Yup. Fourth Clash of Ninja game. Sixth Naruto fighting game I’ve played, and my fifth one reviewed. And while I keep saying they’re getting better all the time, I’m not giving them the scores to back this up. And while this is, on the whole, is still an all-around solid game, it has several flaws from making it the great game it could be, and it may not even be the Naruto game to get this Christmas season.
One of the big things I was talking about when previewing this game the last couple months was how it actually had totally, 100%, made-in-America content. An incredible endeavor by any standards for an anime license game. The new story mode has very…unimpressive presentation, to phrase it generously. The story, while impressive on its own, introducing several interesting new characters, was done with very little artistry. Things unfold with plain-and-simple still-frame pictures accompanied by dialogue, classic RPG-like “everyone’s-portrait-facing-the-camera” conversations and brief CGs of the in-battle renders of the characters standing around, and occasionally walking and/or falling. Coupled with the crappy presentation, the whole thing just stank of laziness in the way it unfolds, devoting the entire first half of the story to Naruto, Kakashi and (for some inexplicable reason) Gaara systematically beating up every other ninja they could find. While the story is supposed to be about an attack on the Leaf Village by a renegade ninja from the ANBU, and a weapon dealer trying to destabilize the region to turn a profit, the characters you end up fighting are almost exclusively established Hidden Leaf genin (that is, young’un ninjas). So I’ve gotta say…while I was very pumped-up about the idea of a story made-in-America, I was disappointed (but not especially surprised, in retrospect) by the way it ended up.
All that said, the game definitely feels significantly more refined and tame (in a good way) than any other game in the series, and plays just a little bit like Virtua Fighter in terms of speed and pacing, but it still handles simply and remains very accessible. Character balance is notably improved, with none of the 60% damage combos that can be done from a jab found in the earlier titles and, at least according the publisher, has had the annoyances like glitches and stupid unblockables removed. Additionally, there are all the same game modes, as well as a new tag team setup, like the one from Dead or Alive. However, there is no online play, which is basically a necessity for fighting games at this point, and destroys the value rating for the game.
The character roster is easily the best yet, with over thirty character to choose from, made up of basically the entire surviving cast in the anime up to this point (sorry to the Zabuza and Haku players), including some characters not introduced in game series in Japan until the EX titles (like Kurenai and Asuma) as well as some of the more significant characters who, for whatever reason, never made the cut until recently (like Kabuto and Baki). Probably the single most impressive thing in the entire game is how well-made the new characters are. There are four totally new characters, made by Tomy for this game, being Bando, Kagura, Towa and Komachi. Bando and Kagura are the game’s two main villains, and have probably the coolest move sets in the game. Bando fights using two cannon-sized guns strapped to his back and has slow, powerful moves that can launch and absolutely annihilate opponents, while Kagura uses kunai-on-strings and does some crazy Spider-Man stuff with swinging around and binding opponents. There are also two new heroes added to the game in Towa and Komachi who wear the ANBU gear often seen on the show, including the animal masks, cuirasses and swords. Towa fights using seriously quick, low-damage moves, but can bust out Wolverine (from the X-Men) claws and use his sword. Komachi uses slick teleportation abilities and can do some slick combinations using projectiles. There are also two non-original characters who make their debut in the series in Yugao Uzuki (she’s Hayate’s ANBU girlfriend? Kakashi talks to her at the Third Hokage’s funeral?) who has the coolest moves in the game, with numerous badass aerial combos. There’s also Baki, the guy who is Gaara and company’s teacher (sort of?) who is the least unique of the new guys but still a respectable character.
The biggest problem for Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 ultimately goes back to its graphics. It is still using the same art and renders that it had all the way back in the original Clash of Ninja on the Gamecube. Everything’s just dated, and doesn’t stack up particularly well against even Wii games (never even mind PS3 and Xbox 360 games) and is even worse if you’re playing on an HDTV. Sound remains the same from most games; standard voice actors from the show and some mainstays in the voice acting biz filling in the gaps for the new characters. Not impressive, but it gets the job done.
So while Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 has a slick battle system with a great character roster…that’s it. It has nothing to offer in terms of online play, doesn’t have a worthwhile story mode (outside having to UNLOCK CHARACTERS FOR NO REASON) and doesn’t really look particularly impressive. So basically, it’s a slightly above-average, bare-bones fighting game that there just isn’t much to be done with. If you’ve got a Wii and people to play it with, then go for it. But for people like me whose competition mostly comes online, you’d best look elsewhere. With a new Naruto fighter coming out on each of the other current-gen consoles, I’d wait to see how the other two stack up. Because this one…well…it’s a good fighting game. But that’s probably not what you’re looking for.