Any anime game fan is familiar with the widely popular Naruto Storm series. Defined by their landmark gameplay and elevation of certain fights, these games are loved worldwide. Revisiting the virtual adventure through Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is a surreal experience, particularly since the notion had been that the Ultimate Ninja Storm series had come to a definitive end after a number of years. Having the time to examine all of its content thoroughly, I must admit that I regret how that assumption was challenged.
I have been a Naruto Storm enthusiast since the first game due to its engaging combat system and breathtaking storytelling adaptation that keeps evolving as the number grows in the franchise list. The core of what attracts most fans is the gameplay, and as a day one follower, I have spent an endless amount of my time fighting against other players who pushed me to study the game carefully; it almost had me adapt at a competitor level. I even used to make a lot of content for gameplay ideas with great detail in hopes the developers would see and consider it when they developed their new games. The gameplay has traversed through many experimentations over the years by removing some layers and adding new layers with a deeper root system running. I believe it is fair to say that Naruto Storm Connections is the Storm title that has done the most amount of that said process.
An Entertaining & Revolutionized Combat System Awaits
I understand this is the critical component of the game that most are here for, so we can start here first. It is indeed a fact that the gameplay goes through a metamorphosis, delivering an overall entertaining experience. Players can expect to boot this game up regularly and consistently. Beginners may catch a glimpse of its potential through the Simple Control Mode, but I do earnestly recommend investing time in the Normal Control Mode afterward so you can harness newer possibilities through your own efforts that you wouldn’t normally experience. Here, you can truly build your teams strategically, unlocking the nuanced layers of the revolutionized combat system. The improved selection for Ninjutsu and Secret Team Techniques unveils a plethora of possibilities. Yet, a limitation arises in the inability to customize Ninjutsu inputs for characters that can wield more than two Ninjutsus. On the other hand, I can proudly say having 2 Ninjutsus per character on your team does change the game and creates endless possibilities when fighting against your opponents. So, in other words, running a 3-man squad would be wise in order to maximize all of your units’ truest potential in a collaborative effort.
Expanding further into the gameplay intricacies, every character in the game undergoes readjustments to their movesets, Ninjutsu availability, and damage output. This revamp caters to a much faster-paced combat style, so you really have to study the game and your characters very carefully. However, this left some questions and concerns regarding the altered preexisting mechanics. Utilizing a 3-man team that contains a total of 6 Ninjutsus being outputted to the battlefield with the ability to Team Leader Switch without any compromises to Chakra consumption nearly endlessly sounds insane itself.
They had nerfed the Team Leader Switch mechanic by minimizing the timing of when you can perform this action so you are not always backed into a corner running low on health and with no substitution Jutsus for you to use to get out of. I’ve conducted numerous battles to thoroughly assess the concerns regarding Chakra consumption and the regeneration rate. As a result, I maintain the stance that these aspects do not hinder the gameplay from being too overpowering, declaring any notable apprehensions of this null and void.
The only criticism I have regarding the preexisting mechanics is the counter mechanic. Countering no longer limits your Chakra usage, and your opponent is no longer launched off without taking any damage and is instead rendered vulnerable to performing any attack on them. Even with the new damage output being considered, the adjustment of this mechanic cannot be justified and should have remained untouched.
An Abridged Documentary
The attempt to unravel the vast Naruto story timeline in the History Mode might not be the best choice for newcomers as an entry point. Elements are condensed, fights are revised questionably, and the storytelling approach lacks the captivating quality found in the previous Storm titles. For a more immersive experience, I recommend opting for the numbered Storm titles if the anime or manga are not preferable. Diving into the story for the first time with Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections will leave more questions than answers.
I mentioned earlier that the fights were revised questionably, but something important to note here is that Naruto Storm Connections advertises that they have grabbed boss fights, re-cut them, and made them connect as one. I have to emphasize that they really do “cut” the fights, but I would disagree that they made it “connect as one.” Some of these boss fights have been butchered to some degree, or they were literally “cut” out entirely, and as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, even some of the most iconic boss fights also went through that suffering process. It’s as if they were not given any special attention to in any capacity.
The inclusion of sub-episodes is an attempt to fill narrative voids. However, it is hindered by a text-heavy format with filter effects on top of screenshots from the anime, leading them to miss the mark in capturing the essence of iconic moments and post-event aftermaths. Even with some story events and looking over the encyclopedia that the game offers, it only solidifies how this would not appeal to the consumers. The pacing feels disconnected, and the completion time, around 7-8 hours, may not fully satisfy the narrative hunger of passionate fans.
Character-Focused but Lack of Background Logic
Venturing into the Special Story Mode, the new original Boruto story raises eyebrows with certain segments having a haste pace and story elements that are convoluted, similar to its predecessor. And as it turns out, this original story happened to be pretty short. It also takes about 7-8 hours to complete, so it can be done in one sitting if you happen to have the time for it. Despite knowing this, the introduction of new original Boruto characters injects vitality into the storyline that managed to be memorable and likable. This is presented in episodic segments that are reminiscent of the side Storm titles like Storm Generations and Storm Revolution. While “boss” fights are enjoyable in this mode, they miss the heights achieved by their canonical counterparts that you would typically expect. They do indeed take certain canon events from the main timeline for this to be formed. Keep in mind that this is an original story that is not canon to the Boruto: Next Generations timeline, which I wholeheartedly believe is for the best.
With what the story presented, I do welcome the plot idea and the character motivations, but the execution to attain these goals is met by my hesitation to accept them as a whole. It mostly stems from the events of Naruto Shippuden that dragged onto the Boruto era, which makes you wonder why characters didn’t take a certain route, how specific affairs are even possible that could easily be exploited, and where the rest of the cast that could turn the events around with little to no effort . The Special Story Mode only focuses on a select few characters, which, in some ways, does make a notable impression on you. Still, it wanted to treat a story with a vast plotline background similar to the second half of Naruto Shippuden in a concise amount of time.
Aside from the mentioned shortcomings, some moments succeed in surprising players, demonstrating the potential for impressive narrative twists and unexpected turns. However, this narrative could have benefited from a more extensive development period to adequately flesh out certain characters and implement elements that align more logically with the overall storyline, as opposed to the current presentation delivered.
Loads of Customization
Featuring 66 stages from previous Storm titles and exclusive Connections Stages, Storm Connections flaunts a staggering roster of over 130 playable characters. The addition of more audio languages featuring Brazilian Portuguese, Neutral Spanish, French, and German enriches the experience, delivering a refreshing take on character voices. This truly adds a layer of accessibility and cultural diversity to the game. I implore all players to explore them all at their own leisure. For veterans accustomed to the English dub, a noteworthy detail is the re-recording of lines by a significant portion of the pre-existing characters. You will not find the previous ones in this title.
The visual graphics in Storm Connections achieved the eye-candy level reputation the previous titles had to offer. Also, it contained subtle enhancements in specific fights and moments, but because it was only for those moments, it lacked uniformity in terms of the art style that it displayed. The quality of the visual experience does not underperform. However, witnessing those moments that received special attention and due to newer platforms we now have that provide those possibilities, I wish the art style enhancements could be applied everywhere consistently all across the game, even if it was only subtle.
The game offers an enormous amount of customization like character poses, voice lines, character skins, accessories, color swaps, even the online menu background, and more. They have put a lot more attention and care into these than ever before, so I’m fairly certain fans will appreciate this the same way as I did and would even show it off to others.
Ultimately, Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections Is Not Worth the Price
Even with occasional moments of enjoyment, I am afraid to say that the $60 price tag for this newborn Storm title is confronted with much difficulty in justifying its worth. While the gameplay remains to be welcomed with a warm ovation for its creativity and performance, the overall content seems more resonant with the idea that this could be another DLC expansion pack for Storm 4 rather than a standalone title. I really cannot say this game should be recommended to first-time consumers of the Naruto series or the Storm franchise.
Addressing the Storm veterans planning to purchase this, I believe it is fair to say that this game will leave you with mixed feelings, and you will not be pleased with it at its total capacity. Unfortunately, I am left with the question of why this game was produced when Storm 4 was a great send-off to the franchise already, and other potential anime avenues are not being explored.
If you really wish to purchase this game primarily for gameplay reasons and are thinking about playing it consistently, then I’d say it’s worth the investment. Still, otherwise, I would strongly advise waiting for this game to be on sale as it is the first non-numbered Storm titled to be priced at $60.
Disclaimer: Bandai Namco provided Final Weapon with a Steam copy of Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections for review purposes.