"In a world where the majority of anime licenses produce software specially breed for the bargain bins, the Naruto name would appear to be something of an enigma. As if born under a lucky star, it has spawned a veritable cross-platform franchise of praise worthy games where so many other licenses have simply crashed and burned. From Bandai's outstanding Playstation2 entry to Tomy's range of Nintendo exclusives, the formula for success has always been universal. In fusing the innovative 3d fightin..."
In a world where the majority of anime licenses produce software specially breed for the bargain bins, the Naruto name would appear to be something of an enigma. As if born under a lucky star, it has spawned a veritable cross-platform franchise of praise worthy games where so many other licenses have simply crashed and burned. From Bandai's outstanding Playstation2 entry to Tomy's range of Nintendo exclusives, the formula for success has always been universal. In fusing the innovative 3d fighting action with a level of cel shaded excellence that can only be described as jaw dropping, Naruto's action packed style of ninja schlock comedy has struck a cord with gamers everywhere. It's then with an unheard of level of expectation that all eyes have turned to focus on Tomy's latest franchise entry for the Nintendo Gamecube, Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 2. By refining their first entry into the world of 3d licensed fighting, Tomy have set out to welcome a whole new legion of fans into the fold. And that of course means you! So, here's your shuriken cadet... it's time to practice your sexy jutsu...
I admit it, you're not like the others...
Even as a 12 year old student of ninjitsu, Uzumaki Naruto always stood out. Mischievous to almost maddening levels, his dream in life was to one day assume leadership of the legendary Hokage ninja clan. Though such a lofty goal may have always been difficult, Naruto's past sadly contains a secret so damning that it would seem to place his dreams permanently out of reach. For unbeknownst to him, he carries within his body the vengeful spirit of the Nine Tailed Demon Fox that ravaged the Konohagakure village 12 years ago. Ahh, talk about being unlucky. It's having completed his initial ninja cadetship that Naruto is instructed by the Hokage elders to embark upon a dangerous journey in order to fulfill an important village contract. Joined in this endeavor by his teacher Kakashi and fellow classmates, Sasuke and Sakura, Naruto must now complete his ninja training in the field while fighting off the forces of evil that have rallied against them... and if all that doesn't seem like fertile breeding ground for a world class 1on1 fighter then I simply don't know what does!
It's with this inherent wealth of background story that Naruto2 literally explodes onto the Gamecube. Owning up to many of the criticisms leveled at their original effort, Tomy have gone to great lengths in order to ensure that the same mistakes have not been repeated twice. By refining the combat system seen previously, Naruto2 has wisely kept the action simple enough for beginners to enjoy while injecting the all important special techniques that were until now missing in action. Though special moves are still launched by simply pointing the joypad in a certain direction and pressing a corresponding button, the ease of which they can be initiated makes the action feel incredibly fast and fluid. Those who dare to step it up a level however are sure to appreciate the intense juggling action and super cool counter attacks on offer. Now you see me... now you don't. While the auto-blocking and one button super attacks may make the game seem overly simplistic, Naruto2 none-the-less somehow manages to remain immensely enjoyable.
Of all the new techniques waiting to be exploited, perhaps the most innovative is Kankurou's unique form of puppet based ninjitsu. By maneuvering both the master and his puppet across a full 360 degree field of movement, some seriously devastating combo attacks can be dished out from multiple directions at the one time. Two ninja for the price of one, get'em while they're hot people! This is a truly innovative system made even the more remarkable by its inclusion in a fan specific title such as this. And who said you couldn't have your cake and eat it too? Of course that's not to say that the other characters are any less impressive. Far from it in fact! With 10 characters initially available and a further 10 waiting in the wings to be unlocked, players are sure to welcome Naruto2's new found variety. From the wickedly evil Gaara and his sand blasting fighting style to an alternative Naruto that utilizes the brute raw strength of the Nine Tailed Demon Fox, there is sure to be a fighting style here to suit all occasions.
The same of which could also be said of the numerous gameplay modes on offer. For yet again, Tomy have gone that extra mile required to give fans a more complete package. Complimenting the mandatory survival and time attack modes is an extended story option that drops players right smack-bang in the middle of the action. Classic encounters abound as players are given the opportunity to test their might across a series of 20 highly authentic encounters. Do you have what it takes to fight off both Haku and Zabuka high atop the *ah-hem* Uzumaki Naruto bridge? Well then, this is your chance to... whoa! Just a moment... that's 2on1 you say? In what is perhaps the most surprising addition to the gameplay, the classic 1on1 style of fighting has been opened up to accommodate up to 4 combatants at the one time. Though the concept sounds similar in style to the frantic action seen in Nintendo's own seminal classic, Super Smash Brothers Melee, Naruto2 keeps it real by maintaining thevery same look and feel that makes the single player experience so enjoyable.
Like its brothers before it, Naruto2 is a game that's been lovingly crafted with nothing but the finest of cel shaded graphics. Each and every character has been stunningly animated to the same high standards present in the TV series. Fluid and lifelike, they move with the simple yet elegant grace one has come to expect from a fully trained ninja. As knifes are flung and special jutsu based attacks are landed, the screen fills violently with an awe-inspiring level of light sourced pyrotechnics that wouldn't look out of place at a fireworks festival. Truly, cans of whoop-arse rarely look this good! Complimenting the excellent visual experience is an audioscape that is as authentic to the TV series as it is captivating. While it may be hard to believe, the original's already excellent soundtrack has been remixed to perfection. Traditional Japanese instruments have been blended with a modern style of heavy rock that at times seems both uniquely exotic and downright exhilarating. And lest we forget, the original voice actors have also returned to record the all important pre-fight taunts. Yes Ladies & Gentlemen, this is a package of pure and utter class...
Even after losing consciousness... you still strive to prove your ninja way...
What hurts Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 2 the most however also happens to be its greatest strength. The ease of which a new player can literally slide into the game and hold a challenge is truly beyond belief. From the juggling and counter attacks to the auto-blocking and single button super moves, Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 2's middle name would appear to be simplicity. Give it 2 minutes and you will understand the basics. An hour later however and you'll probably find yourself juggling like a clown on heat. Sadly enough, it's this pick-up-and-play style of action that will inevitably drive away the more hardcore of fighting fans. After all, what they want is a game that takes patience, skill and above all else dedication to master... Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 2 is not such a game. What it is though is fun! And that alone will be enough to convince a certain kind of gamer that this is going to be money well spent. If that sounds like you then what are you waiting for? There's a shuriken here with your name on it! As always, sometimes it really is the simple things in life that are often the best...
* The 20 character roster is a vast improvement over the original
* Many of the fighting styles present are 100% unique
* New game modes ensure that there is always something new to try
* 1on1, 2on1, 2on2, 3on1... someone tell Tomy this was supposed to be a traditional fighter!
* The simplistic controls are perfectly suited to keeping the action running hot and fast
* There's so much to unlock that the whole task seems almost daunting at times
* The screen literally exudes cel shaded goodness
* Each of the characters is perfectly representative of their 2d counterparts
* From Sound FX to the BGM tracks and samples... the audio experience is simply first class...
* It may still not be complex enough to satisfy the hardcore fighting crowd
* More than one super attack per character would have been appreciated, maybe next time?
Community review by midwinter (August 27, 2004)
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