Review by horror_spooky
Naruto was once the biggest anime around, reaching a level of popularity and universal renown unmatched since the days that Goku and friends were blasting aliens with beams. In recent years, the popularity of the show and manga have faltered slightly, but that hasn't stopped developers from releasing games based on the yellow-haired ninja. Ubisoft released Naruto: Rise of a Ninja a few years back, and I found it to be a surprisingly good Naruto game. This sequel, Naruto: The Broken Bond, is just as good as the original game, but it fails to reach the level of quality that it has the potential to reach.
The Broken Bond plays very similarly to Rise of a Ninja. The game is a hybrdi between a free-roaming, almost Assassin's Creed-like game, a fighting game, a platformer, and an RPG. The free-roaming this time around is relatively the same as it was before, except there aren't as many side quests as before, and you have more of the surrounding woods to explore than you did last time. Granted, there really isn't that much to see in the woods and the level design is kind of weak, but at least they expanded.
Battles play out in a fighting game-style, just like the first game. You battle a bunch of random bandits and occasionally you'll have sweet encounters with villains and other heroes from the Naruto universe, like the infamous Orochimaru or Naruto's best buddy Sasuke. The battle system is largely the same from the first game, and while I wish the fighting system was deeper, it does work. It's just simple enough to be effective, but there's nothing wrong with a little complacency and complexity in a fighter. Also, there needs to be more moves and more variety, especially when it comes to the co-op attacks.
Co-op attacks? What ever am I talking about? Well, you can't play this game in co-op, but as you journey through the adventure, you will have opportunities to battle with other characters from the series on your team. Unlike last time, you aren't restricted to just controlling Naruto. You can now play as Neji, Shikamaru, Sasuke, Kiba, and various other characters. They have their own special jutsus to use in battle and their own fighting styles, and it certainly helps keeps things fresh and interesting. However, they aren't limited to just the fighting sections.
As you explore Konoha and the surrounding areas, you will also have opportunities to control Naruto's allies. They have their own abilities that are used to traverse the environment more successfully. If there are invisible traps, Neji would have to use his Byakugan to see them and if there is an item hidden under a house, Shikamaru would be tasked with using his shadows to grab it. Everyone has their own abilities, but their skills overlap since you can only take two people with you besides Naruto whilst adventuring to avoid a headache when you come across an area that you don't have the necessary character for. Naruto has a rather unique skill himself, and that's the ability to make shadow clones stack on top of one another and then form a bridge to get over gaps. It's funny, and it's quite creative.
Some of these abilities are pulled off simply by inputting the jutsu commands via the control sticks, but some of them come along with a little mini-game that must be completed. For example, Naruto creating a bridge with his shadow clones is done by balancing a ball on a meter using the right and left triggers. When Choji needs to break down a stone wall, you have to rapidly tap the A button to build up speed while he is in his ball form.
QTEs figure heavily into the gameplay of The Broken Bond, just like they did in the first game. Many of your jutsu attacks that you use in battles require QTEs to reach maximum damage capacity, as well as a combination of little mini-games that also work into the combat. QTEs are also used, obviously, at certain cut-scenes in the game to help keep the player involved in the action. Unfortunately, a weak checkpoint system is employed with these QTEs, and if you're not fast enough, you'll be forced to watch the same cut-scene over and over and over until you can try, and maybe fail yet again at, the quick-time event. Ninja Blade may have had too many QTEs, but at least they used them correctly.
Platforming segments were some of my favorite things in the first game, but this time around, the platforming has degenerated into basically having you time jumps over spike pits and...that's basically all there is to it. While you can create the sweet parkour-moments throughout Konoha while you're just exploring the city, many of the missions that take place outside the city will simply have you dodge traps and jump over holes. The platforming isn't polished enough and the hit detection is still not nearly as good as it should be for a seventh generation video game.
As you complete missions, side-missions, and progress through the game, you will earn friendship points. These points can be spent to upgrade Naruto's statistics. You can upgrade his health, chakra, jutsu power, and the like. RPG elements also show their face in the form of the ability to equip scrolls to increase your statsitical power, and buying items at the local shop for health and chakra regeneration.
The most entertaining parts of the game, though, are the times when you just find yourself exploring Konoha. Jumping along rooftops at insane speeds, discovering secret items and areas, and just messing around happens to be one of the things that The Broken Bond does best. Sure, you can't go around murdering everyone like in GTA, but it still manages to be fun, and it instills a much-appreciated sense of freedom.
I did find it kind of weird that the game uses two forms of currency. In order to purchase some items from the stores, you have to not only have a certain amount of gold coins, but you must also have the necessary cash. It's just a tad strange to have this system, and there's no reason why the developers couldn't have stuck to one form of currency for in-game purchases and the like for the sake of simplicity and consistency.
Mini-games play a more prominent role this time around, as there is a whole town filled with mini-games for you to try. These mini-games require an almost insane amount of skill to pull off, but they are lots of fun and are rather creative. You can also go fishing and do other various side quests to kill time and to have fun.
How you are getting around to all these places, though? You see, the game uses the same system where you jump at crazy speeds on branches and through the woods, dodging obstacles and trying to reach the end as fast as possible. This mode is now played in the first person and there are some differences. You can now tap A directly before landing on a branch to pick up speed, and the obstacles in your way only take off health, and they don't kick you off and make you repeat a chunk of tree sequence gameplay.
Naruto: The Broken Bond picks up immediately where Rise of a Ninja left off. The assault on the Leaf Village is nearing a close, and the Third Hokage is having an epic battle with the evil Orochimaru. Spoilers could ensue like crazy here, but I'll choose not to endulge too much into them. The game basically follows Naruto and his friends quest to rebuild their village, while a bunch of side-stories and the like goes on in the background. I didn't like a few of the missions in the story mode, though, as they felt like filler. They felt just like they seemed, and that was filler for the anime. The only thing is, that this is a video game, that is not bound by the horrors of filler episodes.
The cel-shaded visuals I was a bit annoyed with in the last outing, but I love them here. The detail in the environment is quite impressive, with beautiful water and grass effects. The lighting is quite well done, too, and the character models are equally impressive. The animation is top-notch, except for a few problems with lip-synching. Unfortunately, technical issues do rear their ugly head. There was a time when I repeatedly fell through the game world and kept losing life, and there are other glitches and problems that the game is indeed afflicted with.
I'm not alone when I say that I hate the majority of the English voice actors for the Naruto anime. They are absolutely terrible and make the series look childish and lame compared to other great animes like Dragon Ball Z and Bleach. Thankfully, you now have the option to listen to the Japanese voice overs instead of the English ones. I loved the background music and the like, too.
Naruto: The Broken Bond is roughly ten hours in length. There are a lot of side quests and other things to do after your initial playthrough, however, and there is the multiplayer mode to take a look at that supports four-players locally (in tag team action) and online. The achievements are better this time, too. You will actually get quite the bang for your buck here, and that's definitely something to be appreciated in a day and age where most games can be completed in just a few hours.
The Broken Bond is strong when it comes to the graphics, the audio presentation, and the great storyline that hopefully reaches a wider audience. The gameplay is okay, but nothing extraordinary, and there is quite a bit of replayability. Unfortunately, the game suffers from technical mishaps, a shallow fighting system, and inferior platforming to the original. Fans of Naruto will surely find a lot to love in this follow-up to Rise of a Ninja, and for good reason, but even if you aren't a fan of the series, why not give this game a shot? You might find out that Naruto is just up your alley. Believe it!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/28/10
Game Release: Naruto: The Broken Bond (US, 11/18/08)
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