|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai||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: Sep. 4, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
It is pretty undeniable that in a franchise that spawns more than 30 different games, one's bound to be a miss. Between the wonderfully divertive Ninja Council series and the excellent Ultimate Ninja series, we all knew this one was coming. A Natuto game letdown. Now, why do I give such a hard criticism to Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2? Maybe it's because I am so accustomed to the majority of the Naruto licensed games being so excellent. I popped this one in expecting varied gameplay, an intriguing story, and great visuals. What I got was a repetitive battle system, a lackluster story, and graphics that look completely uninspired. But let us start back at the beginning.
The beginning of the game sees Naruto returning from some mission, looking all hyped up and full of energy. But then he meets up with fellow ninja Kankuro, and learns of a dastardly plan involving ninja puppets (and no, not creepy Chucky doll-puppets, these are special ninja puppets.) Now those who are complete Naruto novices will be completely baffled by most of what happens next. There's mention of the hokage, the hidden village of wind, the sand nation, all sorts of stuff that non-fans of the series won't get. But that factor aside, even coming from the point of view of the biggest of fans, the story in this game just doesn't make the cut. Those who know the Naruto series know of the infamous "filler" arcs. This game's story is essentially one of those arcs. It lacks any amount of depth, and characters act as though they haven't matured at all since the beginning of the series. Sakura regresses back to her bossy phase, and Naruto goes back to acting like a loudmouth. It feels terrible watching these characters that you've watched grow into such complex and caring people, forget all their redeeming traits and make them all just seem annoying.
But fan feelings about the story aside, the narrative isn't the only part of this game that doesn't do the source material justice. The gameplay is pretty bad too. Anyone who has played the Ultimate Ninja series of Naruto games knows that they feature complex and varied fighting controls. Sure, you could button mash in those games, but the real reward was in figuring out different moves and honing new jutsus. However, all of these redeeming qualities are absent in Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2. It's a real button-mash fest with a maximum of four attacks at your disposal: a weak attack, a strong attack, and two character-specific special attacks. And in a game whose main vehicle is fighting, this makes for a pretty one-dimensional and shallow gameplay experience.
In addition to the story mode, there's also a mission mode, a survival mode, and a vs. mode. The mission mode is pretty fun, but suffers greatly from the lack of varied control mentioned above. And although the "missions" are worded differently, essentially the aim is always the same: Kill said badguys. The same thing can be said for survival mode, which functions more like a short-run marathon then an actual survival mode. Each character has their own survival mode which is made up of only a handful of easily defeated foes. The versus mode is pretty good if you really want to duke it out with a friend, but it really pales in comparison to the multiplayer experience given on other titles in the series.
And then there's the visuals. Now I know that this game is last-gen. But I have games that are five years old that look better than this one. Honestly, the PlayStation 2 can support way better graphics, and what you see in this game just doesn't measure up. The characters are unnaturally stoic during cutscenes, and there's a decided blandness to the various stages and battle environments.
One thing that this game does get right though is the sound. The voice acting is pretty good, and features all of the original English cast reprising their roles. The music, however, is fantastic. And even though the music's success probably owes a lot of credit to the anime tunes that it samples, my feeling is that if it's good, then it doesn't matter where it came from. The fact is that the soundtrack to the game is good, and that's enough for me.
Overall, Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 just doesn't cut it for me. Other Naruto games like Clash of Ninja and Ultimate Ninja have set the bar high for this franchise, and I'm afraid that this game simply doesn't make the cut. But the good news is that the Naruto game series won't stop anytime soon, and I'm sure for this one mediocre game, there will be four more excellent ones that will replace it!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer