Hands-on with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2

A sequel we can believe in

Hands-on with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2

Games based on the demon-possessed anime character Naruto haven't fared particularly well on handheld, leaving much to be desired in terms of gameplay.

Surprisingly though, Namco Bandai bucked this trend with its PSP title Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes, which makes it all the more exciting that enhancements are in store for its sequel.

Smartly sticking to the formula of the first game, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 doesn't do anything to change the fundamental gameplay, opting instead to add on a new mode and extra features.

The core of the game still revolves around 2D fighting, which promises to be as tight as ever. More effort has been taken to fine tune the fighting mechanics and tweak the visuals, not only to look better, but also to perform more smoothly. After mashing buttons through a few fights, it certainly felt as though things had been sharpened up.

You'll have access to all the modes included in the original, from Versus to wireless one-on-one bouts and Heroes mode. There's no online fighting here, which is disappointing; nevertheless, you still can duke it out in ad-hoc mode with a buddy.

Heroes mode - after which the game is named - runs you through a series of stages, fighting off enemies using a slate of three characters. Before jumping into the fray, you select a trio from your available roster and activate any attribute-boosting skills for a competitive edge. Naturally, new characters and abilities become available the more you play.

Joining the game's assortment of head-to-head fighting modes is a new Adventure mode, which takes you through a 100-floor customisable dungeon. Called the Phantom Fortress, you crawl up each level filling in empty rooms with special scrolls. Upon entering a new floor, a two-dimensional layout of the level is presented on the screen with blank squares signifying empty rooms. Moving up to the next floor requires creating a path through the map by filling in empty rooms with scrolls.

Different scrolls yield varying results with each offering a mini-game or specific challenge. Battle scrolls, for example, transform an empty room into a fighting stage. But plop down a riddle scroll and instead of a battle you'll be prompted to answer a series of puzzling questions in order to move forward. Not all rooms are empty though. Scripted drama rooms propel the story forward, usually offering a short conversation or even a battle.

Completing rooms and floors in Adventure mode, as well as earning achievements in any of the other modes, rewards you with ninja points for unlocking bonuses. Winning a head-to-head match in versus mode, for example, nets you 10 ninja points.

Like any currency, it's best spent quickly. Heading over to Naruto's house enables you to fitter away your earnings on various trinkets and extras. One option you don't have to unlock however is the ability to switch between the original Japanese voice recordings and the English ones.

Kudos, Namco Bandai.

Everything is looking right on track for the game's June release in North America. The European schedule is yet to be confirmed.

Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.