Stuffing popular characters from other media into a fighting game has a long and varied history. Occasional greatness (Marvel vs. Capcom) is tempered by consistent mediocrity and the rare absolute stinker (Marvel Nemesis). Tomy’s series of fighters based on the crazy popular animé Naruto have been above-average, but even with its fourth installment, the series remains just shy of excellence.
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 is basically the same 3-D, Tekken-esque experience as its Wii predecessor and the Clash of Ninja games for GameCube. A few new characters and a four-player brawl mini-game have been added, but the core game is virtually identical. It’s more 1.1 than a full 2.0. A new story mode takes Naruto’s characters through a plot of mind-control and sinister ninja jutsu, but is told through boring, static character cutouts and scrolling text. Nothing is really explained about the characters either, so if you’re not already familiar with the Naruto universe, it just looks like a bunch of colorful ninjas fighting each other.
Which is fine by me. Clash of Ninja Revolution 2’s range of characters is one of its most impressive qualities. Their names all blend together, but their unique powers are some of the coolest in the fighting genre. One guy can control sand. Another can grow incredibly fat and bowl over his enemies. One fights alongside a life-size marionette, manipulating it to attack from different directions and adding a couple more fists to his combos.
Laying down long combo strings of weak and strong attacks is the key to victory. However, the game’s use of the Wiimote destroys one’s ability to attack with any precision. Using the nunchuck-and-Wiimote scheme, the weak attack is triggered by shaking the Wiimote. The slightest flick of the wrist, such as the natural inclination to reset your hand after flicking downwards, sets off your attack causing unintended strikes that ruin the combo you were attempting. Playing with the Wiimote alone (where attacks are mapped to buttons rather than waggle) or either the classic controller or a GameCube controller is highly recommended.
Figuring out each character’s set of moves is made easier by the similarities between all of them. Four weak attacks followed by a strong is a very common combo, for example. Matches can be one-on-one or a two-on-two tag-team. Arenas are multi-level and fighters can throw opponents from one level to another, much like Mortal Kombat: Deception and the original N:CNR. Also back from its predecessor are objects in each stage that fighters can hide behind and use to launch unique attacks. Players earn jutsu with every attack that can be used to dodge or launch formidable special attacks.
N:CNR2 is not an original, innovative game, but it’s no quick cash-in. Developer Eighting, which has worked on the series since its beginning, throws every fighting game ingredient into its recipe to make a product that’s conventional but competes with the best. Though gameplay is generic, the variety and imaginativeness of the game’s licensed roster are its strong points. It’s not much of an upgrade over the Naruto games that have come before, but for anyone who hasn’t tried those—or for the many hardcore Naruto fans—this is a solid fighting game that’s one of the Wii’s best.
Pros: great characters, easy controls, big range of game modes
Cons: lame story mode, awful use of Wiimote waggle, lack of innovation
Plays Like: previous Clash of Ninja games, Tekken
ESRB: T for Cartoon Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes