The Naruto series is fast becoming the new go-to source for franchise spam in the video game industry. There have already been four Clash of Ninja games over the past three years, one new game on the PS3, two on the Xbox 360, and a whopping five on the PS2 — not to mention six games between the two handhelds. That’s a whole lot of Naruto.
Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 (CNR2) is a simple fighting game for the Wii, with a style similar to the Super Smash Bros. series. Players seeking a vast move set, in-depth combo system, or otherwise complex fighting system will find little to be excited about in the game’s weak/strong/special attack setup, but fans of the series will feel right at home, because CNR2 is nearly the same game as last year’s offering, with a few small tweaks and improvements.
If you are unfamiliar with the Naruto manga/anime, here’s a quick rundown: it is about an adolescent ninja suffering from a mild case of ADHD who aspires to become the leader of his village by proving himself to be the strongest warrior. He isn’t exactly taken seriously by the villagers, but makes friends and develops skills and character over the course of the series. CNR2 features a roster of 35 characters from the Naruto universe, seven of whom are newcomers to this series, and four of whom are exclusive to the North American version of the game.
This installment adds new stages to battle on, as well, bringing the Clash of Ninja series up to speed with the multi-tiered arena concept that so many other fighting franchises have employed for years. It’s also the first in the series to feature a tag-team battle system, a la Tekken Tag Tournament or Marvel vs. Capcom.
There are many ways to play CNR2, as the game offers five different control schemes: Wiimote only, Wiimote and Nunchuk button mode, Wiimote and Nunchuk movement mode, Classic controller, and GameCube controller. In movement mode, the game makes heavy use of Wiimote gesture and pointer controls, although the implementation is not always optimal. During matches, weak attacks are mapped to Wiimote flicks, while stronger strikes are performed with the A button. Not only does this create a strange disconnect between attack types, but it limits the precision with which weak blows can be delivered at all.
As for the other Wiimote-specific controls, they work very nicely. Aiming paper bombs (like explosive paper airplanes with remote and proximity detonation) via the Wiimote pointer is intuitive and effective, and the hand gesture patterns that allow players to restore a bit of health or chakra during the fight are easy to get the hang of, yet difficult to truly master.
Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 features a handful of gamplay modes for players to battle it out in. Up to 4 players can compete in solo or team matches in any combination, individuals and tag-teams can attempt a Score Attack against 10 rounds of cpu-controlled opponents, and lone warriors have the added options of Time Attack and Mission List modes. The Mission List is a nearly endless stream of special-stipulation matches from which players must emerge victorious in order to be successful. If not, there is always Training mode, which offers freestyle practice as well as a step-by-step tutorial.
In what is meant to be the meat of the game (there’s still no online multiplayer, by the way), the story mode sees a former Leaf Village ANBU member (like an FBI ninja) brainwash a number of other characters to turn on the village. It’s up to Naruto and friends to stop this dastardly scheme. Besides being overly generic in concept, this part of the game is also very poorly presented. Plain text narrates the story, and very rudimentary cutscenes involving mostly still in-game character art with voice overs link the written descriptions with the actual fighting. Basically, players can expect to engage in combat with just about anyone they may come in contact with … for any reason.
Clash of Ninja Revolution 2’s visuals match its story mode; they are passable, but feel a generation too late. Developer Eighting has added 16:9 support this time around — a nice gesture — but the series is still in need of a more comprehensive graphical upgrade at this point in its lifespan. Art and renders appear to have been re-used from the older games, framerate suffers when multiple characters are on the screen, and visual effects are generally very simple. On the audio end of things, there is little to applaud. The fact that the original TV voice actors play their roles in the game is a plus, but otherwise the soundscape is bland and unimpressive. And for those fans who prefer the Japanese voices to the English ones, I’m sorry to say that you’re going to have to put up with English in this one. On the bright side, at least the new PS3 Naruto addressed that issue.
With Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2, Eighting has made a number of incremental improvements upon previous entries in the series. Even so, the game still has a long way to go before it can be considered a true contender in the fighting genre. The most casual of players (or fans who don’t care what they’re playing as long as they’re playing a Naruto game) will likely find little to complain about, because the game is still enjoyable, but a number of flaws and lack of any major updates to the core formula leave much to be desired.