a good job of showcasing how the fighting engine looks and feels.
The visuals are fantastic. The cel-shaded character models easily outstrip Naruto: The Broken Bond and occasionally look even better than the show’s original source material. The environments are full of colour and detail, making them a joy to play through. If the rest of Konoha looks this good, I can see myself easily losing hours and hours in the village.
The fighting takes place on a three dimensional plane, allowing players to dodge and move with full control. Most of the attacks are very simple to perform, automatically homing in towards the opponent. Naruto’s melee attacks can be strung together with just a few mashes of the B/circle button, with more complex ‘chakra’ techniques being used with Y/triangle and an additional face button. It’s easy to get into and quickly allows you to look like an experienced ninja. It’s hard to tell just how deep the combat can go at this stage.
There are some fantastic cinematic moments which show off the CG team at CyberConnect2. They boil down to simple quick time events, varying the amount of damage depending on how quick you are to press the appropriate buttons. It adds a larger sense of scale to the battles and often finishes the fight on a high.
Once you’ve defeated Kakashi once, the fight opens up into a boss arena. Here you’ll need to regularly dodge his more powerful attacks, waiting for the moment to summon Sakura (who acts as a support character) and then follow up with your own attacks. It requires a surprising amount of tactics and forces you to memorise boss patterns in a style similar to The Legend Of Zelda.
CyberConnect2’s take on the world of Naruto looks very impressive. Everything feels fast paced, beautiful and most importantly – fun. With a strong story mode and online play confirmed this time around, I’m confident this will manage to please all fans of the animé and manga.