Whenever there's a sequel to an adventure title such as Naruto: Rise of a Ninja you can usually bank on one feature: somewhere early on you'll lose all the powers you gained in the first game.
It's classed as a necessary evil. A way to ease newcomers into the role of an already-established character while simultaneously reminding veterans of the moves they've long since forgotten. Naruto sticks two fingers up at this trend.
The way Ubisoft sees it, Rise of the Ninja acted as the series' entry point. Newcomers will find The Broken Bond's impenetrable opening so confusing that, in true animé fashion, they'll have spirals spinning out their eyes and stars whizzing around their heads. If you happen to think Shonen Jump is an Olympic sport then it's safe to say The Broken Bond isn't for you.
A limited appeal, then, but with good reason. The Broken Bond caters to its audience far better than Rise of the Ninja ever did. The formula hasn't drastically changed (it's still a mix of collect-a-thon quests and classic beat-'em-up bouts) so much as it has simply progressed. Now instead of learning how to walk on water and perform Sexy Jutsus, Naruto must discover new uses for exiting moves and seek out some new friends.
It's this second feature which is key to Naruto's success. On his own the ninjaling would be repeating most of the actions from before; in the first hour you're battling bandits, collecting coins and spying on bikini-clad ladies for Jiraiya the Pervy Sage as if nothing's changed.
But the addition of a controllable partner soon mixes things up. Working as a team means the A to B fetch 'em missions are relegated in favour of more complex puzzles. Now you'll be tasked with LEGO Batman-style progression tasks, where each character helps another to progress thanks to unique Jutsus which Naruto isn't privy to.
Established missions are still there - loverlorn villagers still need perking up, and there are races a-plenty - but much more on offer besides. And alongside flashier fights, a more helpful HUD and gorgeous new locations, it helps build the ideal sequel for every budding Hokage. Believe it.
For every budding Ninja out there
- Looks like the cartoon
- Authentic Japanese voices
- Combat's been vastly improved...
- ...as has the exploring
- Neither long nor difficult