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Jeremy Jastrzab
11 Jan, 2009

Naruto: The Broken Bond Review

360 Review | Naruto is back and he's brought some friends.
Following their acquisition of the American gaming rights for the popular anime Naruto, Ubisoft released what was arguably one of the best franchised games in recent times, Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. Given that Naruto is a long running serial, a sequel was merely a matter of when, rather than if. Well, this turns out to be late 2008, with the release of Naruto: The Broken Bond. While the game sticks closely to a winning formula with some tweaks and additions, in bringing over a lot of the good aspects of the original, a lot bad ones have come through as well.

For the uninformed, Naruto is set in a highly stylised ninja world, where the titular character was essentially the little ninja that could. It probably didn’t help his popularity that he has a demonic fox sealed within him. Anyhow, both games follow the anime very closely, as the beginning of Broken Bond overlaps the end of Rise of a Ninja, with the attack on Naruto’s hometown, Konoha, and plays up until the conclusion of Sasuke’s defection to ‘the dark side’. Fans of the series will know what we're saying. However, you’d actually get a very good idea of the story if you played through both games, as it’s reproduced rather concisely.

Naruto: Rise of a Ninja blended third-person adventuring that reverted to a 3D fighting plane whenever you came across a battle. Naruto: The Broken Bond uses essentially the same system, though there have been a few tweaks and changes. In the predecessor, you only played as Naruto, but in Naruto: The Broken Bond, you can now play as a number of the other characters from the show. So rather than just wandering around the towns and forests as Naruto, you’ll now either have a partner or be able to pick a squad of three (though Naruto must be included) to do so.

Go team!

Go team!
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These inclusions allow for slightly more ambitious puzzles, though certain puzzles and areas can only be completed or reached by certain characters. For example, some switches can only be reached by Shikamaru’s Shadow jutsu, while hidden traps can only be detected using Neji’s Byakugan. It adds a good twist to the gameplay, and for the purposes of finishing the story, does not become a hindrance. However, it can sometimes be inconvenient if you pick a squad and go through an area where you don't have the required skill to avoid traps. For completionists, they may find themselves switching and flipping a lot between characters if they want to go for 100% completion.

The structure of the game is fairly similar to the original. You’ll follow the story of the anime (as mentioned above), while often you’ll have a few distractions and minor intermissions that get you to know your other characters better and that somewhat drag out the game’s length. Given the way these are handled, such as Choji’s mission to a potato chip factory, they can’t be seen as blatant fillers. In general, the story is very well retold and is done even better than the predecessor. However, the number of fetch quests and errands is rather tiresome. The majority of missions, especially non-story missions require you to collect x amount of something for someone.

If you have played the original, you probably got your fill of such quests, so to have another game filled with them is likely to test the patience of a few. One of the enjoyable diversions from the previous game was the tree-jumping sequences, though these have been simplified for The Broken Bond. As a result, there are two or three variants at max and get extremely repetitive by the end of the game. The Broken Bond also has the delivery and race diversions from the previous game, though each of these is now tied to a particular character. For example, races are tied to Kiba. A final diversion comes in the form of seven different mini-games that are based on traditional mini-games though given a Naruto/ninja theme.

Shiny effects. Check.

Shiny effects. Check.
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Apart from the adventure element, there is a fairly sophisticated fighting element to the game as well. Apart from a few negligible tweaks from the previous game, it’s a system that won’t have the fighting aficionados salivating, but the accessibility and variety allows both Naruto fans and non-fans to enjoy it. It’s particularly fun when both players are jostling with the varieties of jutsu attacks and associated defences. An advantage that The Broken Bond has is that the roster is much richer than the original, as every character that was encountered in the story is playable. Yes, every one of them.

To make the fighting system feel more fleshed out this time around, you have a dojo within the single player mode that will allow you to practice and learn some of the character’s combos. Furthermore, you can now participate in single and multiplayer tournaments, both on and offline. While the novelty of the online mode from the original remains, The Broken Bond allows for this as well as a more sophisticated ranking system and a few more options. It’s good to see that even without any major changes, the online mode manages to be endearing and enjoyable, though this is of course on the assumption that you’ve got a good connection.

Naruto: The Broken Bond is visually very similar to the original game, though it seems to be much cleaner and the anime extracts have been dropped completely. We mentioned last year that Naruto on the Xbox 360 was among the finest examples of cel-shading and this year’s version is no different. Apart from the mini-games, which wouldn’t have pushed the PS1, the graphics not only look great but capture the look and feel of the Naruto series very well.

An interesting match-up.

An interesting match-up.
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Last year, the Japanese voices were only available a month after the original release following a downloadable patch. This year, they’ve come packed in the box. However, we maintain that the English voices aren’t that bad. That, and sometimes the Japanese voices will say things that aren’t subtitled, such as some pre-battle taunts. Naruto: The Broken Bond is one of the few anime-based titles that actually uses the music from the show. Not only is the music from the show much better suited in comparison to anything else that could be conceived, but it does an excellent job of backing up the story situations.

It’s hard to say whether Naruto: The Broken Bond is clearly better than its predecessor. You could argue that the story is handled better and it now utilises more than just the titular character. Most other things have remained pretty much the same, and whether or not this is good will depend on how much you liked the first one. The one downer is the lack of variety in the quest or mission types, as most degenerate into fetch errands. Some would be fine, but when they make up a large majority of the game, it can get annoying. Still, combining a fine retelling of the story with an accessible and fun battle system makes Naruto: The Broken Bond among the better anime or licensed games available on the market.
The Score
Despite the repetitive fetch quests, the fine story retelling and accessible fighting system make Naruto: The Broken Bond among the better anime or franchise based games available.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/11/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2008

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