The Complete Naruto Package
This year has definitely been a big one for Naruto. With new games coming out on every major system including both handhelds, this ninja sure has been busy! Naruto: The Broken Bond is the Xbox 360 exclusive follow up to last year’s critically acclaimed Rise of a Ninja, and it improves upon its predecessor in almost every way. It is a model hybrid between an action/adventure title and a traditional brawler, and it combines elements from both of these genres to create a deep and memorable Naruto experience that fans (as well as a few non-fans) can truly get into.
The story mode revolves around the aftermath of the invasion of Konoha and the beginning of the Tsunade arc. Although this part of the story has definitely been explored in previous titles, The Broken Bond also allows you to view the events of this particular arc through the perspective of other characters. Although all the core events in the game remain the same as the manga and anime, the new perspectives are a clever way of keeping this often-used material fresh for even the most seasoned fan. However, if you are not a Naruto fan, The Broken Bond does not include any backstory, so you may need to play Rise of a Ninja to understand the events that take place during the story mode.
The story mode works in the same way that it did in Rise of a Ninja and consists of several different story missions, as well as optional side-quests, that your character can complete to progress in the game. These missions can vary from traditional battle to discovery and collection missions, which have you performing various errands around the current setting. Each mission completed will net you a certain amount of “friendship points,” which will allow you to upgrade your stats.
You play through most missions as Naruto but are also be able to assume the role of other characters simultaneously to perform various character-specific jutsus. When you are able to change characters, you can use the D-pad to switch between characters and form different parties. In addition to using the different character jutsus, you can also use the multi-character facet to solve level-based puzzles that involve pulling switches in different areas or as a tag-partner in combat-based missions.
The battle system in The Broken Bond takes most of its cues from Rise of a Ninja but with a few improvements. The combo system is still very simple, and you will only have a handful of character-specific combo moves. There is also a hand-sign jutsu system that allows you to perform various actions with the two thumbsticks in order to charge and execute various jutsus. The core combat works very well, but the hand-signs are a little bit more difficult to execute in battle despite being rather specific.
The story mode in The Broken Bond is fairly short and will probably take only about ten hours or so to complete, with only a few extra hours added from optional missions. However, Naruto: The Broken Bond does have some deep multiplayer options to satiate your post-game needs. One of my main criticisms of both the Clash of Ninja and Ultimate Ninja series has been the lack of online play. Naruto: The Broken Bond, however, bucks this trend and has not only traditional brawling matches but a very deep tournament mode that allows you to gain points and level your character up as you beat online opponents. The online component has to be the best facet of this title, just because no other Naruto title has been able to make the jump online yet. However, if you want to keep things local, there is also an offline versus mode that you can play with up to three friends.
The controls in The Broken Bond are very easy to learn. The face buttons are primarily used for combat and, because of the simplistic nature of the battle system, generally require timed presses rather than all-out mashing like in other Naruto brawlers. The hand-sign system is also very simple, although switching from buttons to thumbsticks takes a while and does feel a little awkward at first. But, if you are used to the core brawling format of most Naruto games, then you will ease right into the control style of The Broken Bond.
Visuals in The Broken Bond are very good and feature the series’ trademark anime-look. Although the visuals are not as sharp as those featured in Ultimate Ninja Storm, the cel-shading is expertly done, and all the characters sport a fair amount of detail. The environments look very good as well, although there are a lot of repetitive elements in crowded environments. Many of the non-playable characters also have repetitive design, which is slightly annoying when you are looking for one specific NPC among many who look very similar. However, the graphics do look very nice when taken as a whole, and character animations as well as cinema scenes stand out as the best facets of this title’s visuals.
Audio in The Broken Bond is very pleasant to listen to, and the game includes both Japanese and English voiceovers. Both of the voiceovers are of excellent quality, and fans of both the Japanese version and the English version will appreciate the original voice actors from both reprising their roles for the game. The music in this title is a nice mix of original tunes as well as songs sampled from the anime.
Naruto: The Broken Bond may well give the much publicized Ultimate Ninja Storm a run for its money as the best Naruto game this year. Although the latter was touted for its amazing visuals, The Broken Bond is the most complete-feeling Naruto title currently available. With a fun and varied story mode, an easygoing battle-system and, most importantly, online brawling functionality, Naruto: The Broken Bond is definitely worth your time as a Naruto fan. This title has plenty of content, and if you can’t wait to get back to Konoha, this title is one of the best ways to do so!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The graphics are extremely sharp, and the character cel-shading is perfect. Environments from the anime are well-created, although there are some repetitive elements. 4.0 Control
The battle system is very simple, and the double-thumbstick hand sign mechanic is integrated well. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Both English and Japanese voiceovers sound great, and original level music is nice to listen to. 4.4 Play Value
The story mode isn’t too lengthy, but the online modes will keep you coming back to this one! 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.