Fight and run like a ninja in this improved GBA sequel.
Although I didn't play the original Ninja Council, I can tell from a quick look at Dan Bloodworth's review that the sequel is a huge improvement. Nearly all of the problems Dan pointed out have been rectified in Ninja Council 2. It still falls short of excellence, but this is a good action game that should please fans of the show.
Ninja Council 2 is a combat-heavy platformer with eight lengthy levels of mayhem. You control Naruto, Sasuke, or Sakura and can rotate among them with the L button. However, some battles restrict you to using a certain character, which adds some challenge because you'll have one life bar instead of three. Fighting is the core of the game, and each of the three main characters has a full set of basic attacks, combos, and jutsu special moves. Use of jutsu is well balanced by the fact that they take up some of your own life bar, just like in Final Fight. There are also plenty of ninja projectile weapons (shuriken, knives, etc.) and magical scrolls, which summon a supporting character to attack nearby enemies. Because your characters are quite fast and nimble, easily able to jump over the bad guys, the game frequently forces you to stop and defeat a certain number of enemies before moving on. It's a simple and effective way to keep you from avoiding every fight, but towards the end of the game, these forced battles drag on for way too long, requiring dozens upon dozens of kills before you can proceed.
The level designs start off uninspired but get better as you go. Eventually, you'll have to deal with moving platforms, flame jets on the walls, and exploding candles. You might even have to use the vertical teleport to get to higher ground. It's all been done before, but the platforming elements are decent and keep the fighting from becoming monotonous. In a strange twist, there are also brief areas in which your character runs twice as fast as normal, and all you have to do is collect leaf symbols and jump over obstacles. It's a direct homage to Sonic the Hedgehog, and though these sections feel a bit out of place, they are fun. At the end of every level is at least one boss ninja who can teleport just as easily as you can. These fights can be quite challenging unless you happen to find a jutsu that the boss is weak against.
The story has something to do with passing the Chunin Exam and fighting the series’ main antagonist, Orochimaru, although he is not the final boss. Text chatter precedes each level and boss fight, and not knowing much about the anime, I honestly cannot follow the plot at all. People seem to fight each other for no good reason, but perhaps it makes more sense to hardcore fans of the show. The good news is that I had an enjoyable time playing the game even without being very familiar with Naruto, so it stands to reason that real fans will like it even more.