Eat your Ramen and do some slammin’ it’s Naruto time.
Yes it hurt me to type that. Just read the damn review.
Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive
Although the internet in general is obsessed by fantasy ninjas, it’s plain to most people that the reality was almost certainly something entirely different. However the land of folklore is an entirely different beast. The manga-based world of Naruto is flung deep within the sort of fairytale romance cum bratty teenager mishmash of impenetrable Japanese mythology and social cliché that most westerners will only ever scratch the surface of at best. A newcomer to the world of Naruto is probably best to simply admit defeat rather than attempt to comprehend the plot lines and character arcs that have spanned over the innumerable manga comics, TV series, films and video games.
Thankfully, Naruto ShippÅ«den: Kizuna Drive, neither asks nor attempts to educate the player as to what’s going on in the universe, merely that they try to follow the vague storyline. The game opens, with our titular hero seemingly bursting into Nine-Tailed Fox-God form and laying waste to a village. Naturally the village elders are a mite peeved and swear vengeance against the ninja clan. We take up with our oblivious teenage Ninja the next day and the adventure begins. Or doesn’t as the case may be. As the story doesn’t so much evolve as is slowly teased out in minute portions between over-long battle sequences that stretch the minutes and the patience of the player to far beyond breaking point.
Controlling Naruto and his crew of buddies is easy enough, fitting nicely into the mould similar to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII with a easily manipulatable third-person view. In between the many cut-scenes, gameplay consists of small arena-like segments where the characters will invariably fall under attack after a few moments by several waves of increasingly difficult ninjas, usually culminating in a boss fight. More often than not these waves will continue long past the point of becoming tedious, making you wonder why the makers felt the need to pad out the game so much.
Aside from the main attack, which can be strung into a single four touch combo, there is a super attack, usable at every stage of the combo, to a different effect. Sadly the overall result is usually the same, you knock an enemy over for a few seconds, eventually killing them; rinse and repeat until the area is clear. After each map the game amusingly states ‘Moving to next place’ mirroring the lack of interest the player will feel about what is happening. Occasionally an enemy will become stunned, allowing the player to enter into a game of bad-guy Frisbee. This is actually quite fun as the players punch the foe around giving you the option of punting them onwards to another ally or finishing them off, all by choosing one of the main four buttons. Hit a blank one, or miss-time and the character will get knocked off his feet, losing the bonuses. Sadly this occurs far too infrequently to be of much use, and doesn’t really help to vary the combat enough to make this a fun game to play.
The game isn’t hopelessly bad, simply badly thought out. Fans of the series will no doubt take to the stick of the characters with a more favouring eye than Naruto newcomers, lapping up the ‘hysterical’ japery of Naruto’s unquenchable hunger for ramen, and other animé stereotypes littering the cut-scenes that pad out the game between the repetitive battle arenas. Additionally the game has an individual mission mode as well as the storyline and a few multiplayer modes but ultimately, the main game simply isn’t enjoyable enough to do credit to the story being told, or the Naruto Universe in general.