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RELEASE DATE (NA): August 25, 2017 GENRE: Beat-'em-up
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Taking the anime world by Storm.

The village hidden in the leaves is under threat from the ridiculously named "Pain" (leader of the Akatsuki), an all-powerful ninja with a seemingly endless number of bodies he can use over and over. In this moment of despair, Naruto Uzumaki returns with his all-new Toad Sage Jutsu, poised to beat ten levels of "kuso" out of this menace to the galaxy.

After an introductory cutscene showing this pivotal moment, Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 pulls all the way back to where Shippuden begins. Naruto has undergone training with the "pervy sage" Jiraiya, supposedly mastered his Rasengan Jutsu and grown stronger in the last three years. Upon his return to the Hidden Leaf, he is immediately thrust into a mission with his old comrade Sakura Haruno, and a nostalgic mission at that. The goal of the mission is simple: get the bells from their old teacher Kakashi Hatake, who soon joins them as the third member of Team 7.

Almost immediately after, the story picks up with the first major Shippuden arc — the rescue of the Hidden Sand's Kazekage, Gaara. The Akatsuki have kidnapped Gaara in order to extract the one-tailed beast sealed inside him, and Team 7 rushes to his rescue. The game then swiftly deals with the following arcs: the introduction of Sai and the conflict with Orochimaru and Kabuto Yakushi on Tenchi Bridge. The suppression of the Akatsuki and defeat of Hidan and Kakuzu. This is followed by the pursuit of Itachi, Jiraiya's badass reconnoitre of the Hidden Rain, Itachi's defeat, and Pain's attack on the Hidden Leaf. The game covers well over 140 episodes of Shippuden, and skips over all filler. It doesn't go as in-depth as the show and manga does, but its simplification makes it easier to follow.

I actually consider the streamlined storytelling to be a decent way of experiencing the Naruto Shippuden story without having to dedicate actual weeks worth of your life to watching the episodes and movies.

Rather than selecting missions from a list and being left to wander around a hub world aimlessly, Storm 2 takes a JRPG style approach to navigation instead. Preset camera angles, luscious hand-drawn backgrounds, and an interconnected world makes exploring the world of Storm 2 a highly enjoyable experience. It's rife with backtracking, but most of the time that's nothing too egregious, and once you beat the game you can use cheap Warp Scrolls to travel anywhere.

After only a short amount of time you get the Land of Fire nailed down pretty well and don't need to rely on the map to get where you need to go.

Don't try to break it up... you'll just take a shuriken up the nostril.

Combat is improved over the previous title, though some of the features I enjoyed like such as fighting on the side of a wall are gone. It flows much better than before, and the party system during the adventure mode is a pleasing touch as it allows you to switch up who you use on a whim. Keeping a stockpile of items such as ointment keeps you readied for upcoming battles, as unlike the previous game, your health is not refilled between fights. Some later boss gauntlets are rather difficult if you don't stock up on ointment with the plentiful ryo you earn.

Storm 2 has a now rather barren online mode, which these days takes making plans in advance if you're actually looking to wipe out some achievements. Ugh, online achievements, get lost. The unlockable titles and cards allow you to customize a profile other players can see, but unlocking all titles means battling 30 with each character. You can use two controllers in Free Battle and cut it down to fifteen battles, but it's still superfluous and a really gosh darn stupid unlock requirement.

Cinematic battles make a return, bigger and better. They emulate the action in the show quite nicely, and fights have custom phases that play differently to change things up. One boss battle plays out like a third person shooter, while another is a puzzle requiring all three enemies to be knocked out at the same time. It adds a level of conscientious thought to the proceedings.

There is a lot of deviation from source material when it comes to some of the action, but I think every change is an improvement. Jiraiya's battle with Pain takes place on a beach rather than inside Pain's Tower, which makes the scenery more interesting.

As before, the PC version is poorly optimised but ran better for me than Storm 1 did. I still had to disable all post-processing effects to achieve anything even resembling a playable speed. Your mileage will vary.

Storm 2 marked a change in the series with a greater emphasis on story, a pleasant relief when compared to Storm 1's ridiculous barrier of entry and blocks of text instead of cutscenes. It is clear that almost every previous complaint has been taken to heart by CyberConnect2 and Bandai Namco. I look forward to seeing what the next title in the series is like, and what it decides to change.

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