|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CyberConnect2||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
One of the things I applaud most about the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series is its ability to grow and evolve, despite the entire series being based on the exact same material. The changes made between the first Ultimate Ninja and its successor were drastic, and the changes between the second and the third were even more remarkable. Although the material may have started feeling a little stale, these games spiced things up with new moves, modes, and of course, fighters. The original Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes was a direct spin-off from the series and featured essentially the same combat mechanics but with enough unique twists on the gameplay to make it feel distinctive.
So, after playing through all the Ultimate Ninja titles (and yes, I do mean all), I was considerably excited for the follow-up to last years' portable title. I expected it to take all the Ninja goodness of the first title and add to it like the console sequels had done. However, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress, despite being an excellent standalone title, feels a little too close to its predecessor and a little stalled in the ingenuity department.
The format of Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 is essentially the same as the original Ninja Heroes. There are two main single-player combat modes: a team battle mode and a story mode. The story mode this time around is completely new and revolves around a mysterious tower that manipulates people's memories and zaps the life-force of any town in which it appears. Although some people may balk at the fact that the story is created specifically for the game, I actually find it rather refreshing. Considering nine out of ten Naruto titles take place during the Chuunin exam or Sasuke retrieval arcs, I was very pleased I didn't have to slog through the same old situations.
The story mode is very interesting because it has a different structure than you might expect. The bulk of the story takes place in a very unstable tower with very dangerous rooms. So naturally, the Naruto gang must summon safer rooms to pass through. There are six types of rooms you can summon, each with a corresponding mini-game. These mini-games vary widely and include tree climbing, clone identifying, shadow mimicking, answering Naruto trivia, and friendly battles with familiar characters. Oh, and there's also a slot machine mini-game, but we won't dwell on that one. All the mini-games are executed very well, and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. However, sometimes the mini-games get a little repetitive, especially the trivia one, and the story mode is definitely not conducive to marathon play. But since this title is intended for quick, on-the-go play sessions, it isn't too big of an issue.
The second mode of play is the team battle mode. This mode is essentially identical to the team battle mode in the first Ultimate Ninja Heroes, but it is still quite fun to play and is my favorite mode. Team battle mode allows you to utilize one of the ninja teams featured in the Naruto series or assemble your own "dream team" and duke it out in several mini-tournaments, which are unlocked by rank. At first, the tournaments are relatively easy and consist of only five bouts. However, as you progress, the tournaments will get more intense, and you'll find yourself constantly stretching your three-ninja team to its limits.