I happened to be young at the time when the “big three” shounen manga/anime were making waves in the world of young boys in the West, which means that Naruto has been a pretty big part of my life. Always a fan of an anime-inspired fighting game, several of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja games crossed my path over the years, though I haven’t had a chance to check out some of the more recent titles in the series. I thought that Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections might be a good opportunity to get back into the series, and I was not mistaken.
As a big Naruto fan, Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections’ History Mode was a decent run back through the events of Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden, with eight chapters covering the entirety of both series. What holds history mode back from being a great overview of the series was the presentation. Any story is told via stills from the anime with narration offering a brief explanation of the events taking place, which plays out a bit like you’re watching a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Naruto, which in turn, was a bit boring and more than a little corny. Gameplay-wise, replaying significant battles from the series is a lot of fun, and Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections features several boss-battles from previous entries in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, giving fans of previous games a quick way to replay fan-favorite fights without loading into a different game.
Naruto and his pals aren’t the only ones getting the spotlight in Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections, as the next generation of ninja are also featured in an all-new special story that takes place in the Boruto era. There’s no way to experience any significant moments from Boruto, which would have been nice for someone like me who’s only been keeping up with the manga and hasn’t really seen the anime. Instead the Special Story is entirely original, revolving around a nefarious plot threatening the entire ninja world. The plot, while cheesy and over-the-top in a way that only an anime video game original plot can be, was still entertaining to play through, and at least had in-game cutscenes and full voice acting rather than the narrated slideshow affair of History Mode.
Gameplay-wise, Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections moves fast yet is still simple enough to understand. The normal moveset is simplified compared to previous entries in the series, with certain types of moves removed in favor of easier-to-pull-off combos. There’s even a “Simple” control mode, where certain moves will be triggered for you automatically, for those new to the series or who just want to experience some Naruto-themed fighting with their friends. Gradually getting used to the controls was a lot of fun, and once I felt confident enough to try my hand at some online battles, I had a great time trying out new characters for each match.
When all is said and done, Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is a decent way to re-experience the Naruto series as a whole, and a good way to get a feel for some of Boruto’s characters, though I feel more could have been done on that front. The gameplay of the fights themselves is where this game really shines, and with over 130 characters to duke it out with, I won’t be getting bored any time soon.