The Ninja-Speed RPG #2
Following up last year’s Naruto RPG comes the next in the series, this time taking things in a slightly different direction. Rather than pick up where the first game left off, Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 takes place at some unknown period after the first game, quite late in the anime series, with a side story not found in the anime. This time around, Naruto and allies must collect five mirrors in order to seal away a being of great evil that has begun to break free.
Though it boasts an original storyline, and that much is true, the story is extremely lacking and comes off as no better than filler. The new characters are very simple, the plot progresses in a predictable manner, and though the storyline does present several good opportunities for character growth, the majority of these opportunities are missed. It’s also extremely short, and most players will be able to finish it in a mere six to ten hours, though there is a bit of post-game content as well.
Path of the Ninja 2‘s story may be the weakest part of the game, but the gameplay makes up for it. Path of the Ninja 2 follows the same formula as the first game, complete with its grid system that allows for fast-paced semi-tactical combat. Though allies and enemies alike are confined to their respective portions of the battlefield, they can move before performing actions, and their location on the field has a direct relationship to damage dealt and taken. The equipped weapon type will also effect damage based on location. While this system rewards moving forward when attacking and falling back when defending, supporting, or healing, formation bonuses and area-of-effect attacks need to be taken into account as well in order to maintain the advantage while adapting to the situation. Players have to make careful decisions and change formations on the fly, and though the game as a whole is fairly easy and doesn’t require much effort, many of the game’s bosses will do their best to force changes in tactics.
New to Path of the Ninja 2 is the ability to swap out a single party member mid-battle without the use of a turn, opening up a wide range of additional strategies depending on the supporting member’s fighting style. Special bonuses will also be granted to the party depending on who the chosen squad leader is. Furthermore, ninja tags allow character customization thanks to a wide variety of options that range from added abilities to resistances and stat boosts. Though the game’s actual storyline may be on the short side, these many gameplay improvements help to lengthen the time the players are likely to spend with the game thanks to a battle arena and Wi-Fi versus mode.
Complimenting the enjoyable gameplay is a good interface. It plays out well with either the standard controls or stylus, whichever the player prefers, though there are a few things that can only be done with one style or the other, such as opening the menu and using certain chakra abilities. The largest problems are that it’s a little hard to switch between characters in menus when shuffling around equipment and that secondary equipment statistics can’t be seen until the items are purchased. Oddly enough, the text speed has been decreased as well, though it’s possible to make it all appear at once with an additional button press. Minor issues aside, the menus are laid out well for either control type, and it’s surprisingly easy to keep track of the general status of game’s impressive roster, though checking the fine details will require a bit more effort.
The number of playable characters may be massive, surpassing well over a dozen even before post-game content is unlocked, but unlike the first Path of the Ninja, it’s thankfully not necessary to train them all. Certain characters will be required in specific places, but their starting level is high enough to handle the job. With the exception of needing a good healer, players will be able to make whatever team they want out of their favorite characters.
Despite the number of other improvements, the quality of the music has remained the same as in the original. Perhaps one of the largest reasons for this is that much of the soundtrack is the same, or at least very similar. They’re recent and many are reminiscent of the anime, but they aren’t anything special. The sound effects aren’t bad either, and they even include a few voice clips.
As far as the visuals go, there are also quite a few repeats, but this is far less a negative thing due to the overall quality of the sprite artwork and animation, though the animation is mostly limited to party members and certain key enemies. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been improvements either: not only has the number of huge, detailed enemies and bosses increased, there are also a few pieces of artwork that take up both screens.
Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 has moved in an interesting direction since its predecessor was released, with its strengths improving but weaknesses oddly growing even worse. The good news is that it has improved a bit as a whole. Normal battles typically require minimal effort and thus can be a bit dull, but boss fights, the battle arena, and the Wi-Fi versus mode provide players with a better place to test themselves, something Path of the Ninja was mostly lacking. The game naturally has added appeal to Naruto fans, but Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2‘s fast-paced semi-tactical gameplay will appeal to a wider audience of RPG fans as well, though players looking for a good story should look elsewhere.