Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections Review

Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections header

The Ultimate Ninja Storm games sit in my gaming happy place. CyberConnect2 has been perfecting their 3D anime arena brawling over the past fifteen years, securing them firmly in the Naruto pantheon alongside the original manga and anime. Now we arrive at the needlessly verbose Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections, and can gaze lovingly into its Sharingan eyes while wondering where the last fifteen years have gone. Seemingly, it’s not gone into revolutionising this particular fighting series.

Connections – we’ll call it that from here on out for the sake of my sanity – brings the beloved host of Naruto characters together once more, firmly allowing them to whale on each other in a variety of ways in 3D arenas. There’s an unbelievable 130 to choose from, though that number is ballooned by many of the characters being different iterations of the same fighter. I know Naruto is the star, but they could have just been alternate costumes.

There are two story modes here to delve into, and fans of the original Ninja Storm titles will undoubtedly recognise History mode as it charts the original Naruto/Sasuke narrative in its entirety, though it frames it as having to restore history that hasn’t happened. This is the first time it’s all appeared in one place rather than spread across multiple titles, which is good news as a newcomer, but if you’re a returning fan there’s going to be an immediate and overriding sense of Déjà vu.

Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections story modes

It’s also not the most complete rendition of the tale, with a bunch of missing fights, and a real sense of disconnect as many of the events are replaced by static screens from the anime and text-heavy exposition. Some of it is narrated or voiced, but I really don’t understand why we’re not just given scenes from the anime itself. Surely that would be the most straightforward solution?

The second story mode, Special Story, is an all-new original tale centring on Naruto’s son Boruto and the arrival of war to the region. It’s nice to have something new to delve into, and boasts actual animated cutscenes, but it’s ultimately just a bit dull and forgettable, which is generally the last thing I would say about the Naruto series. Overall, it feels as though CyberConnect2 has found the least interesting way possible to deliver two story modes, and it’s a massive missed opportunity.

Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections screenshot

As many fighting games have done recently, Connections offers a simple control mode for newcomers and beginners, hoping to draw more people into the fighting game scene. Here it’s about as simple as possible, with players able to repeatedly hammer one button to see their character unleash a series of spectacular combos and move around the arena too. Frankly, it removes any skill required to play – making it great for younger players – but it does mean that people can indulge in the setting, themes and narrative. Personally, I’d just watch the anime instead.

The Normal control scheme resurrects the same controls as the previous games in the series, and it’s as fun here as it has been previously, even if you won’t be able to shake the sense that you’ve seen it all before. Granted, the regular control scheme is hardly the most complicated out there, but there’s a lot more to do than simply bashing a single button.

Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections graphics

Besides the two story modes there’s online and local battling to be had, with both Ranked and Free Mode available. There’s sadly no rollback netcode in place, and it’s likely that that’s meant I’ve experienced some occasions of lag, but it’s solid enough for a game where you don’t feel completely hard-done by the loss of a fraction of a second here or there.

CyberConnect2 has certainly buffed up the visuals to a new shine, and given that the earlier games were already very good renditions of the anime and its characters, you can expect to find sharper and even more vibrant versions of them here. It definitely does the manga and anime proud, and everyone is as visually appealing as they’ve ever been, and superbly animated, but it doesn’t particularly help to make things any less boring.

Summary
Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is a disappointingly dull entry in the series. You have to wonder where CyberConnect2 will go from here.
Good
  • Fantastic visuals
  • Huge cast of characters
Bad
  • The dullest retelling of the Naruto story
  • Lack of rollback netcode
  • An overwhelming sense of Deja Vu
5
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.