Again, I play a Naruto game and again, I’m impressed with how well these games are developing. When was the last time a barrage of games based on an anime series actually got better with each installment, especially when they’re about fifteen games deep? I know, I know. I don’t think an anime series has ever HAD fifteen games made about it (except for that VILE Yu-Gi-Oh! series), but these games are just getting better with time.
The latest Naruto game is Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress on the PSP. A couple weeks ago, I gushed over how much I enjoyed Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 on the PS2, for its superb presentation, despite the silly fighting system, and Ninja Heroes 2 is very enjoyable in a similar way. The gameplay is virtually identical to all the other Ultimate Ninja games, as it is still the same button-mashing “My First Fighter” kind of game that can only really be really taken seriously by somebody yet to play a Street Fighter or legitimate fighting game. However, the simplicity lends itself well to handheld gaming, making Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 fit in perfectly as a PSP game. More importantly, the game plays exactly the same as the console versions. It has huge levels, solid graphics, fast-paced gameplay and a load of features you wouldn’t associate with a license game ported onto a handheld.
Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 is not without its problems, however. That six up top in the Curve category is because of the Mugenjo Mode. Mugenjo Mode is the game’s unique story mode where a gigantic phantom castle called “The Mugenjo” has suddenly appeared atop the Hidden Leaf Village that Naruto and company live in. The castle saps all the life out of the surrounding area, causing people to drop dead (though they dance around the word “death,” as is protocol with games for kids) and all the foliage to rot. In Mugenjo Mode, Naruto and his crew must ever-so-gradually creep to the top of the castle, which ends up being ONE-HUNDRED STORIES TALL. AND YOU HAVE TO CLIMB EVERY SINGLE FLOOR! And how do you have to climb this you ask? A series of mini-games (including Ninja Slots, Ninja Three Card Monte, Ninja Simon and Naruto Trivia), and random battles, of course! While normally these modes aren’t too bad, as there is actual fighting to do, a pretty good number of the characters must be unlocked by completing this stupidly long story…and then you have to do it again after that! I stressed this point in my review of Clash of Ninja Revolution on the Wii, but it’s worth repeating again; I SHOULD NOT NEED TO UNLOCK CHARACTERS IN FIGHTING GAMES! Do I have to win a Super Bowl as the Jets in Madden before I can play as the Dolphins? No. And it’d be stupid for EA to do so! So why, oh why, must I complete the story mode before I can play as Sasuke? Outside of that, though, Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 is still a very solid game.
While CyberConnect did a great job in Ultimate Ninja 3of making the game look absolutely spectacular in and out of battle, they didn’t do quite as well in Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2. While the levels are very well-made, the characters look jagged, and the presentation is not especially impressive. However, the game still looks pretty good relative to PSP games, and works within the system’s limits extraordinarily well. The sound is probably the single most impressive aspect of the game. Unlike most PSP games, the entire game is voice acted by the real life voice actors from the shot; the battles, the mini-games , the conversations…everything! While the presentation of Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 isn’t up to the same level of the PS2 versions, its raw graphics and quality voices put it above most of its PSP comrades.
So, is this game worth a purchase? In my opinion, any person looking for a quality PSP fighter should give it more than a quick look. Though $40 is a steep price for a handheld game, this is quite a fun game with plenty of Naruto value. Naruto fans can buy this with confidence. Battling single-disk multiplayer is also something worth considering adds appeal to those seeking some competitive fun. If you're looking for a serious fighting game, check out Guilty Gear Judgment, Street Figher Alpha and the upcoming SNK titles. But if you just want some fun, this is worth trying out.