Ultimate Ninja 4: NARUTO Shippuden - PS2 - Review
Those of us Naruto fans that have been following the adventures of the spiky haired ninja on the PlayStation 2 as well as the next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 3 have seen the Naruto lineup of titles vastly improve over the years. We’ve seen the kids of the Hidden Leaf Village tackle on missions that adults would have failed and now, as the series fast-forwards a few years forward, we have reached the Shippuden chapter in Naruto’s life. Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden for the PlayStation 2 does feature an older and somewhat wiser Naruto but things just aren’t at all too different in terms of the gameplay.
For the gamer or casual anime viewer, Naruto Shippuden takes place two years after a younger Naruto set out to train with Lord Jiraiya. Despite being slightly taller and sporting a newer orange outfit, the anime opens with Naruto finally coming back home to the Leaf Village. What exactly happened during those years of training with the Pervy Sage? Well, Ultimate Ninja 4 lets us know via the game’s story mode called Master Mode.
Think of Master Mode as a sort of filler episode that gives us a peek into Naruto’s training and his adventures as he and his sensei travel. In this mode, we find Naruto and Jiraiya approaching a village in time to see a young girl named Aoi heading into a dank cave as a sacrifice to a so-called demon waiting in the dark. It doesn’t take Naruto too long to jump into action to save Aoi as well as discover the mystery behind this “demon” that manipulates shadows much like a certain Leaf Village buddy of Naruto’s.
Master Mode does manage to tell a story akin to a Naruto movie complete with a stubborn young girl that Naruto must save from herself. It’s actually a good story and the mode does allow us to explore the surroundings picking up extra items and unlocking secrets along the way. The map is even huge so there are different places to see in this adventure. What doesn’t really work, however, is the combat that is different from the fighting style of the other modes in the game. Even with trademark moves such as Rasengan and Naruto’s Shadow Clone Jutsu, the fighting isn’t as dazzling as the fights in Free Battle mode.
What the Master Mode does do right is offer plenty of puzzles and platform jumping segments that allows you not only the freedom to explore but also take time to find extra items you can use in this mode as well as other modes. For example, it is here where you can find fragments of your memory you can use to unlock events in Hero mode. You can even use Resengan to break through weakened walls and other barriers to reach other places on the map. You can also level up in this mode, earning cool new Jutsu or moves that will help you along the way such as using your Shadow Clones to jump even higher.
Hero mode allows you to relive past moments in Naruto’s life from the very beginning to the events that lead up to the Shippuden series. While most of the segments are merely cut scenes, there are events you can actually play such as the Genin training section against Kakashi-sensei. Then there’s Free Battle, the fighting game mode that offers up a large number of characters to use against a friend or the computer. It is here that you can relive memorable battles or make up your own rivalries using older as well as younger versions of favorites. It’s also good to see characters that didn’t make the cut in past games such as Kurenai-sensei, Shizune and even the First and Second Hokages. There are even a number of villains as well that also include the Sound Ninja and the Shippuden villains.
Nothing much has changed in the Free Battle mode from the last game in the Ultimate Ninja series and that’s Ok seeing as the main feature here are the older versions of characters such as Sakura, Neji, Rock Lee, Tenten and Temari just to name a few. Actually, the older characters are considerably better than the younger bunch. Older Sakura is a powerhouse compared to her younger counterpart and you’ll know it the minute you start tossing around the likes of Orochimaru as if he were a rag doll.
There are also a number of interesting unlockable extras in the game that range from figures of your favorite character, voice clips, videos of them unleashing their most powerful Jutsu and you can even unlock a new guide (the character that welcomes you in the main menu screen). There’s no shortage of things to unlock.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Ultimate Ninja 4 does look good on the PlayStation 2 but there is still room for improvement. Then again, I could just be spoiled by the PlayStation 3’s Ultimate Ninja Storm. Still, the character models look good and the visual effects are topnotch. I just wish the backgrounds looked better and didn’t feature washed out textures.
The sound is a bit more effective thanks to the cast of the anime lending their voices to the characters again. If you love the Japanese voices, you will not be disappointed either. Even the music from the anime series is present and it punctuates the story mode scenes perfectly.
While it’s far from the perfect Naruto game, Ultimate Ninja 4 is a more than decent introduction to the Naruto Shippuden story arc. The older cast of characters adds a new dimension to the fights and the story in the main mode feels right at home with the Shippuden series. If you’re a Naruto fan, this is a good game to buy but it hardly comes close to matching the fun of the previous game on the PS2 or the recent next generation releases.
Review Scoring Details for Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippunden
Master Mode does a good job telling a story true to the Shippuden chapter but the battles could have used some polish. The rest of the modes make up a good fighting challenge with more than enough characters to fill out the impressive roster.
Visually, Ultimate Ninja 4 manages to make the characters really jump out of the screen but some of the backgrounds could have been a lot better. At least the visual effects look amazing.
The English dub voices are present and the original Japanese voices can be selected if you prefer the far more superior Japanese voice cast. The music is straight from the anime series and that’s a very good thing, indeed.
The game tosses some challenging battles your way later in Master Mode and the computer-controlled opponents make use of every character’s strengths in other modes if you play the game solo.
Master Mode tells an interesting tale that actually feels like a plot from a Naruto movie or filler Shippuden episode. There are tons of unlockable extras and characters to use in this game and Hero mode is a good way to catch up on the story from the very beginning. Online play is still missing in action.
You can take on a friend using a number of characters including the more familiar younger versions of the Leaf Village Genin that ranges from Hinata to Shikamaru. Then again, why go back to the old characters when an older Temari is far more effective than younger Temari?
It’s great to see the next chapter of the Naruto saga unfold on the PS2 and Ultimate Ninja 4: Naruto Shippuden is a fun game fans will certainly enjoy despite its few weaknesses. Really, we don’t mind an original story to go with the main story mode but the battles aren’t as enjoyable as the other modes in this game. Naruto fans should definitely check this one out either way.