Naruto: Ninja Council 2 «

Whenever an anime series becomes a long-running hit in Japan, you’ll see game companies eager to hop on the money train by putting out a plethora of licensed games. And with anime’s popularity at an all-time high in the US, we’re starting to see more and more of these games making the voyage to our shores. Naruto: Ninja Council 2 is one such game. Coming only nine months after its predecessor, it’s clear that D3 Publisher wants to strike while the iron is hot.

Naruto: Ninja Council 2 thrusts the player into the middle of rigorous training for our intrepid ninjas-to-be Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura. They’re doing fine under their teacher Kakashi’s watchful eye, but when series villain Orochimaru shows up with lackeys in tow, the gang realizes something is up — and they need to put a stop to it.

The game is viewed from a standard side-scrolling perspective. Stages are structured in sections, each of which provides a different objective — making it through in a certain amount of time, reaching a certain place, or defeating all the enemies, to give examples. Unfortunately, the gameplay lacks similar variety. The main gimmick is that players can swap between Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura as they progress through the stages. The three-character element certainly has potential, but sadly, each member of the trio is almost exactly the same. They all have a basic punch-and-kick combo, they all have a teleport skill, they all have a double-jump; the only thing differentiating them is their special attacks. Enemies are similarly dull, as their ranks seem to consist almost exclusively of Thin Enemy Ninja, Fat Enemy Ninja, and Familiar Series Villains. You’ll be using the same basic and special attacks to plow through all of them over and over, with almost no technique involved other than “punch when they aren’t blocking” and “dodge the high-damage enemy attack.”

Graphically, Ninja Council 2 is passable. All the character sprites are drawn well, fluidly animated and faithful to their anime appearance. The backgrounds are repetitive, but similarly representative of the show’s setting. The sound, however, is a different story altogether. The GBA is hardly an audio powerhouse, but one can’t help but wonder if any effort was put into this part of the game at all. It sounds almost exactly like NES music — and not even good NES music.

Naruto: Ninja Council 2 isn’t an awful game, but it doesn’t do anything particularly well, either. It’s strictly for the most die-hard fans of the show, and even they may find themselves growing bored with the game after a while. A much better beat-em-up with Naruto characters would be the DS import Jump Superstars. If you’re a devoted fan and you’ve already played that and all your other Naruto-related games to death, you might want to check out Ninja Council 2… but I wouldn’t recommend it.


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