When it comes to games based on popular shonen anime and manga, developers have mostly stuck to the realm of fighting games, with the genre typically being split into two distinct styles: arena fighters and regular fighting games. More recently, however, the arena fighter seems to have been the way for the vast majority of games based on the above mentioned genres, with the latest among them being Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections, the newest game in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series based on the Naruto franchise.
While it isn’t strictly speaking a traditional fighting game, Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections certainly tries its best to present some of the most harrowing, brutal and celebrated fights from the original series, as well as its Shippuden follow-up, while also featuring an original story focusing on Naruto’s sequel series, Boruto.
"When it comes to the story, the Boruto section, which revolves around the adventures of Naruto’s son, features a completely original story that isn’t based on any manga or anime."
When it comes to the story, the Boruto section, which revolves around the adventures of Naruto’s son, features a completely original story that isn’t based on any manga or anime. Unfortunately, much like the actual Boruto series, the story in the game doesn’t really do much with its characters and setting. Kicking things off with a VR video game that revolves around Naruto’s adventures, Boruto’s storyline essentially starts as a strange basis for fanservice, and with no real stakes or character development on the line, it doesn’t really amount to anything.
Instead, the star of the game is quite easily the story mode focused on Naruto, as well as its versus mode. Since the former takes you through essentially the entirety of the Naruto story, there’s a lot of content for fans of the series to dig their teeth into. Aside from just experiencing the story, each fight in the campaign also comes with its own set of optional side objectives, which players can chase for additional unlockable content like extra costumes and new artwork. Sure, ultimately, it’s all just fanservice for fans of Naruto, but that’s a goal that Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections accomplishes quite handily, no doubt thanks to developer CyberConnect2’s experience in working with the franchise with its previous Ultimate Ninja Storm games.
Before we get into the Versus mode, we need to talk about the core combat in Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. First of all, it’s an arena fighter; this means that rather than having characters stand on either side of the screen, the game instead tries to emulate the cinematic feel of the anime adaptation by offering players a full 3D arena that they can run around in as they fight. This leads to one of the first problems with the game—it’s really difficult, and in some cases, borderline impossible to understand what’s happening if you happen to not be familiar with Naruto.
"Instead, the star of the game is quite easily the story mode focused on Naruto, as well as its versus mode."
The standard control scheme is also strangely complicated in a way that it really shouldn’t be. There’s an attack button, a button that revolves around using special attacks, a block button, a teleport button, two assist buttons, and a jump button. This means that, rather than feeling like a fighting game, the controls of Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections are instead laid out more like a regular third-person action game. For fans of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, nothing has really changed in the core combat of the game. For those new to the series, this is essentially the most definitive release of Ultimate Ninja Storm out so far.
Along with its standard control scheme on the PlayStation 5, Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections also offers players a “simple” one where just mashing on a single button can pull off entire combos, but I’d recommend against picking the simple control scheme since it makes what is already an incredibly easy game into downright brain dead button mashing where the only things keeping your attention are the bright colors that come about as a result of the automatically activated special moves and finishers. Even the standard control scheme doesn’t do much to bring any depth to the gameplay, however, since you’re still ultimately going to mash on the O button and occasionally finish things off with a Triangle + O button combination for a combo finisher.
Sure, there are a few gameplay options that might imply that there’s some depth to be found in the game’s rather basic combat, especially with the ability to call in assist characters, tag them in, or even cancel attacks by timing your jump right, things ultimately don’t really go beyond simplistic button mashing. In fact, I found that most of the campaign was essentially doable with little more than the standard four-hit combo with a special attack finisher. Nothing really presented enough of a challenge for me to further explore the game’s more complex options, and even blocking was often just unimportant in favor of just hitting the L2 button to teleport behind your opponent.
"The versus mode has quite a few options for players, especially if you’re playing with a group of other players."
The versus mode has quite a few options for players, especially if you’re playing with a group of other players. Along with its standard versus mode where each player picks three characters to duke it out, there are also a host of modes for fans of longer sessions, like a tournament mode pitching up to 16 players together, one battle at a time. While it doesn’t really shake things up by adding anything on top, there is definitely quite a bit of fun to be had here. After all, who doesn’t enjoy their hundredth time as early Rock Lee taking on an uber-powerful Sasuke in a weird fight that we’d never really get to see in the show or the manga itself. What really makes the versus mode fun, at its core, is the epic roster of characters to choose from. The roster ranges from the protagonists, all the way to side characters that we don’t really get to see much of as the story progresses, bringing in a decent variety for players to choose from.
Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections doesn’t really take itself too seriously as a fighting game; there’s nothing here that fans of competitive fighting games would enjoy. Rather, the game is meant strictly as a celebration of Naruto and his adventures, and as a product of pure fanservice, it’s definitely a success. There’s also the fact that, owing to the largesse of the original manga and its anime adaptation, Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is also the best way to experience the story these days, devoid of any fillers, and essentially stacked to the brim with awesome looking action that has been wonderfully animated, and some of the franchise’s peak emotional moments.
When you get right down to it, Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections isn’t a competitive game. It’s a game you throw on when you have friends that are anime fans over and want to have a good time. The versus modes offer a decent enough variety thanks to the game’s massive roster to keep any group occupied for a few hours, and for newcomers to the Naruto franchise, it is simply unparalleled in its presentation of the story. Just don’t expect much in the way of depth—Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections isn’t the kind of game where you’re going to spend hours in the practice mode to perfect a combo. The Boruto story section is disappointing since it doesn’t really bring much to the game that hasn’t already been covered by its myriad of other game modes, with its only real pull being some extra costumes you can unlock.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Best way to experience Naruto' story; Gorgeous animations; Awesome roster.
Gameplay lacks depth; Boruto’s story is boring.