With no shortage of anime and manga crossovers to gaming, often in the arena and regular fighting genre, fans of Naruto are in for a treat with the newest addition to the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise. The game picks up where Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 left off, where, while it’s not Storm 5, it offers up two main story modes to dig your teeth into. Moreover, you have additional offline game modes, along with a multiplayer option to duke it out with friends across the globe.
But the question remains, does Naruto x Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections reinvent the wheel in a franchise known for regurgitating the same old fighting mechanics? Is there enough content for newcomers and fans alike to return to on repeat before the next Ninja Storm sets in? Or would it be wiser to wait until a price drop makes it worth your time? That’s where we come in, breaking down all Naruto x Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections has to offer while pointing out areas that need shoving back in the garage.
Travel Back in Time
Breaking it up into game modes, the first “History” story mode takes you back in time, reliving the story of Naruto and friends. It packed the start of the original series when Naruto was but a kid, all the way to the end of the Shippuden saga. True to its name, the newest game in the Ninja Storm franchise is a “connections” tale of the history of Naruto, told in the form of key battles nitpicked across the anime and still lifted directly from the source material.
Stills are never a safe bet to reintroduce the past to the world, as previous games have proven, and having even the most intriguing voice-read-out dialogues on the screen cannot save it from an epic fail. The same goes for cramming lots of content into a relatively seven-hour playthrough. You may rush through the narration or end up cutting significant boss battles, both of which happen in history.
The end result is an overly condensed, lazy story mode seemingly curated as fan service. Ultimately, only as a fan can you make sense of a quick run-through of the entire Naruto series and appreciate its best moments from memory. You get too much too soon as a newbie. None of the cutscenes do much to keep your eyes peeled for more. Neither do the fights, which, after a few runs, begin to feel similar. The animations do look spectacular, and for fans, you may even give the cold shoulder to the overly similar combat system to Ninja Storm 4.
Bonus Story Mode
The second “Special Story” mode is a better fit, telling an original tale from Boruto’s perspective and his friendship with newcomer Nanashi. A mysterious new enemy sets in what’s portrayed as a virtual reality game, soon to take over the real world. We even get to finally play through the long-awaited rematch between adult Naruto and Sasuke.
Perhaps it’s the focus on tugging at the heartstrings that makes the Special Story more tolerable. High chances are you’ll find yourself teary-eyed following Boruto’s persistent fight for his new friendship and his dad’s era. But, again, there are hardly enough fleshed-out characters, given their lumpsum amount, to hold up against other better counterparts out there.
You also can’t freely roam the environment, which is a bummer given the beautifully rendered, vibrant color palettes and better cutscenes. It would have been nice to catch a break from the linear story progressions, as the previous Storm games did. So, all we have is a retelling of the old, and in a weird way at that, and a lackluster story only fans will likely find entertaining.
If the goal is to relive the past, you’ll find a pretty bunch of epic battles missing, begging the question of whether it’s the best way to experience Naruto’s saga. But moving on.
Plenty of Fish in the Sea
It seemed exciting to have over 130 beloved characters featured in the game. Brothers Ashura and Indra Otsutsuki, Boruto Uzumaki (Karma), Kawaki, Jigen, and much more all make their way to the iteration. But look closely, and you’ll realize most of these characters are duplicates of the original, say, older or with a slight variation. What’s more? They’re all from the previous games, which culminated in a one-package deal.
Don’t get me wrong. Compiling your dream team is exhilarating, with each character having unique animations and flair. But they’re all Shinobis with relatively similar playstyles. It also makes little sense to have their move sets overly varied and create a steep learning curve as a result. And so, you end up with a shallow combat system you can master in just a few runs and switch up characters only to marvel at their flashy, watered-down Bayonetta animations.
The practice mode does a great job ushering newbies into the world of Naruto and Ninja Storm. You should have an easier stepping stone to get to the meat of the game quickly. If not, you have a new simple control mode. Admittedly, veterans may find the setting distasteful, as it allows pressing a single button and watching it automate into any number of outcomes—combos, finishers, special moves, you name it.
The AI makes that decision for you, but it turns out it's actually pretty fun to watch it unfold. Still, you can always fine-tune individual automation to your taste in the settings if you find it a little too easy or when jumping into competitive multiplayer.
Joy in Numbers
About multiplayer, it’s pretty fun, as it always is, duking it out with friends across the globe. You may experience issues with delays and internet lag, thanks to Naruto x Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections’ peer-to-peer connection preference. But once you get into it, it’s highly satisfying. Unfortunately, you cannot invite friends to play with you as of now. However, you can expect the feature to be added sometime in the future via updates. So, here’s to hoping it gets added soon.
If lobby times take too long or your fighting mate drops off, you can always keep busy with free battle, which brings us to the gameplay. Besides an immense amount of characters, each with spectacularly designed move sets, you also have a whopping amount of maps to choose from, ripped straight from the anime. The vibrant colors jump off the screen with ease, albeit with a few jarring frames and blurry cutscenes.
Seen This Before
Combat-wise, you have your usual guards, dashes, counterattacks, link attacks when part of a team, and more. Thanks to CC2’s prowess in games like these, the characters respond fluidly and swiftly at the press of the respective button. You can play at range and close distance in a flash. You know, the normal everyday stuff from previous games.
Now, to be fair, you do have quality-of-life refinements and polish to the gameplay. There are some little tweaks here and there. All characters swap out their previously useless chakra shurikens for a second Jutsu attack. It raises the stakes by presenting new ways to switch up playstyles, stretching to assists and multiplayer.
However, the content is sorely lacking in depth, especially compared to games like Super Smash Bros. A lot is left to be desired, leaving you yearning for more. And newcomers, in particular, I’m afraid there’s little to keep you glued to the screen. Most of what’s here feels purely a fanservice affair.
Plenty of gameplay elements impress in Naruto x Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. It’s a great-looking game, for starters, with character animations nailing the charming and accessible aesthetic of Masashi Kishimoto’s art style. Further, you get the biggest roster and flashiest battle sequences. Plus, improvements to fighting mechanics make gameplay more varied and easier. Indeed, this may be the most fluid Ultimate Ninja Storm to date. And finally, running at 60 fps adds to the pleasurable experience of playing this game.
Unfortunately, the single-player campaign, despite offering the best of both worlds, falls flat on its face. We get a retelling of Naruto’s saga in the most strange and lazy way possible. Much of the pivotal battle sequences across the series are missing here. And you often find yourself skipping cutscenes simply for their lack of depth or intrigue. Only fans can possibly find pleasure in the story modes, and it’s solely due to the appreciation of the lore and nostalgic feel of a once great run.
It doesn’t help that the fighting mechanics are the same at their core. You may as well play Ninja Storm 4. At least the story campaign was compelling. Despite boasting plentiful content, they lack the depth to return for more. Once is enough, and high chances are, it’ll be because it’s the only newest Ninja Storm game out there. Find a better alternative, and you might not stick around for too long. Here’s to hoping future updates iron out the option to invite friends and polish the lacking features. Maybe then the price tag would make sense to give it a try.
Naruto x Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections Review (PS5, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
Naruto’s Entire Saga in One Package Deal
If ever you wanted to crash course through Naruto’s saga, here’s your chance to do so. Sure, Naruto x Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections doesn’t make an effort to stray too far from the original. Battles remain sleek and flashy. Cutscenes are ripped straight from the anime. But you do enjoy quality-of-life improvements, and with fluid and snappy gameplay, anyone can take a spin.