Naruto is one of the greatest shonen of recent years. The manga, authored by Masashi Kishimoto, began serialization in 1999 and concluded in 2014 after a 15-year run. While the original series has concluded, a sequel series is currently being released every month, titled Boruto, which features Naruto’s son, the titular Boruto, as the protagonist.
Given its success, it’s no wonder that the series has received multiple adaptations in the gaming world over the years. Perhaps the most well-known is Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, by CyberConnect 2. The series has mostly remained dormant after the release of the fourth game, which covered the last story arcs of the original series.
After 7 years of waiting though, CyberConnect 2 is ready to come back with a new game, Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections.
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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is a fighting game series based on the popular manga series by Masashi Kishimoto. The series was one of the first games by CyberConnect 2, a team that would go on to create multiple adaptions from other manga series, such as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles, which was positively received by fans and critics alike.
The first four games in the series covered all of Naruto’s plot, even including secondary battles and events, which says a lot about how much effort and dedication the developers put into this series.
It’s no wonder that Naruto fans were eagerly asking for a new chapter; even if Boruto is hardly getting the same degree of success that its prequel had, the franchise as a whole is still very popular, even for new generations of fans.
But is Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections a step in the right direction for this series? Honestly, yes and no. The game isn’t that bad, but at the same time, it feels more like a compilation of a previous game with some juicy extra content rather than an entirely new entry. Let’s find out why.
Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections has not one, but two entirely separate story modes.
The first story mode is dedicated to Naruto, and it’s divided into eight chapters. This story covers everything that happened in the original manga and anime, from Naruto’s iconic first missions against Zabuza and Haku, up until the Fourth Great Ninja War. Each chapter is told both through cutscenes, which are made with scenes from the anime, and through battles.
There’s not much to tell here, as the story is the same as we’ve already played in the original four games in the series. Of course, many things had to be cut, so there’s a good chunk of story elements and battles (especially boss battles) that didn’t make their way into this new game.
For the most part, however, this story mode is mostly a compilation, a retelling of the previous games. Since it skips a lot of story content, it will be most enjoyable for those who’ve read the manga or watched the anime: if that’s the case for you, you will have a good trip down nostalgia lane with this story mode.
The other story mode is dedicated to Boruto, and instead of adapting the newer story arcs fans have read in the manga or seen in the anime, the developers have created an original story arc exclusively for the game, which includes never-before-seen characters. As for the first story mode, this one also alternates between cutscenes and battles, only this time cutscenes have been created using the game engine. Honestly, we’ve found out that this benefited some cutscenes, which end up being far more spectacular thanks to the game engine, but not every one of them, as there are some instances where the animations feel too sloppy and sluggish.
Going back to the story, this second story mode has a huge filler vibe to it. It’s not completely bad, far from it, but it also lacks any kind of weight. One reason for this could be the fact that the new characters introduced here feel too stereotypical, a problem widely diffused in shonen anime. It doesn’t help that there are a lot of forced plot developments, starting from forcing Boruto to be the only protagonist. This is a problem shared with the manga and anime themselves, as having two overpowered characters like Naruto and Sasuke, which are like godly entities by this point in the story, simply makes it weird not to have them help in solving every problem.
All things considered, longtime fans of the franchise will probably enjoy the first story mode because of nostalgia, while the second story mode feels much weaker, and even Boruto fans won’t find much to enjoy.
Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections remains very faithful to the series’ core gameplay. This is not one of these deep fighting games where you have countless combos to learn to master your chosen character, like Street Fighter, Tekken, or even Super Smash Bros.
Rather, this is a very basic and accessible fighting game, which focuses much more on franctic and spectacular gameplay rather than on strategy. Every character has three main combos, two ninjutsu, and one secret technique.
If you’ve played any of the previous games, you’ll find yourself at home from the very beginning, because this is virtually the same game. That being said though, there are a few key differences from the past.
First of all, this entry favors a more aggressive style of play. This is mostly for two reasons: your chakra regenerates a lot faster, and your moves take a lot less chakra to use. That means you will always have plenty of energy at your disposal, and you don’t need to be as careful as in previous games about when and how to use it.
You can no longer power up your shurikes with your chakra, but now each character can equip two ninjutsu. This makes each battle much more spectacular, and it also gives more chances to shine to all those characters who have multiple techniques in the series but were limited to one per battle up until now.
Objects and supporting characters make a return too, only this time objects are no longer limited, rather they have a cooldown time before you can use them again.
Finally, there’s a whole new set of Awakenings, which is a state where your character gets a huge power-up. This time though, Awakenings last less than in previous games, and if you get hit by a secret technique, you’ll immediately lose this state.
These new features don’t alter the basic gameplay all that much, which means that this wasn’t your type of fighting game before, it still won’t be your cup of tea. You don’t get plenty of strategic options here, it’s all much more based on speed and a little sprinkle of luck.
This has always been a common fault in the series, and it’s no different here. Another historical fault that makes a comeback it’s the complete lack of balance.
The game has a whopping number of characters from the franchise, as you can currently choose from almost 160 fighters. This number, though, is reached by having multiple versions of the same characters: for example, Naruto and Sasuke each have like ten different versions, each counting as a different fighter. And even if the number of fighters is high, there are still many missing, like Kurenai or adult Konohamaru, but they’ll probably be added through DLC at a later date if we had to take a guess.
That being said, CyberConnect 2 has always struggled in keeping their games balanced, and of course the more fighters you have, the more difficult it gets, even for a game as basic as Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections.
Of course, we hope the developers will try to address some issues through future updates, but at this moment there’s a great risk that players online will end up relying on the same set of characters. Luckily, you can’t have multiple versions of the same character in your team, which will at least prevent players from using just the one OP character to win.
Honestly, we were expecting something more from the game’s core fighting mechanics. After 7 years of waiting, we were hoping for a game that could set a new course for the series, instead of bringing back the same problems of previous games. Instead, Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections does exactly that, ignoring the fact that the genre has evolved a lot over the years.
Moving onto game modes, we have plenty to choose from. We have already talked about story mode, which will arguably be the main focus for those who are looking for a single-player experience, but we have tons of other choices. Of course, you get your typical versus, training, and tournament modes, which need no further explanation.
There’s a survival mode, where you’ll face a set number of battles without complete health recovery from one battle to the other; and there are league battles, which work much like a football championship, where you score 3 points by winning a battle, and the overall winner is determined by who has the most points at the end of the league.
Of course, you also get online play, but this is another area where the game has sadly changed very little. You only get a basic structure with casual and ranked battles, but most importantly the game suffers from serious lag, at least at the time of this writing. Combine this with the balancing issues we mentioned earlier, and you’ll have very few reasons to spend much time online.
From a visual standpoint, Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections looks very good, even if there’s not a huge leap in quality. This isn’t surprising, considering that the game is still a cross-generation release.
CyberConnect 2 has always delivered spectacular cutscenes and battles in previous games, and this new entry makes no exception. However, as we mentioned before, we noticed that not every scene is on the same level of quality, which can be off-putting at times.
On the bright side, the game is mostly stable at 60fps on PlayStation 5, which is a very important feature for a fighting game.
The sound department is pretty good too. You can have a selection of tunes inspired by the anime, and you also get a good performance in the voice acting for each character.
How much you will play Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections depends entirely on what you’re looking for. If you’ll be focusing primarily on the single-player, you will probably get around 10-12 hours out of the story modes. You can go back and play every story mission again to get an S ranking, but honestly, this could turn out to be more frustrating than anything because the ranking seems to depend heavily on the amount of health you have at the end of the battle. We’re not completely sure, but we had the impression that the game wants you to have at least 90% of health left for you to win an S ranking. This means that you will need to start over any battle after your opponent has landed 2-3 hits on you, which isn’t all that fun.
If you’ll be focusing on multiplayer, you could potentially play this game for months to come, as it will almost surely be constantly updated by the developers with new characters and (hopefully) events. However, the game’s unbalanced roster is a serious problem that could make the game boring after a few hours spent in online play, so it will depend on how much you’ll be able to stand this situation until the developers (hopefully) fix it.
Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is a solid and spectacular fighting game, but sadly it keeps all the problems previous entries had without even trying to fix them. You get a decent story mode that mostly relies on nostalgia, a huge roster that ends up feeling even more unbalanced than in the past, and the gameplay is still very basic, with very few new features compared to previous entries.
All this combined makes the game feel more like a compilation rather than a new entry in the series. Maybe it’s what the developers were trying to aim for, but surely this isn’t what the fans hoped for after 7 years of waiting.
- Solid and spectacular fighting
- Huge roster
- Unbalanced roster
- The core gameplay still feels very basic
- The Boruto story mode feels like a filler story