52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 4
Naruto: The Broken Bond
Release Date: November 18, 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Week 4 into my 52 week challenge and this week's write-up shall be short as I am in the middle of renovations with little time to play or write about games. So on with the show.
Continuing my Ubisoft Montréal month is a game based on a popular Japanese anime. In Naruto: The Broken Bond, the gamer primarily plays the part of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja with aspirations of greatness, but there are numerous other characters to be played as well. Naruto and his friends must stop Orochimaru, a very very bad person. I do not know much more about the characters as I am not familiar with the series nor have I played any other Naruto game. This game is indeed my introduction to the character and his world.
As with just about every game developed at Ubisoft Montréal, Naruto: The Broken Bond looks amazing. Unlike Assassin's Creed were all characters kind of looked identical, in Naruto there are so many different character models in play that it feels like everyone is unique. The game also have a great cartoon feel to it by using bright colours. Another staple of Ubisoft Montréal games is amazing music and voice-overs and here again the Canadian developer delivers. I played the game in part using the original Japanese voices and in part using the English voices, and both are of superb quality. I am just not sure if they match the TV series (for I have not seen it remember).
Naruto: TBB is primarily an adventure game with a bit of combat and jutsu (magic for all us non-ninjas) mixed in for good measure. The game world of Naruto is not very large but there is plenty of activities to keep any young ninja in training out of trouble. Naruto can go fishing at any of the numerous fishing holes, or he can opt to go and play mini games such as knife trowing, candy catching, catching fish with a net or whack-a-snake games among others. A quick side note on the mini-games, some developer in Montréal has a sick sense of humour when creating the "high scores" that must be surpassed in order to get a gold medal. For example the "find the ball under the cup" mini-game becomes virtually a guessing game after about 9 rounds, and this is only good for about half the score required to get gold. Of course one of the games achievements is to get gold at all mini-games. Let's not forget, there are also plenty of collectibles to be found. While playing Naruto, keep and eye out for any of the 1533 gold coins, 35 Lovelorn villagers and 10 Ninja cards that litter the game world. These gold coins can sometimes be found in areas accessible only with a character with the required jutsu to allow passage to some secret area. Gold coins are also giving for completing missions. Gold coins can be redeemed for items, pills (health, strength, and chakra pills) and weapons.
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Combat reminded me a lot of Prince of Persia (also by Ubisoft Montréal), while just about any button will create an attack, the only way to win a battle is by using combos. At times Naruto will be fighting with friends and these friends can join in to create very powerful combos. This game is also very unforgiving to button mashers as players will need to quickly identify what type of attack the opponent is using and counter or block as needed. Also available during combat is the use of jutsu. A well times jutsu attack can change the outcome of a battle. To use jutsu is very easy, just pull the left trigger and then use the two analog sticks to create a hand pattern (press the two controllers in a direction simultaneously) to cast the desired jutsu. Just like combos and blocks, the use of jutsu should be planned as various jutsu require a charge time, during this charge time the hero is vulnerable to any attack.
Naruto starts off pretty weak but can upgrade his skills as the game progresses. Completing missions, obtaining gold medals, winning fights will all net "friendship" points. These points can be exchanged for more health, strength, chakra or improved jutsu. This allows gamers to tailor the game to their preferred method of gameplay and adds an element of RPG to the game.
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This may come as a surprise to many, but I did not full enjoy my first experience with Naruto. There was several nagging issues that stopped me from saying this was another magical Ubisoft Montréal title. First complaint was that most of the game world is locked down at the beginning of the game. This leaves gamers will very little game world to explore. Sure all the area become accessible later on in the game, but by then the urge to wander and discover is long gone. This slow opening of the game world leads to my second beef with the game, I found the game way to repetitive. Now if you have been following all my write-ups on each game, you will know that I did not find Assassin's Creed that repetitive. In AC you did have the option of playing the game a bit differently to reduce the amount of repetition required, but in Naruto this is not an option. Each mission is basically the same thing, go around collection stuff with the occasional battle in between and at the end of the mission fight a "boss" battle.
To make things worse is the fact that there is no quick travel option. One mission where Naruto is sent to capture several escaped prisoners saw me backtracking the exact same path over a half dozen times. Finally I did not find the storyline compelling. I completed over half the game (not bad considering I am in the middle of renovations), but I do not have the urge to return to the game to complete it like I still do with Assassin's Creed and Far Cry 2. Sure some could argue it is because I have never watched the TV show. That may be the case, but I always like to think that a game should be able to stand on it's own, even if the licensed character was removed from the title. This game does not. Oh and did I mention the game makes light use of QTEs and everyone should now know how much I love QTEs (for those that do not, I hate them with a passion).
That is all, now back to my hardwood flooring