Naruto games are a dime a dozen. Or should that be a penny a dozen? I don’t know, but it’s fair to say that there are a lot of Naruto games out on a lot of different formats, made by a lot of different people. So finding the Nartuo game for you can be a bit of a hit and miss affair. Anyone who remembers last year’s Naruto: Way of a Ninja by Ubisoft for Xbox 360 will know that there are at least some quality Naruto games out there. During the upheaval that was the 2008 Christmas rush, a new Naruto game was added to the Xbox 360 catalogue. But does it fix the problems from last year?
Anyone familiar with the Naruto story, or have been keeping up to date with Manga Entertainment’s release of the series will know the plot of this Naruto game. While last year’s edition finished at the end of the Leaf Village attack, The Broken Bond picks up straight after the battle and continues the story right up until the official end of the story. If you missed last year’s game however, you will be missing a good chunk of the story and the motivations present in this new title.
The presentation is more than likely the first thing to hit you. While it is an improvement over last year’s game, compared to Ultimate Ninja Storm on the PS3, it is by no means the best looking Naruto game. A strange omission is the removal of clips from the TV series in favour of cutscenes using the in-game engine. While not a horrible thing, having clips of the anime to watch to help progress the story was a nice addition. The replacement of this feature with lifeless and soulless 3D models of the cast dents this game, which is a shame.
One thing Naruto fans will enjoy is being able to explore the Leaf Village as well as some outside areas. Here players will need to find other characters to do story missions, as well as complete side quests, shop for items, learn new moves and generally explore the environment whilst looking for the many hidden coins. The exploration is fine, breaking up the fights and helping to move things along. However, strange decisions have been made; unbelievably fast traps appearing in the way and the inability to swim takes away the freeform environment the game is trying so hard to promote.
The main feature of the game is the fighting. Taking a leaf out of Soul Calibur’s book, the action is fast-paced while remaining simple to play and easy to pick up. For the most part that is fine, but veteran fighters will find the combat system incredibly simplistic and will dominate most matches. The inclusion of the jutsu into the combat brings about mini-games that decide if the attack is effective and how much damage it does, allowing for some nice “back from the brink” matches.
The fighting also expands out into the multiplayer arena, both online and offline. The exploration is completely dropped from these modes and instead focuses completely on the fighting, complete with 28 different characters to choose from, though some are initially locked. There is also a new online ranking system that keeps track of your progress during your fights. Fighting online with Naruto is a real pleasure, as the game does its best to keep you grouped with players of similar skill, though once you become fluent in the controls, you may well find that the fights get very much harder.
Naruto: The Broken Bond is a nice enough game that makes some vast improvements over last year’s efforts. The graphics have been polished, but some odd decisions in other areas stop the game reaching much higher than its predecessor. Naruto fans will find it hard to choose between this and Ultimate Ninja Storm, but as licensed games go, this is pretty damn good.