[Ignite 2011] What's a Kizuna Drive?

It's a tag team attack, silly, and one half of the new Naruto Shippuden entry for the PSP. We go hands-on.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 4, 2011
There have been a lot of Naruto games. A whole lot. And what's frustrating about the sheer number of releases isn't so much that there have been that many, but that they're actually pretty... good. CyberConnect2 built an extremely accessible little brawler, and though in years past they've expanded to become more open world adventures, one thing has echoed across nearly all of them: they play well and they end up looking great in HD or on the small screen of the PSP.

Take Kizuna Drive, for instance. The newest Shippuden (read: all growns-up) entry is a stand-alone story, but makes ample use of some very, very pretty cel animation to move the story along. We counted at least three of 'em before we finally got into a simple little wolf-beating exercise clearly meant to be taken a small snippet at the time (which works well for PSP games, of course).

Not only did the animation look fantastic on that small little screen, but the actual in-game graphics, courtesy of Japanese dev house Premium Agency, was animated well, sported a slick cel-shaded look and offered some intriguing beat-'em-up gameplay to go with all the prettiness. Though we only tried the one mission, it offered a peek into what the full game would entail, namely thumping on bad guys with up to three friends (they're AI controlled otherwise).

Series standbys like jutsu being used for special attacks (in Naruto's case, it was conjuring up multiple versions of himself to keep a simple one-button combo going), and should an enemy get dazed, pressing Circle and Triangle together kicked off the titular Kizuna Drive move, which was basically a game of pass-the-enemy... by kicking. The rules were fairly simple: after all four teammates encircled an enemy, they'd take turns kicking it to a random other person, and using the face buttons, one could send an enemy to someone else once they were kicked over (or press X to end the tag-team beat-down). So long as an enemy wasn't sent back to the person that sent them to you, things could go on for quite some time, which would no doubt useful for bosses rather than relatively weak enemies.

Even still, we were satisfied with the feel of the combat. It wasn't a hard lock on enemies, so attacks could whiff, but the L and R buttons spun the camera around (or snapped it to where we were looking if we tapped both), and the simple combat system looked to offer some interesting wrinkles should things get upgraded.

So what we experienced, then, was largely a description of all the Naruto games in the past: simple concept, executed well and made bite-sized for short play sessions on the go. We'll no doubt have a full review when the game ships this Spring, but for now, feel free to enjoy the new screens and a trailer we've kicked up, and we'll have the full review soon.