It’s safe to say that my relationship with my PSP has been a fairly solid one. Having bought the console in its first week of release in Japan it has been a good bed fellow, keeping me amused on many road trips, Naruto on the other hand has been a rockier road.
When I was first introduced to the series back in 200X I wasn’t really sold on the idea that I needed to think more along the lines of “they’re ninja’s but act like wizards” kind of stuff they were going for and at the time the anime left me feeling unfulfilled. Not to say I didn’t try though, I’ve embraced Naruto in a lot of its forms, from Manga, Anime, Music, Cosplay and Games but the latter has always held more of my interest in the series. Naruto is such a cinematic IP that can turn a generic beat-em-up game into something so outlandishly fun with its giant monsters and earth shatteringly powerful punches but sadly this isn’t the impression I received from this Naurto outing.
Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive tells the story of some mysterious goings on after a village and its inhabitants vanish. Naruto and his team are sent to out to investigate and run into bandits and other mysterious ninja. It’s a fairly standard affair and I’m actually glad that this is an original story and not something rehashed from the actual series as this would simply widen my disconnect with the overall story, given that I have probably avoided 70% of it so far, and if this is your first encounter with this series you’ll not have missed much that wasn’t covered by the opening animation.
The English voice cast quickly caused me to mute my PSP until I found the option to turn on the Japanese vocals instead, which is an option I always appreciate in games, not just those with voice acting I can’t stand. While combat is solid overall with it being easy and fast paced. it is perhaps too basic in that ‘one-two-special’ combos are all that you can do, and with wave after wave of enemies popping up it soon becomes a tedious ordeal that you wish just ended, which makes the Boss fights more of a chore than counting all the grains of sand in a one square metre area. Most boss fights are reduced to the very basic; avoid his frontal attacks, deliver as many hits as you can to his spine, rinse and repeat, though later on these battles it remains a rigmarole.
Naruto’s main selling point in this outing, however, I don’t feel is in the flow and level of difficulty in the combat but rather in how you work together as a team. Kizuna Drive boasts four player co-op, where you and three buddies can play through the campaign and work together with that team spirit and friendship bond that the series has always advocated above everything else. In Naruto’s world, friendship and compassion always triumph.
Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive isn’t a bad game compared to others from the series but it is, however, choosing to pander to a more multiplayer audience with its emphasis on teamwork and co-operation with you and three others, which you don’t – for obvious reasons – experience when playing this game on the go, with somewhat dim-witted AI characters filling in instead and missing their attacks when you need them to hit at crucial points in a fight. This does not endear the game to me, but the notion of such a multiplayer does. Many PSP games have to sacrifice elements to focus on one particular aspect, so in choosing to create this dynamic and fun multiplayer experience Kizuna Drive’s singleplayer aspect falls criminally short of the mark but it’s easy to appreciate the experienced with friends, and if you all love Naruto you’ll enjoy every punch you deliver together.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: PSP Release Date: 25/03/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Nruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PSP. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.