Naruto’s popularity has steadily grown, and so has the number of games that have come out based on the series.  It seems like there isn’t a month that goes by where a new Naruto game isn’t released.  Last year Ubisoft released a Naruto game called Path of a Ninja that incorporated fighting, platforming, mini-games, and small role-playing elements.  Now Ubisoft has released The Broken Bond, a game with similar concepts that continues the storyline.

 

The Broken Bond follows the storyline of the series.  The death of the Third Hokage by Orochimaru has caused the Leaf Village in search of the Fourth Hokage.  Naruto is sent out on a mission to assist finding the Fourth Hokage and gets into several side missions along the way.  The relationship between Sasuke and his brother Itachi is also explored.  If you don’t have any familiarity to the series, then you probably won’t understand who everyone is and what kind of background they have, and the game doesn’t do anything to familiarize those unfamiliar with the story.

While the previous Naruto games on the PS2 looked good, the jump to the current generation of consoles has been very beneficial to the series.  The characters are animated better on the Xbox 360 games than the PS2 games.  The cel shading looks great, making the characters look like they jumped right out of the anime or the pages of the manga.  The animations are fluid throughout without any major jumps.  A little bit of shading provides the depth for the characters and the surroundings.  While the water won’t get any graphic awards for reflective lighting, it is appropriate for the style.

 

Lighting effects are used heavily during the segments that involve starting your character’s ninjutsu attacks.  A ball of light starts to grow from the center of the character and illuminates the area.  The sparks fly all over in a random pattern.  As the power of the ninjutsu attack grows, the brighter the area around gets.  Blocked hits are shown with a little bit of extra lighting, helping to show that the block was successful.

 

The backgrounds in The Broken Bond set up the story well.  When Naruto is near the Leaf Village, there are pathways through the forest.  When walking through the city, people are walking around and there is activity going on inside the tents and buildings.  The buildings and backgrounds do have a bit of a sense of

The voice actors from the anime lend their voices to The Broken Bond.  Their inflections match the tone of the characters within the game.  Sometimes it sounds a bit silly, but most of the time it works.  For those who feel that they want to turn off the voice acting because it makes their ears bleed, Ubisoft has provided another option.  The Japanese voice acting for the characters is included as well, which does give the characters a more serious tone.  It’s something that purists will appreciate.

 

If you have heard any previous Naruto game or watched any Naruto episode, then you will know exactly what the music sounds like.  Not that this is a bad thing, as the music is an interesting mix of tribal beats, piccolo, and guitar.  While is might sound like a cacophony, it works surprisingly well.

While The Broken Bond has several different types of gameplay modes, the controls between the two are smooth and easy to learn.  Movement is done with the left stick, and you can control the camera with the right stick.  While in adventure mode hitting A jumps around, while X talks to characters, and Y brings up your character sheets.  The left bumper brings up your inventory.  The left trigger activates Hand Seals while the right trigger makes your character sprint.  During fights the face buttons work a bit differently.  The X button performs a horizontal attack while Y does a vertical attack.  The B button is used for blocking.  The right trigger can grab your opponent for you to damage him with a special attack.  The controls are responsive to each, and you can use the X and Y buttons in many different combinations for many combo attacks.

 

The most ingenious portion of the controls are the Hand Seals.  By pushing the left trigger, you activate the beginning of the Hand Seals.  You then use both analog sticks to simulate moving your hands.  Once you have complete the Hand Seal, a sphere starts to grow.  Multiple indicators show up to show how powerful an attack you can create.  The longer you hold down the left trigger, the more powerful the Ninjutsu will be.  It matches the anime well.

The Broken Bond is a unique mix of platforming and fighting.  As you move around the area you encounter others to talk to, get information about the story, buy objects, and sometimes get quests.  Occasionally you come across areas that you have to jump across to get to, or traps you need to avoid.    If you don’t avoid the trap, then you lose health.  You do have the ability to gain health back, not only during the adventure mode, but also during the fighting as well.  This is important for some of the tougher fights.

 

Most of the time when you get a quest, it is preceded by a cutscene.  You can still do some exploring once the cutscene is finished, but you won’t find a true open world experience here.  While that might sound like a bad thing, it helps keep the storyline stay focused.  While there is some variety in the quests, most of them are nothing more than FedEx quests.  They do what they can to hide that fact, but most of the time you have to find an object or do something in a specific place and then return.  This doesn’t mean that the quests aren’t interesting, but hopefully we can see more variety in the future.

 

When you get quests, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have company to help you.  Characters like Sakura, Sasuke, Shikamaru, Kiba, Choji, and Neji will lend their assistance.  Most of the time they will follow you, but other times you will need to split up.  Other times you need to switch to the other characters to use their Ninjutsu move to progress.  For instance, you may need Shikamaru so that you can use his Shadow Ninjutsu to use his shadow to go underneath a building and reach a switch to let down a gate.  Teamwork is a huge part of the game.

 

As you complete quests, you gain friendship points.  These friendship points are used to upgrade Naruto in four different areas.  They are health, chakra, taijutsu, and ninjutsu power.  This gives the game a bit of an RPG-lite feel to it.  Do you increase Naruto’s health, or do you increase the amount of chakra he can store up?  These decisions will influence you in how you play the game.

 

As you work your way around the environment, you will pick up gold coins.  These gold coins are used at shops to purchase items, such as the Weapon Shop that has pills that can replenish your health or chakra.  You can also visit the Ramen Shop to restore the health of your entire team, or the Scroll Shop that sells scrolls that improve your ninja powers.

 

Just because you know how to fight, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need practice.  You can head to the Dojo and hone your skills.  You can not only fight as Naruto, but your other friends as well.  You can also learn new combos.  While it will take some time learning the timing for certain combos, you get bonuses for completing the training.

 

The fighting isn’t as deep as something like Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter, but that doesn’t mean there is some depth to it.  Knowing how long to hold onto your Ninjutsu move is important, and can mean the difference between success or failure.  Knocking down your opponent before performing these should help give you some extra power.  There are enough combos to give you some depth, but that doesn’t mean that the are incredibly difficult to pull off.

 

To help break up the action, Naruto includes several minigames to play.  One is a throwing dart game, while another is a

The Broken Bond will take you at least ten hours to complete.  This is a surprising amount of time for a game like this.  That also doesn’t include all of the minigames and other activities, which can easily double the play time.  You definitely get a good value, especially if you are a primarily singleplayer person and don’t get out to the multiplayer scene often.

 

A little bit of multiplayer action is included.  Locally and on Xbox Live,  you can compete in two on two tag battles, or fight against each other in a battle royale.  You can also have a tournament to determine which one of you is the best.  Online there is a continuous tournament going on, and the better you are, the higher you can make it to the leaderboards.

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