I know I am. Are you? Because you should be. After gushing all over the last two Ultimate Ninja games, I think it might be time for the Nintendo-based Clash of Ninja series to blossom into the proverbial beautiful young woman we all (and by “we all” I mean "I" ) knew it could be. While I’ve consistently believed that the Clash of Ninja series has better gameplay, the barely-above mediocre quality of the gameplay was overshadowed by the great presentation of the Ultimate Ninja games, which led me to brand Ultimate Ninja 3 as the best Naruto game. But damn it, it’s looking like CONR2 could be a legitimately good game, rather than being the industry’s equivalent of the prettiest girl in England.
One of my biggest criticisms of past Clash of Ninja games (and one of my higher praises for Ultimate Ninja 3) was the story mode. Clash of Ninja Revolution’s story mode was a series of battles with old-school, RPG-style, text-based conversations accompanied with static portraits of the characters. CONR2, however, has a new story which is, get this, written IN AMERICA, and fleshed out in CGs. Included in this story will be four NEW CHARACTERS (like, totally new, as in the upcoming game is their first appearance ever). The game will also feature three new characters from the anime making their first appearance in the game (while our pals over at Tomy had their proverbial poker faces on, Youtube seems to suggest the three are Anko, Asuma and Kurenai). What Tomy was completely tight-lipped about, however, was any details about the actual story. All we know is that, like the upcoming Naruto: Path of Ninja 2, it takes place between Sasuke’s desertion of the Village and the beginning of the Shippuden series. While silly anime “experts” will be quick to say “OMG NOT FRMO JAPAN LAMEZORZ LOL,” I’m personally looking forward to seeing what a bona fide American story in an anime series will end up like.
While the story stuff was the biggest change, the best change easily goes to the gameplay. As I detailed in the preview for this game, CONR2 was going to get a serious overhaul, courtesy of a group of high-level tourney players giving input on what needs changing. The result is something I’m especially looking forward to. The first is how the stage transitions and obstacles are now able to be removed from the game. I always thought the stage transitions were silly, and that they were trying to arbitrarily one-up Dead or Alive, while the obstacles were absolutely nothing but annoyances, so seeing both of these gone is a pretty good upgrade in itself. But I wouldn’t be this psyched up if this was just CONR1 with a couple things missing. The big thing about CONR2 is that they’re putting a great deal of effort into making the game competitively sound. They’ve got tournament players helping them remove glitches, get rid of those pesky back-around unblockables and they’re STILL balancing the game! I always drool at the prospects of fighting games that hold up to the level of tournament play, and the fact I'm saying this about a license game speaks volumes about how much I like this game. There are also expanded Wii remote controls…but you should just use the Cube controller.
The graphics, however, remain the same with nice-looking cell-shaded characters fighting in uninspired, single-plane levels. This isn’t really bad, however, since the graphics still do look quite good, and the Wii doesn’t really have the technical muscle to make them look much better in any sort of cost-effective way. The voice acting, as expected, will once again be coming from the same crew who do the dubbed anime and all the other Naruto games. It’s looking like Ultimate Ninja Storm for the PS3 is going to be the place to go if you want flashy graphics, but CONR2 is looking like it will have a whole hell of a lot more in terms of quality gameplay. (Random note: No Shippuden Characters will be in it, and there will be no Japanese voice option. So too bad, anime elitists.)
Despite the somewhat-dated graphics (simply because we’ve seen them in four games now), Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 is looking like it will be the best Naruto game yet. No release date is set yet, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. Check back with MyGamer when the review comes out.