Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive Review

In my limited experience with Naruto — limited in the sense that I’ve “only” played a few Naruto games and watched a handful of episodes of a Naruto TV show — most of wat I remember about Naruto as a character is that he likes to scream “Believe it!” at people. And so it’s weird that after playing Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive on PSP, I can remember Naruto yelling a lot of things, including the game‘s title at me every time I started it up, but not that signature phrase.

That could be my fault, as I kinda zoned out during a few of the cutscenes and accidentally skipped one thanks to my fidgety fingers. I can’t be bothered to be upset with myself for that, even though I’m that guy who always harps about the importance of story in games. But if Namco had thrown in a cutscene after every three stages of Galaxian, I figure most people wouldn’t pay much attention to them, either.


Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive (PSP [Reviewed])
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: March 22, 2011
MSRP: $39.99

That’s all Kizuna Drive is, anyway: it’s an endless (not really endless) arcade game with an original Naruto story. The game is a brawler, and when you start it up, you’ll be dropped in a clearing in the woods to fight animals or bandits, and when you beat them all, the game will tell give you this message: “Moving to the next area.” Often, you’ll be dropped back in the same area you were just in and be forced to fight another group of those same enemies, but maybe with one or two stronger enemies mixed in. When you defeat them, that message pops up again, and maybe you’ll move on this time.

In some missions, you do actually proceed across a map, but that’s not really different from what I just described. You’ll fight a group of enemies, walk forward, fight another group of enemies, rinse, repeat until you get to a boss fight. The fights are almost always the same, regardless of setting, because every fight takes place in some space that acts as a fighting ring. Battles only vary when some sort of environment hazard shows up, like a lightning wall or exploding mushrooms.

That said, the fighting isn’t all bad in itself. Each character uses the same general combo structure, because you only use circle and triangle for hittin’ folks. (So every combo in the game is one of these: circle triangle, circle circle triangle, circle circle circle triangle, circle circle circle circle triangle. Not every character has all those combos, but every combo is one of those.) The various combos can be switched outside of battle ad on the fly in battle if you’ve equipped more than one combo tree. And the game is a sort of squad-based brawler, but you only have limited control over your squadmates — all you can do is tell them to attack whatever the camera is looking at. Oddly, despite the presence of healing squadmates, they’ll only heal you when they want, because you can’t tell them to heal.

The lack of substantial squad interaction won’t be that annoying most of the time, but it gets to be an epic bitch when you’re fighting the major bosses, and you’re sort of depending on them to attract its attention and they get knocked out because the healer wouldn’t find the squad members with low health and heal them. At least you, the player, have the option of following a healer around until he or she helps you.

Aside from the story, there’s also “free missions,” which are usually just side missions that take place in places you’ve already been in the story missions, which makes the egregious reuse of environments feel pretty hilarious. Why do people keep going to this one clearing in the forest that’s next to a cliff?

The free missions allow you to plug players in to your squadmate slots via ad hoc connection. That’s a nice feature, I guess, but how likely is it that you know another person who owns this game and lives near enough to you to meet up to play? Not very.  I’m sure the co-op is awesome, though.

So it’s like Galaxian, except it’s a PSP brawler. I guess that’s OK.

Pros:

  • Naruto doesn’t yell “Believe it!” every five seconds
  • Combat is simple enough even for simpletons like me
  • Co-op!
  • Isn’t really an annoying game…

Cons:

  • …most of the time
  • I’m tired of looking at the same locations over and over
  • Few people are ever going to get to use the co-op

No strong feelings about either way:

  • everything else

Final score: 70/100

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1 Comment on Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive Review

juan ulanday

On August 30, 2011 at 6:42 am

can it be played in psp2001 ?