Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has been out for a little while now, but I am not someone who generally follows the series and has any kind of personal investment in the characters or storyline. As such I waited a while before finally breaking down and buying the game, which I was interested in largely because my older two children are fans of the series and I thought they would enjoy it.
The good news is, they did enjoy it.
Perhaps the more surprising news was how much I enjoyed it as well. Let me start by saying that the visuals are fantastic. I have seen bits and pieces of the show from when my kids watch it, and Ninja Storm 2 does an excellent job of mimicking the show's colorful art. Characters are smoothly animated, special moves look suitably powerful and the quicktime scenes during boss battles are very impressive. If you are like me and often feel like you miss 'the good stuff' during quicktime events, fear not because you can buy the animated boos fight scenes with your in-game currency to watch again at your leisure later.
The voice actors sounded to me like they were from the show and my kids said the same thing. That is the good news. The bad news is a lot of the dialog is pretty cheesy and while it may authentic, it is not necessarily good. The music was pleasant, and I liked the title menu's song, but beyond that none of it really 'stuck with me' when I was done.
There is a lot of running around, which sort of put me off at first. It felt like there was all of this exploration and very little fighting, and truth be told there is probably a bit more exploration than I would have liked, but searching for items and participating in optional missions have their own rewards later that make it worthwhile.
The combat is probably the most controversial thing about Ninja Storm 2. On the surface it is very shallow. All of your melee attacks trigger off of mashing one button. Ranged attacks are tied to one button. There are layers on top of this however, such as activating chakra to enhance your attacks and movements that lend variety to the combat. You also have ninja tools tied to your directional pad, the ability to call in support (most of the time - some situations do not allow for this) and many of the battles come with their own battle conditions (like not allowing you to use an Ultimate Jutsu or stating that you need to win within so many seconds).
This is a 3D fighter, but without anywhere near the control or technical precision of Tekken or Virtua Fighter, but I think that this opens the game up to more casual players who may be interested in the story or using their favorite characters and not having to learn pages of moves - especially since control of the character you are using changes a lot throughout the game. A more skilled player is going to win online against someone who button mashes, but the adventure mode, which is where most people will spend the bulk of their time, benefits from this combat control scheme.
There is a lot of game here to play as well. I hit the trophy for playing thirty hours right about the time I beat the primary story mode, and there was some post-game content out there that I spent another fifteen or so hours on. There is also the aforementioned online mode. You earn a couple of kinds of currency with each fight. One is actual money you can spend in the shops, and the other - Storm Points - are used to unlock titles as you gain more and more of them.
I liked Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 enough that I'm curious about its predecessor as well as follow-up titles now. The story was a bit cheesy at times, but I also found it and its cast of characters to be thoroughly enjoyable and I am looking forward to spending more time with them.