Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 - Staff Review  

The Path is Clouded
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2
Less than 20 Hours
+ Naruto Fan Fodder
+ Unique combat system
+ Lots of characters...
- ...that become difficult to maintain
- Dull, extremely short story
- Awkward interface design
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   When first looking upon Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 for the Nintendo DS, it was difficult to see this as anything more than an attempt to bring out yet another Naruto game for fans to scoop up. Putting that personal bias aside, playing this game was rather interesting, as the gameplay was surprisingly solid, though that was about it. The overall package leaves a little to be desired; Path of the Ninja 2 is a quick play with issues that could use addressing.

   In Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2, the player takes the role of Naruto and his ninja companions as they attempt to save the world. In order to do so, they must retrieve five hidden mirrors and reseal an ancient evil that has been loosed upon the world. During this process, Naruto meets up with dozens of other ninja who join him on his adventure. Overall, the story is really cliché and largely unimportant, as it never really develops beyond standard "save the world" fare.

   Fans of the Naruto series will only be a little better off than those who have never seen or read anything about it. The story is mostly a standalone affair, and the only thing that fans will be privy to is the little inside jokes and random character interactions that are few and far between. Non-fans could easily pick this up and play it without any prior knowledge of the series and not feel like they are missing out on anything.

   The game's battle system is one of its strongest features. Combat is handled in standard turn-based fashion, but has a few extra twists that help to make it feel unique. Players have a party of three active combatants and one backup member. The three main party members can then be sorted into a specific formation for combat. Characters can go up front, taking more damage, but dealing more as well, or they can go in the back row, where they are more protected, but have lesser attack power. Characters can also be placed in the middle row for a balanced experience. The formation alignment of the three characters is important, as it can grant the party bonuses to stats depending upon the organization. For example, an alignment of all three characters next to each other on the same row will grant a bonus to attack damage. Characters can be moved around the grid as desired during their turns with no penalty, so gamers can adjust their strategies on the fly. The party's backup member can also be swapped into combat at any time as well, and will even automatically join combat if another character is knocked out.

...Naruto Don't be stupid, Naruto

   The rest of combat is a fairly standard mix of using basic equipment to maximize stats, using special attacks in the most effective manner, and trying to outlast enemies in combat. There is nothing new or innovative about the game's inventory or skill system. Players can purchase or find items and equipment that grant stat boosts to attack, defense, or agility. Special skills, known as jutsu, also vary between characters and can be purchased or found in chests to enhance party members. Path of the Ninja 2 claims to feature a great number of playable characters, with about a dozen becoming available merely through progressing the main storyline. This is nice, as it offers the player variety, but is mostly overwhelming due to the thought of balancing out a massive amount of characters. It's much more manageable to just select a group of characters and develop them instead.

   Path of the Ninja 2 has a few issues with its controls. For most of the game, everything can be controlled with the d-pad, but touch screen controls are needed for a few select events and special moves. Some of these are easily manageable, while others are a little more frustrating. Another point of annoyance is the fact that characters can only move horizontally or vertically on the screen, not diagonally. It's a minor problem, as areas are fairly small, but it's worthy to note. Menus are awkward as well, both in and out of combat. Combat menus are simple to control, but feel clumsy. Shop and equipment menus give little information, and backing up in the menu system will most of the time just exit completely instead of stepping back one level. Saving is also limited to one save file. While there is not really any chance of getting trapped into a corner because of this, an option to use the second save slot would have been nice. There is nothing game-breaking about Naruto's design, but the interface could have been much cleaner.

Special Move Central Special Move Central

   Visually, Path of the Ninja 2 looks decent, but lacks anything that makes it stand out as being good. The character animations are almost non-existent and the world designs are bland. The character artwork is solid, everything that would be expected of the Naruto series, but is mostly just a collection of character sprites and still images. The music is not very impressive either, repeating through the same few tracks for most of the game. These tracks are not horrid, but get tiring quickly. Voice acting is used for battle cries and most are fine, but these too get old, as they are constantly recycled throughout the game.

   If gamers are looking for an easy game that they could complete in around ten hours or less, Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 is that game. It's quick to pick up and play, offering players replay value if they want to take advantage of multiplayer battles or explore for more after completing the main quest. Earlier, it was stated that certain aspects of the gameplay were unique, but that's only true if not compared to the original Path of the Ninja released in 2007 that features the exact same style of combat.

   In the end, Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 is a game lacking in many areas. It features a solid combat system, but that's about all that really stands out. The story is laughable, the presentation is so-so, and the game's multiple interfaces are at times awkward to use. The game is short and offers little challenge throughout. It features a huge cast of characters, but sadly, offers next to no development for any of them, even Naruto. The game relies on the external series for any development. Fans of the series may have an easier time getting a feel of the characters, but are offered nothing more, as the story does little to add to their knowledge of Naruto and his world. Those who are not fans of the series could easily avoid this without regret, though it would be nice to see the battle system more polished and reused in another RPG in the future.

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