Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections - Naruto descending on a transformed Gaara

Review: Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections Lacks Depth

Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is a wild, frantic fighter with an absurd amount of playable characters to try out. If you’re just looking to be a ninja and smack some folks around with neat powers, this game will keep you busy for ages. As a more nuanced, thoughtful fighter, it feels more lacking, though. Combining that with a story mode that seems to gloss over a ton of good fights and you have a game that makes for a great diversion when you want to goof off, but that’s it.

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As someone who’s never interacted with Naruto in any way before, this game is a bit of a strange experience. Suddenly being given access to 130 different fighters from across years of manga and anime was utterly overwhelming, and unfortunately, the game does not do a good job of paring that down into anything comprehensible. Flipping through the characters is the first thing I do with any fighter, trying them all to see who sticks. With so many characters to try, I found myself flitting aimlessly through the characters. I never realized that having too many characters could be a problem until now.

The other issue I found was that it didn’t feel like the character’s basic moves really mattered all that much in combat in Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. That’s because your main form of attack is to hit a single button a whole bunch of times. This button controls your close-up attack, and it’s your main form of offense. You also have Ninjutsu abilities that you can work into your combos, but as for basic moves, your combos all look like you’re just slamming the attack button as fast as you can while occasionally hitting a directional input. While the characters would all do different things and hit at different ranges, it just felt like brainlessly playing an action game.

The Nijutsu moves are where you see a difference between the characters in Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections, and it really feels that some characters have good ones and others have bad ones. It doesn’t feel terribly balanced in this regard, so some characters just seem to have terrible specials they can do, making me wonder why someone would even use that character. I guess I’m not surprised that it is difficult to balance a game with this many characters, but it’s annoying to see that there are clear best characters.

Naruto and another ninja exchange blows
Image via CyberConnect2

Now, your enemies aren’t going to let you slam them with impunity, so it’s not without challenge. You and your foes can block and throw, naturally. You can also do a Chakra dash to close the distance to an enemy very quickly to catch them off-guard. If you’re about to get slapped around, you can do a Substitution Jutsu that lets you slip out of danger (but your enemy can do that, too). You also have access to support characters that you can call into combos to get more damage, as well as have them swap in for you so you can use different people in a fight.

This results in some scrambly matches in Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. You can find yourself rushing toward an enemy, only to have them close the distance to you in an instant with a Chakra Dash. Before they can start attacking, you use a Substitution Jutsu to slip behind them and start your attack. It’s easy enough to press that advantage since you’re mainly using one attack button, but you have to factor in the various speedy ways someone can get out of trouble. Given the array of ninja attacks you’ll see going off as players use hundreds of possible team combinations and attacks, the fights look pretty sharp and are really wild.

It’s mechanically where it feels a bit strange. You’re constantly reacting to what your opponent is doing with your array of powers, always seeing who can get the drop on the other person. It looks pretty great, and it feels pretty good to surprise your foe and get your combo started (and it’s not too difficult to execute, as the inputs are very easy). The inputs felt just a bit too easy for me, though, and that I would often find myself mashing attack once I got an opportunity. It’s simultaneously cool and exciting, but also just a bit thoughtless in execution since I really just wanted to mash one attack button all the time with some special attacks sprinkled throughout.

This is where I started to find myself disengaging from Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. I tried a bunch of characters, and while their special moves often behaved differently, it felt like my plan of attack was largely the same. Rely on the universal mechanics, then slam the attack button a lot. Maybe do a special move if I was in range. For a game with so many characters, they all felt the same to play as far as inputs go. I know a lot of fighting games use similar inputs across characters and that those moves do different things, and that is also the case here, but it just ends up feeling like your plan of attack and the inputs are always EXACTLY the same. Which made the characters, despite their variety, feel exactly the same.

Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections - Dozens of Naruto clones descend upon Sasuke
Image via CyberConnect2

That might not necessarily be a bad thing for people who just want to mash buttons and slap people around. In fact, the game features a Simple control style where your character will do a ton of things if you just slam that attack button. Your character will Chakra Dash, do combos, and complete them with powerful finishers if you just keep tapping the button. You can also customize which of these steps get tied to the button if you don’t want the game to handle everything. So, you have lots of options to just screw around with the game and mangle foes if that’s all you’re looking for from Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections.

I had hoped that the game’s History mode would help me better connect with the characters. Maybe getting to know them would make me appreciate their differences a bit more. I was excited to use this game to dip my toes into this years-long story, too, finally figuring out what all of the fuss has been about. Unfortunately, what I got felt like a paraphrased take on the Wikipedia entries for the story of Naruto and Naruto Shippuden.

History mode is supposed to get players to relive some of the most important battles and plot points of the entire story. However, distilling years of storyline into a handful of brief chapters and fights just seems like it was too hard to pull off in Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. The story is laid out in extremely brief text and still images, covering whole story arcs in a few brief sentences with very little context or explanation. For a player who knows nothing about the story, it borders on incoherent nonsense and did little to convince me that I should try out the manga or anime.

Arguably, it’s probably not even that good for someone who knows the story inside and out, too. There were many moments throughout the brief story where the game would talk about something that sounded like it would be a neat fight or moment. Then it would dart right on past that to something else. Don’t get me wrong, the fights are still fun. There just feels like there are many missed opportunities for other exciting battles that could have helped the game feel more fleshed out. Although I feel like the developers just bit off a bit too much in trying to take this much story into the game at all. It feels like it was an endeavor that was doomed to fail, and as far as History mode goes, it did.

Boruto flying towards the screen, energy collecting in his hand
Image Via CyberConnect2

This leaves us with Special Story, an original story about Boruto in Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. This is where much of the game’s focus seemed to have gone, as you have full cutscenes and a storyline happening involving a mysterious group and a ninja video game made with ulterior motives. The story doesn’t get particularly interesting for a while, and even when it does, the pacing is plodding. There are a ton of cutscenes in between fights, so it feels like you really lose momentum between matches. Where the story is largely dull for so long, it makes this mode a real slog to go through for a while. Unless you skip the plot, which you can do, but then this mode feels like yet more disconnected fights.

You’ll likely have to skip some of the plot, too. For whatever reason, cutscenes froze constantly throughout this mode on the Switch version. They just kind of get stuck at certain points, but thankfully, the chapters are divided up fairly frequently so you won’t lose much if you restart the cutscene. You can also just skip over them, which I found myself really wanting to do after the fifth time it happened in an hour long play session.

When I finally got in some fights, I also noticed that a lot of your enemies will make you chase them for long periods of time. Perhaps it’s due to Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections going easy on players at the start of this mode, but it is excruciating to have to constantly Chakra Dash and run to catch up with foes just to have them dart away immediately. I ran out of time in a few fights simply because the opponent refused to engage and just stayed away. More aggressive foes don’t come with this issue, but every few matches for the first while feel like you’re just chasing characters constantly. This makes the fights terribly annoying and dull when you get into these types of matches.

As a mindless game about beating folks up with cool ninja powers, Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is pretty solid. I can also see someone enjoying this game if they’re interested in just messing around with the massive roster. However, as a fighter with depth, a compelling story, or a snapshot of years of Naruto history, it’s weak and struggled to hold my interest. If I want to turn my brain off and mash buttons, it’s something I can see myself playing again, but that’s about it.

Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.

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Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections

Legendary ninjas reunite in the next exciting entry of the STORM series! NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS is an action/fighting game with fast-paced ninja battles and two different story modes.

Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is good mindless fun, but folks looking for depth (in story & combat) should look elsewhere.

Food For Thought
  • It's very easy to make the game's many playable characters do cool ninja stuff, making it very approachable for newcomers to fighting games.
  • There are so many characters that you'll have a hard time running out of new ones to try.
  • If you really want to get to know Naruto and its long storylines, this game will not help you much.

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Image of Joel Couture
Joel Couture
Joel is a contributor who has been covering games for Siliconera, Game Developer, IndieGamesPlus, IndieGames.com, Warp Door, and more over the years, and has written book-length studies on Undertale, P.T., Friday the 13th, and Kirby's Dream Land.