Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 (2009) Review

Unless you have a Nintendo DS with the Gameboy Advance slot, you probably haven’t been using your DS for any fighting games. In fact, over the past few years, there have only been a handful of brawlers to grace the system and not all of them have been any good. Tomy looks to change that with Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2. Based on the popular anime of the same name, Naruto boasts a large roster of fighters, an amusing story mode and a chance for fans to play the role of their favorite spunky ninja.

The core gameplay of Naruto is, of course, the fighting. Anyone who’s played a fighting game in the last decade will instantly feel at home with the controls. Players move the fighters with the directional pad. Moving left and right approaches or retreats from opponents while pressing up or down sidesteps into the background or foreground respectively, similar to Tekken. Jumping is handled by the X button and blocking is performed by pressing the right shoulder button. Fighters have access to strong attacks and weak attacks as well as special signature Jutsu attacks that can be unleashed with enough Chakra that builds up overtime during bouts. Alternatively, pressing the left shoulder button uses Chakra to teleport behind your enemy. With the right, properly timed button presses, you can create devastating combinations that juggle your opponent. Also, as a twist on conventional fighting games, fighters have access to items they pick up in Story Mode or are randomly assigned as in the Singleplayer Mode. The items have different abilities, like increased damage or health boosts that can be used to alter the outcome of fights. Simply tapping the icon on the touchscreen will activate the item.

"Here comes the big one!"
"Here comes the big one!"

The fights are typically straightforward and don’t last very long. Furthermore, there aren’t that many combos to create and you’ll often see the CPU fighters performing the same move over and over again, telegraphing when you should counterattack. The CPU, however, is hardly a pushover. It will deftly block your combinations and exploit the holes in your defenses. Then, just when you think you have the advantage, the CPU will land a Jutsu move that lays you out.

The Jutsu attacks are a welcome change of pace to the fights. When you or your opponent lands this attack, the fight becomes an in-game cinematic as the attacker performs his or her signature move from the anime. For instance, Naruto creates a mirror image of himself and the two of them pummel the opponent together. Each Jutsu takes a few seconds to complete, but don’t happen often enough to slow down the pace of the fights.

Naruto offers several ways to enjoy the game. Singleplayer lets you fight the CPU or a live opponent via wireless connection one-on-one, letting you choose from 34 fighters. Alternatively, you can play Survival Mode which pits your fighter against other fighters consecutively until your health meter is fully depleted. Finally, there’s Story Mode, which has the player predominantly controlling Naruto as he navigates mazes and fights random enemies as well as boss encounters. Occasionally, the player will have to control one of Naruto’s allies for story purposes.

The story will probably be incomprehensible to anyone who isn’t a fan of the anime. There are just too many names and words that are specific to the show that aren’t explained in the game to newcomers. Furthermore, the storytelling is subpar. The plot unfolds for players via anime stills, but there aren’t enough to really show what’s going on, so most of the action is simply described via text or in dialogue. So when something exciting happens, like an ambush, the game simply tells you that so and so survived or got away while you simply read and press a button for the next batch of text.

The anime stills and the menu look fantastic and are dripping with style. Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 truly captures the artistry of its anime namesake. The in-game graphics are a different story. While they get the job done, the character models are blocky and the arenas are flat and boring. Still, they’re not so bad that they offend the eyes. The biggest disappoint is the instruction manual. It only gives you the bare-minimum of information without offering any insight into the story of the game or how to pull off any of the fighters’ moves. Newcomers will no doubt be perplexed by the plot and grow frustrated with dying over and over again.

Thankfully, the learning curve isn’t very steep. Once you get the hang of the fighting mechanics and simply go with the flow of the story, you’ll discover that this game can be a decent amount of fun for all ages. If you’re looking for a fighting game to satisfy your brawler appetite, Naruto Shippuden: Ninja Destiny 2 is a worthy choice.