I will begin by admitting that I haven’t played any of the other Naruto games. I still know, however, that Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 will be a disappointment, even for some younger Naruto fans.
I know this because the dialogue and plot are watered down, even for Naruto; this may not matter since fans of the show aren’t exactly picky in that regard. The opening scene depicts some bad guys unleashing spirits that, should they make contact with regular people, will take over their bodies and make them wish to fight until they die. It is caused by a catfish, and you must recover five awesome mirrors in order to reverse the process. Fighting ensues, drama does not. The characters of Naruto are only barely represented and sketched through their words and actions, though they are perfectly represented through voice; each time it is a character’s turn, he or she shouts something obnoxious (Choji shouts “Chubbies rule!” one third of the time, and after hearing that dozens of times it still makes me uncomfortable); each time a character attacks he or she shouts too (“Take that!”; “Uuuuughhhh!”; etc.), and annoying as that is, they really do sound like the characters from the show.
The single-player story is mind-numbingly easy. Defeated characters are revived with 1 hit point after a battle ends. Any time you hit a save point all characters have their HP and chakra (magic) restored. Items are everywhere. A level-up also instantly restores hit points and chakra. These happen frequently. Numerous characters can heal. Chakra is plentiful. Any fight that is not a boss fight can be beaten by pressing A until it’s over. You can do this for minutes. You also seem to have a 50% chance to run away. You can attempt again with each character. You literally don’t even have to fight in random encounters if you don’t want to!
The journey remains in this droll state until it dawns that you are not simply adding members to your party, you are collecting them. Path of the Ninja 2 has a multiplayer mode that takes itself quite seriously as it attempts to emulate many elements of Pokemon while supplying the characters and items through the single-player storyline.
There are a few redeeming graces for Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2. You collect dozens party members that stay permanently in your party. There are also “ninja cards” that grant jutsu (spells) or abilities that stay only as long as the card is equipped. You only use 4 party members at a time, though; the fun is in the many combinations you can achieve through equipment and choosing four out of over two dozen characters. Of the 4 party members, 3 are on the field at any time; any party member can switch out for the fourth, with the switched character being able to act immediately. There is also a grid for the characters to move around on; moving doesn’t use up a move, but the amount of damage a character can deal and receive depends on position; even some of the moves vary depending on field position. So the combat is not as bad as the story, at least, and for two kids who buy a semi-annual game together in which they will have lots of time to level their characters to 99 in order to challenge each other later, this whole system has the possibility to justify itself.
All this customization bodes well for multiplayer action and for boss fights. The bosses in the story do at least require some ingenuity, strategy, and even creativity, and this is where the unique elements of combat become somewhat rewarding. Bosses can and will kill you if you take an incorrect mix of party members. The saving grace here is that in most cases there is no magical formula for a correct or incorrect set of party members or moves that are required for victory, a common problem with many Japanese RPGs.
Still, it must be emphasized that Naruto: Path of the Ninja 2 is for kids. It is simple in design and language even by some kids’ standards, emulates Pokemon, and is full of annoying sounds and simple graphics. It’s a smooth ride for the kids, but the older you are, Naruto fan or not, the less likely you are to enjoy Path of the Ninja 2. This is the 9-year-old annoying version of testosterone in 20-hour-form, a long version of the show that would be considered one of the better representatives of the Naruto universe if only it had some more challenge and some more authenticity in the story.
ESRB: E 10+: if the kids can watch Naruto, it’s fine. In fact, content is milder than the cartoon.
Pros: Unique combat system, endless customization, extensive multiplayer options
Cons: Annoying, repetitive, dreadfully easy, and a plot so generic that it could be transferred to a Halo, Mario, or any other RPG
Plays like: an updated very simple RPG from the days of the NES, SNES, or Game Boy + Pokemon combat system