A bonding adventure.
Oh, the shame of it all. The absolute shocking horror. I have actually played a Naruto game and enjoyed it (and lived to tell the tale). I know, I’m as shocked as you are, but Naruto: The Broken Bond is a fun and entertaining experience that mixes classic gaming elements with pop culture animé.
[image1]If you’ve ever doubted the honesty of the GR staff in our reviews, then the fact that I’m actually recommending The Broken Bond should put those fears to rest. You see, I hate Naruto. I hate the cheesy dialogue, I hate the animation, and I hate the blonde guy in the bright orange jumpsuit shouting everything he says and claiming to be a ninja. So for me to say that this game is anywhere near enjoyable is truly humbling.
So what exactly makes Naruto: The Broken Bond so much fun? Well, for starters, it’s an RPG that plays like a fighter with a ton of mini-games thrown in for good measure. There’s so much to do and almost all of it is entertaining.
The plot follows the same story as the TV show, as far as I can tell. You are the angry, neon-loving ninja, Naruto. Your ninja village has been desecrated by an epic attack, and it’s up to you and your group of ninja school buddies to unravel the mysteries behind the assault.
Graphically, the game is very animé, but what else would you expect? Character models are cel-shaded, and it works well overall, but there are a few glitches in the matrix, so to speak – just a few small problems with dialogue and some color bleeding here and there.
[image2]The backgrounds look very much like watercolor paintings and have a great amount of detail. From big cities filled with folks going to the market to tree-filled forests, everything is bright and colorful. But beyond the cities, things tend to get a bit repetitive.
The tendency of certain environments to be recycled is forgivable when you take into consideration how much interaction you have with them. Different characters in your party have special abilities that will grant you access to places you couldn’t get to before or show you things you could not see before – such as a guy who can turn into a dog that can get through tiny corridors or a pudgy guy named Choji who can boulder his way through walls. It means you’ll spend a lot of time exploring and going back through areas you’ve already cleared in order to collect hidden items, but here, the backtracking is less of a chore as it could have been.
Team members will also play an important role in fighting. Each character’s fighting moves are varied, but there are fixed button combos that work for all of them. It’s great that you can essentially learn the moves for all characters quickly and if you take a bit of time to try them out, you can get really good fast.
Aside from the normal grouping of attacks, each character has a set of unique special moves that involve an in-battle mini-game. The most comparable concept would be the Dragon Ball fighting games with their button-mashing fireball conflicts. The only difference is that the mini-games in Broken Bond have more substance, especially the Dragon’s Lair-styled time-your-dodge games.
[image3]Beyond the fighting moves, there’s a ton of random little fun games to play in between battles. Leaping through trees in races and trying to master ninja techniques in rhythm games can be entertaining, but some are a bit odd, like the "grab the candy" game and the "catch a bunch of fish in a pond" game. While they can be fun, they’re not quite as action-packed as you would expect from a ninja.
Along with the story mode, there are tournaments and online fighting modes to test your mad ninja skills against the competition. While the tournaments against the computer are easy enough, beating up thirteen-year olds online proves to be a bit more of a challenge. Also, it would have been nice to have more options for online battles, perhaps being able to choose opponents who are closer to your skill level as opposed to just being thrown into the fray against a guy who has a number of wins that is hundreds more than the number of fights you’ve even played.
It’s very perplexing to actually enjoy a Naruto game. I never would have saw it coming. But the great game design along with the replay value of both the story mode and the fighting system along with some innovative mini-games actually made Naruto: The Broken Bond fun to play. If you’re into the anime series and have coped with some of the more lackluster titles in the franchise, you may want to consider giving this one a shot, and like me, even if you don’t like Naruto, you may want to check it out.