Japan Review Check: Naruto, 7th Dragon

A quick look at the highlights among the games coming out in Japan this coming week, courtesy the review pages of Famitsu magazine:

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm (10/10/10/9, 39 out of 40 points): The CyberConnect2-developed Naruto: Ultimate Ninja fighting games always score massive points in Famitsu's reviews, and this latest one — which actually came out in the US and Europe a few weeks before the Japan debut — is no exception.

"Thanks to new battle system features like chain attacks, Awakenings, and ring-outs, there's a lot more of a tactical aspect here," wrote editor Atsuhiro Fujiwara. "The sense of speed is exceptional, and I like the expanded character lineup as well. Load times are an occasional concern with story mode, but in terms of showing off the plot and keeping the battles exciting, the mode's really expertly done."

Nearly all the reviewers brought up load-time issues, but that didn't stop the majority of them from giving perfect scores.

"There are lots of games where you're tracing the steps of some licensed product's story," said writer Genki Shinohara, "but not many of them achieve such a high level of quality as this. What's more, the fact that you can take control of pretty much all the characters in the game blows my mind. Even with the guys that get destroyed in an instant, you can't help but love how they're there."

7th Dragon 2020-II (9/9/9/9, 36 points): Sega's latest RPG, given that it's for the PSP, likely has no chance of escaping Japan-gets pretty laudatory reviews.

"There isn't much that's changed with basic gameplay," said editor Reona Ebihara, "but the story element's a lot heavier and the battles a lot deeper. With the new 'Idol' class and all the tricky skills that come with it, there's much more of a tactical element in play here, making it more fun to organize your party's structure."

"Character creation is really extensive, with 40 voice sets at your fingertips, and it's fun to experiment with building the best character possible," added Ranbu Yoshida. "They all demonstrate intricate animation in events and battles, with the special skill triggers particularly flashy and fun. The graphics and music are both pretty intense, and both beginners and series fans can really enjoy this."

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (8/7/7/7, 29 points): The reviews for this third-person shooter are just as mixed here as they were across most US press outlets.

"The 'overkill' mode, where you become more powerful for a period and get to just blow apart enemies and buildings, is so exhilarating," Yoshida wrote. "It's also fun to issue specific commands to your partner based on the situation, slowly working through your mission. It's a pity there's no competitive online modes — I wish there were different stages available for play in online co-op, too."

"Your partner's AI in singleplayer is pretty intelligent and keeps things fun," Shinohara added, "but the enemy AI could definitely use a little bit more work."

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