After reviewing so many Naruto games, you’d think that I’d be cynical. But no. I’m not. The main complaint I’ve had with so many anime license game is that they’re lazily made. They just round up a bunch of content, slap it on a disk or cartridge, translate the text (or, in some especially bad cases, just remove all the text) and go from there. But with the recent announcement about Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 being redesigned in America for improved balance, a bigger cast, and enhanced gameplay designed with tourney players in mind, and now the enhanced version of Naruto: Path of Ninja 2 for the Nintendo DS…I can’t help but feel moderately excited. About a license game. It’s a strange feeling, indeed.
I was fairly scathing in my review for the first Path of Ninja. I openly criticized the stale gameplay, simplistic battle system, mediocre effort put into translating the show into a handheld RPG, and silly character management system. From what I’ve seen of Path of Ninja 2, though, all of this got a massive upgrade. So let me tell you the improvements in that order! Stale gameplay? A massive cast of characters (thirty playable characters total) and nice benefits, strengths and weaknesses associated with each character on an individual basis keeps the game from becoming boring. Simplistic battle system? The movement system got revamped and there’s a character-swap option that should add some nice strategic elements to the fighting. Silly character management system? The new “ninja tag” system allows a nice level of character customization, which includes teaching new techniques, boosting stats and tweaking resistances to elements.
While that alone would’ve been a huge step forward, it’s nowhere near the end of the list of improvements. Path of Ninja was actually a modestly-enhanced GBA game, with the same graphics and battle system of a GBA game, but some bare-bones touch screen features were tossed in to make it pass as a DS game. Path of Ninja 2, however, has some seriously impressive graphics, all things considered, with some legitimately nice-looking presentation (outside the still-terrible out-of-battle sprites). Sound gets a similar upgrade, with from-the-show music being more faithfully translated to Path of Ninja 2 than in the original. All of which helps push the new story, focusing on Naruto and co. fighting against a bunch of ninjas trying to summon some demons to wreak havoc (which is, by the way, a unique story taking place after the Sasuke disappearance, but before the age-jump).
Perhaps the most interesting new feature is a legitimate Wi-Fi battle mode. I’ve never heard of a single-player-emphatic (that is, non-MMO) RPG actually tackling versus multiplayer (save for something that kind of sounded like that in the semi-sequel to Final Fantasy X which never came to America, but there is likely one or two I missed in the last few years), which I find to be genuinely unique and, potentially, very entertaining. Details are yet to be stamped out, though. What we do know is that it will take place in a fight like in the single player, and there will be both random and friend matchmaking. At this moment, it's still a work in progress with things like a Pokemon Diamond/Pearl-style scaling system (where each player’s Pokemon were scaled to level 100) and other enhancements to the norm for online play, yet to become completely hammered out.
Naruto: Path of Ninja 2 is lined up to hit stores in September. Check back with MyGamer for the full review, later this year.