Thursday, March 15, 2012

As an action-packed re-creation of the Naruto anime, Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 gets the job done, but as a solid fighter, not so much. This stylish brawler is too heavy on the button mashing and too light on the gameplay options and fighting depth to compete with other fighting games. If you're a fan in desperate need of more portable Naruto brawling, this will suffice, but fighting game purists should look the other way.

Ninja Destiny 2 comes with all the standard fighting game modes--Versus, Survival, and Story--none of which are fun for long. Story mode drags you through hours of meaningless random battles as you run back and forth across the world of Naruto performing lame fetch quests and completing uninspired missions. The story is told through fuzzy stills from the anime and poorly condensed text that summarizes events from the show to the point that only hardcore Naruto fans will be able to follow along after the first few missions.

The other modes fare a bit better because they don't drape boring quests around the bare-bones fighting. In addition to regular melee attacks, each of the 34 fighters has a special move and a couple of combos. The specials are easy to figure out, because they just require a press of the A button. The combos are a lot trickier; there's no move list or chart, which means most of the time you'll happen upon them while mashing on the two attack buttons. There are six slots on the touch screen that hold random power-ups, such as double damage or extra energy, but using them in the heat of battle can be tricky.

The touch-screen "buttons" are unresponsive, sometimes requiring multiple taps to register. Since you have to take your thumbs off the fighting controls to activate them, don't be surprised when you finally activate that extra defense power-up just as your ninja drops dead. These power-ups seem like they would add an extra layer of depth to the fighting, but since they're random, they tend to lead to imbalances and unfair advantages. That's not so bad when you're playing against the computer, but it's a real pain when fighting with friends. There are no options to turn these power-ups off, either. Actually, there aren't many options at all--button mapping, move lists, and power-up explanations are all absent.

What you'll find in place of all the options and deep combat is lush visuals that nail the look and feel of the show. The characters fight fast and fluidly, and their outlandish special moves are over the top and fun to watch. The damage doesn't always match the theatrics, though. It seems a bit odd that a special move that incorporates a massive sand tsunami would do less damage than one in which a couple of paintings are brought to life, but such are the mysteries of the ninja. Story mode, boring though it may be, has a nice look about it, and the wilderness of Naruto's world is brought to life in vivid colors. The only hiccup in the visuals is the unsteady frame rate. Some of the more visually intense characters are too much for the game to handle. The music consists of cheesy rock tracks and nonintrusive background tunes inspired by the show. There are voice clips from all of the characters, but they aren't of the best quality.

If you're not a fan of the show, you'll get all you need from Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 in about as much time as it takes you to finish saying its name. The fighting is serviceable for a little while, and the visuals are nice, but the lack of options, the shallow fighting mechanics, and the tedious Story mode keep this game from fighting game fame. There's no compelling reason to spend time mashing buttons on this one.

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