I’m not afraid to admit I cut my anime teeth on Toonami. From there, it took a while to truly develop my power level, especially when I poisoned my own well in my formative years with edgy trash like Elfen Lied. But somewhere between Edgy Teenager Lucas and Savvy Things-Knower Lucas, I found myself back on Toonami, watching the Naruto premiere. That was my first major anime rabbit hole, which sent me leaping into the depths of IRC download bots, fansubs, online communities… the works.
I burned out on Naruto well before it was over and haven’t looked back in years. I even avoided Naruto working for Shonen Jump. (That was not an easy task, I assure you.) Now here I am, playing a Naruto video game sans years of deep context, and before I knew it something buried deep within me woke up. Much like a tailed beast, a dormant power rose from within, and revealed to me a great truth: at one point in my life, I enjoyed the hell out of some Naruto. Almost without realizing it, I transitioned from playing Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, to watching actual episodes of the series.
I had a good time! Even with the odd structure and pacing of those early Naruto Shippuden episodes, it was like running into an old friend at a party. Sure we’ve both moved on, living totally different lives with disparate interests, but it was great to catch up in that moment. Will we hang out again? Who knows! But thanks to how dang fun Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is, I was able to feel a spark of interest I hadn’t known in over an actual decade. But it isn’t just about how solid Cyberconnect2’s Naruto fighter formula continues to be. It’s also about how full of stuff it is, from giving the player options to including a story mode that goes much further than the usual anime action fare.
And hey, it all runs pretty great on the Nintendo Switch. This is a very insular take, but for me, there’s something about the novelty of a game like this running well on a handheld that covers for the inherent drawbacks of an anime fighter. The mechanics often feel far more simplistic than they should, but then the battle is interrupted by a lovingly choreographed recreation of a crucial anime sequence, or the actual gameplay briefly shifts from the usual just to make a scene more faithfully adapted. It’s really impressive stuff, and the fact that Cyberconnect2 has covered the entire series up through the Boruto movie (and then some) feels like a rare accomplishment in this space.
Even as a pretty lapsed Naruto fan, it’s easy to recommend (deep breath) Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 The Road to Boruto. Really, it’s easy to recommend the whole Ultimate Ninja Storm series. (The first three are bundled!) Shonen anime adaptations often have a bad reputation for various reasons, but Cyberconnect2’s journey through Naruto feels like one of the most polished and cared-for efforts you can get your hands on. Even the Nintendo Switch ports are great in terms of quality and single-player appeal. After all, I had such an unexpectedly good time, playing this game made me boot up Crunchyroll and watch the show.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto is available on the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, the PC, and most recently the Nintendo Switch.