Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 Nintendo DS RPG E10 (Everyone 10+) D3P / Tomy

There are plenty of game franchises that insist on bringing out game titles left, right and center, offering little in terms of improvement or new features in comparison to previous installments. For a while, it seemed like all I heard about was Naruto. Naruto this, Naruto that, more Naruto for insert game system name here. And while I'm really not a Naruto fan nor have I ever played the first Path of the Ninja, I must say that Path of the Ninja 2 is not a chore to play.

In Path of the Ninja 2 you play as Naruto and all his ninja consort as they try to - ready for the clich??? - save the world. An ancient beast is released upon the world as an evil overlord tries to gain control over it. People and animals everywhere are being affected by its power and behaving wildly.

The solution to restore things back to normal is a protective mirror held by a girl who comes to Hidden Leaf Village asking for help in finding the remaining mirrors in order to seal away the power of the beast.

Naruto is obviously entitled with this task by the Hokage, but he won't be going alone. Along the way you will be joined by several other ninja, including Sakura, Sasuke, Rock Lee, Chouji, Kiba, Tenten and Ino, among others, up to a total of 30 playable characters.

Your party is composed of three active members and one backup, with all gaining experience equally when you fight. You will find yourself swapping characters in and out (Naruto included) often once you gain more characters, just so you can level everyone up equally, which in turn is may sound like a time-consuming process, but actually isn't. Everyone seems to level up pretty fast.

The battles are turn-based, with each character having three options for combat: attack, defense and a special jutsu ability that involves a touch-screen mini-game. Your party will be on one side of the battlefield, and the enemy on the other. Each side of the field has three positions (front, middle and back), which adds a bit of a strategy element as far as party formation, something that can actually give you an advantage in battle. Characters on the front line will deal more damage but also take more damage, while the back row is appropriate for ranged attacks. Changing your party leader will also give the group different bonuses, so experiment to see how each character can benefit the rest of the party.

Basically, all you know of a traditional RPG applies. Not just the aforementioned turn-based system, but also the fight, get experience, pick up items, upgrade with the better ones, sell what you don't need process. But on occasion the game will present some different challenges in the form of platform stages that usually catch you off guard. These are called High Speed Maps, a way to travel between areas, where you must navigate a running Naruto from start to finish, while dodging enemies and collecting scrolls. These can become a bit frustrating since they require timed jumps, but they add some variety to the gameplay.

As for the online portion of the game, you can take your party up against anyone in the world without the hassle of adding friend codes to play with someone.

I do have some complaints, one of them being the excessive number of random battle encounters. This is actually something that gets in the way of many good RPGs, breaking the flow of gameplay, with all the repetitive combat or running away from fights, sometimes even making the player forget what they were about to do. Not that the storyline and character development here are all that deep, but still, after some time you feel like it's just slowing you down.

While the dialogs are not too bad, the lack of voice acting is a shame, with the only voice-overs to be found being the characters' catchphrases, which become repetitive and annoying. The background music isn't too stellar, and while it has been taken from the anime show, it's mostly a series of short loops that tend to get on your nerves during a long stage.

In the end, Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 offers an original plot, which means no prior knowledge of the anime series or the previous game is required - although it would probably help to understand the jokes and references between characters. But I wasn't left with the feeling that I was missing something. What the game really was missing though, were a few improvements as far as sound, story and character development and those pesky random encounters.

Special thanks to Dominique Cobb and D3P for providing a copy of this title.