PSLS  •  News  •  PSP / PlayStation Portable  •  Reviews

PSP Review – Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive

Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive is the latest production in Namco Bandai’s anime-to-game machine. With the last one received pretty well, how does this next installment hold up?

Kizuna Drive is as hardcore Naruto as you can get. While this means fans of the series will feel right at home here, people with no previous knowledge of the series’ extensive history will feel lost at first. So while the story is entirely original, most of the character development and attachment doesn’t come from this game. At least it does a good job at introducing all the characters. By the time you play through, you’ll most likely be able to put a face to all the characters, so if it gets you interested in the anime, so be it.

If you’re a fan, that’ll probably be the only thing to get you through. For every exciting thing that Kizuna Drive does, it has another feature that holds it back. The combat is rather simplistic, with an Attack button and one Special Attack, but it can be customized all sorts of different ways. While the most used attack will be the standard one, the special attack combo changes depending on when you use it. It’s a different approach to deployability, but in a way it works. But again, for each of its good qualities, it steps back again. Different special attacks or tools can be assigned before every mission, making the game different every single time. But… the environment is almost non-existent. The skins may be different, but they all are just a single plane with no entrance or exit. After the enemies are defeated, a loading screen pops up, then you are dropped into another area. Rinse, lather, repeat.

After the story missions are finished the game is filled with all sorts of Free Missions to continue your journey. Here you can choose your player controlled character as well as your three party members. Each detail is at your disposal to edit and the game is completely at your mercy. But, as before, something just had to be wrong. The free mission portion of the game lacks any sort of direction. The most exciting way to play this game WOULD be with multiplayer, but you still need three other people to fully enjoy it. Partner AI is above-average at best, but it’d probably be a blast to have your buddies team up against a big boss. Without that, it’s just kind of…boring.

Being a Japanophile-centric game, Kizuna Drive gives you the much-loved option to choose your language preferences. I’m no anime aficionado, but if there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years it’s that 90% of all English dubs aren’t very good. I’m sure the actors work very hard at their jobs, but they just don’t seem to have the passion that Japanese actors do. Naruto is famous for it’s rather unpleasant English language track, so this option is definitely quite a luxury.

Naruto Shippuden: Kizuna Drive is an incredibly customizable experience from top to bottom, but it has enough problems to keep it from ever becoming anything. Considering the game’s most compelling feature is multiplayer, it just feels…incomplete. Unless you know you have people to play this game with in close proximity (or on the PS3’s ad-hoc Party), pick this game up only if you’re the biggest of Naruto fans.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Customizable characters and setups cater to endless play styles

– Bland mission structure

– Feels boring unless you have people to play with

5 out of 10