Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 «

Of all the Dragon Ball-style manga that’s emerged in the wake of Akira Toriyama’s cash-cow franchise, Naruto remains — in terms of the manga — one of the most eloquent. Sure, its stock-and-trade remains high-flying acrobatics and ninja battles, but beneath the surface exists a layered, introspective story that deals with loneliness, alienation, and courage about as well as any comic centered around a boy embodied with a malevolent spirit ever could. It’s too bad, then, that this subtlety is lost in the deluge of licensed Naruto games winging their way Stateside in ever-increasing numbers.

The Tomy-published fighting games (developed by Eighting) on GameCube are solid, attractive 3D fighters with more depth than one might expect from an anime-based fighter, and the CyberConnect2-developed Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series is a beautiful spin on the Smash Bros. formula of side-scrolling brawling action. It’s a shame, then, that the Cavia-developed Uzumaki series fails to live up to the precedent established by these more successful efforts. Uzumaki Chronicles 2 exemplifies this.

[Click the image above to check out all Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 screens.]

 

Cavia, formed by a group of ex-Ace Combat developers, is usually good at providing a visually appealing game or a few decent hours of gameplay at the core of their games. They rarely provide both. The developer — responsible for games like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Drakengard, and Vampire Rain — surprised many with the first Uzumaki. While not a great game per se, the first Uzumaki did a good job of providing visuals that accurately captured the stylistic milieu of the Naruto world and offered responsive controls, flashy visual attacks, and solid camera angles. In essence, a decent effort from a dev team not known for great things. On the other hand, Uzumaki Chronicles 2 feels like a regression.

While the first Uzumaki differed from the rest of the typically cel-shaded Naruto pack by going with a more “realistic” look, the new game offers something in between, embracing some cel-shaded character textures set against standard-approach 3D environments. In short, the game looks shoddy, especially compared to Ubisoft’s Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. Although the game does a nice job of not sticking strictly to the manga’s plot progression, things still feel boxed-in; you’re hand-held through tedious, scripted missions (follow the wind-leaf symbol on the ground!), and some have oblique mission objectives that make for aimless wandering.

[Click the image above to check out all Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 screens.]

 

The actual combat holds up to the mechanics established in the first game, with a solid lock-on system and special attacks mapped to a shoulder button that show off each of the playable character’s moves. Here’s the caveat: The enemies are pushovers, including most of the bosses, which really makes Uzumaki Chronicles 2 feel like a cakewalk. It’s nice that you can get a second player in for some co-op shenanigans, but when the base game is so simple and easy, that’s little compensation. The real meat of the Uzumaki experience is in customizing each character’s Skill Plate, which is like a weird game of Tetris where you fit skill “chips” into a geometric box. You can tweak a character’s attributes to make him more effective in-game, but there’s nothing in the game to really compel you to play as other characters unless you really want to play Kakashi or Sakura instead of Naruto.

The worst part about playing any Naruto game, especially those with a healthy dose of voice acting, is the poorly voiced dialogue, with the worst offender being Naruto’s own screeching contributions (provided by Maile Flanagan), that will have you crying out for an original language track in no time. The gist is that Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is a playable game at worst, and inoffensive, polite, too-easy fun at best. This might make a good present for your nephew’s upcoming birthday, but for those looking for a good Naruto game worth sinking your teeth into, you’re better off plunking down for one of the Ultimate Ninja games.

Of all the Dragon Ball-style manga that’s emerged in the wake of Akira Toriyama’s cash-cow franchise, Naruto remains — in terms of the manga — one of the most eloquent. Sure, its stock-and-trade remains high-flying acrobatics and ninja battles, but beneath the surface exists a layered, introspective story that deals with loneliness, alienation, and courage about as well as any comic centered around a boy embodied with a malevolent spirit ever could. It’s too bad, then, that this subtlety is lost in the deluge of licensed Naruto games winging their way Stateside in ever-increasing numbers.The Tomy-published fighting games (developed by Eighting) on GameCube are solid, attractive 3D fighters with more depth than one might expect from an anime-based fighter, and the CyberConnect2-developed Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series is a beautiful spin on the Smash Bros. formula of side-scrolling brawling action. It’s a shame, then, that the Cavia-developed Uzumaki series fails to live up to the precedent established by these more successful efforts. Uzumaki Chronicles 2 exemplifies this.

[Click the image above to check out all Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 screens.]

 

Cavia, formed by a group of ex-Ace Combat developers, is usually good at providing a visually appealing game or a few decent hours of gameplay at the core of their games. They rarely provide both. The developer — responsible for games like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Drakengard, and VampiAre Rain — surprised many with the first Uzumaki. While not a great game per se, the first Uzumaki did a good job of providing visuals that accurately captured the stylistic milieu of the Naruto world and offered responsive controls, flashy visual attacks, and solid camera angles. In essence, a decent effort from a dev team not known for great things. On the other hand, Uzumaki Chronicles 2 feels like a regression.

While the first Uzumaki differed from the rest of the typically cel-shaded Naruto pack by going with a more “realistic” look, the new game offers something in between, embracing some cel-shaded character textures set against standard-approach 3D environments. In short, the game looks shoddy, especially compared to Ubisoft’s Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. Although the game does a nice job of not sticking strictly to the manga’s plot progression, things still feel boxed-in; you’re hand-held through tedious, scripted missions (follow the wind-leaf symbol on the ground!), and some have oblique mission objectives that make for aimless wandering.

[Click the image above to check out all Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 screens.]

 

The actual combat holds up to the mechanics established in the first game, with a solid lock-on system and special attacks mapped to a shoulder button that show off each of the playable character’s moves. Here’s the caveat: The enemies are pushovers, including most of the bosses, which really makes Uzumaki Chronicles 2 feel like a cakewalk. It’s nice that you can get a second player in for some co-op shenanigans, but when the base game is so simple and easy, that’s little compensation. The real meat of the Uzumaki experience is in customizing each character’s Skill Plate, which is like a weird game of Tetris where you fit skill “chips” into a geometric box. You can tweak a character’s attributes to make him more effective in-game, but there’s nothing in the game to really compel you to play as other characters unless you really want to play Kakashi or Sakura instead of Naruto.

The worst part about playing any Naruto game, especially those with a healthy dose of voice acting, is the poorly voiced dialogue, with the worst offender being Naruto’s own screeching contributions (provided by Maile Flanagan), that will have you crying out for an original language track in no time. The gist is that Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 is a playable game at worst, and inoffensive, polite, too-easy fun at best. This might make a good present for your nephew’s upcoming birthday, but for those looking for a good Naruto game worth sinking your teeth into, you’re better off plunking down for one of the Ultimate Ninja games.

 

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