As of 5:30 PM PDT on June 15, 2023, Michael Higham
Although it may feel like new Ultimate Ninja Storm games are always being released, it has actually been seven years since the last good one came out. Due to the passage of time, the custom of passing the torch from Boruto’s father to Boruto himself is brought to life in the anime and manga. People have been warming up to Boruto as the anime has progressed, but Boruto is also about introducing a new generation of fans. The 3D arena fighting series came to an end, and that’s where Naruto X Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections comes in.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Naruto anime, a brand new game has been released as part of the Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Over 130 characters from across Naruto’s timeline are featured, and the game’s two story modes blend series staples with new additions. While playing this latest installment at Summer Game Fest, I had a strong sense of familiarity and the same intensity I’d expect from a fast and stylish pick-up-and-play arena-style fighter, but updated for a new generation.
The gameplay of Naruto X Boruto is similar to that of the other games in the series. Two players battle it out in a 3D arena using standard strikes, combinations, alternative dodges, and a variety of wild Jutsus. It’s also a tag-fighting game, with each player controlling a trio of characters they can swap between as needed. This concept allows you to combine your favourite characters into unique team compositions, but ultimately, you want to position yourself to perform Combination Ultimate Jutsus. These carried over to Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, and thanks to the addition of Boruto’s cast, a whole new set of moves is at our disposal. I coordinated an attack between Boruto and Kawaki, with Kawaki helping to supercharge Boruto’s Rasengan.
Awakening mode serves as both a return mechanism and a cool occurrence when the Chakra metre is full and the health bar is in the red. In particular, Naruto’s new Nine-tailed Fox upgrade looks absolutely terrible. To see the new villain Jigen use the Otsotsuki power to summon a Disruption Cube and squash his challengers is a great example of the kind of over-the-top flair that has become a trademark of the series’ solo Ultimate Jutsu battles.
Beyond the hyped-up, anime-inspired craze, a new simplified control scheme allows newcomers to get in and accomplish the amazing stuff without having to learn any complicated jargon. During my brief hands-on time with the game, I made heavy use of the simplified controls to gain a feel for the game and can see how they make the game more accessible to players who aren’t used to fighting or action games. The game was never known for its complexity from the get-go, but having an option like this makes sense if the maker, Masaya Yoshizawa, is serious about expanding the series’ audience.
There are two story modes in Boruto X Naruto, one called History Mode for veterans like me, and the other called Special Story Mode that puts Boruto in the spotlight. Battles you’ve experienced in previous Naruto games can serve as a window into the series’ past for those who may enter this game as a merely Boruto fan, and History Mode is intended to be a playable project that records the crucial moments in the first run of Naruto. On the other hand, Special Story Mode walks you through the most pivotal battles from the Boruto anime, putting the spotlight on these moments. It’s an enticing point of entry for someone who has been on the sidelines for the new generation of the franchise.
I also questioned Yoshizawa on the matter of Boruto’s canonical status, continuing popularity, and existence in the wake of Naruto. One of the goals of the Special Story Mode, he said, is to introduce players to Boruto so that they can “learn about Boruto and then maybe get interested in watching the anime or checking out the manga.” The group thinks [Boruto’s narrative] is steadily becoming popular,” Yoshizawa added. Obviously, if you hold it up against Naruto, it may not seem like as much. We think it has turned out to be successful enough that we’ve included both History Mode and Special Story Mode.
Whatever your opinion of the 3D arena fighter subgenre, it has served as a solid foundation upon which some of the most well-known shonen anime have been able to adapt, resulting in varying degrees of success depending on the quality of the adaptations. Jump Force, which features characters from the Dragon Ball Z: Tenkaichi video game series and the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm game series, as well as My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer, are all based on this same fighting game formula. While they may not be very innovative or significant to the canon of your favourite anime, they have provided you with some exciting sequences of action featuring characters who remain faithful to their original inspirations.
My hands-on time with the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch version of Boruto X Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections leads me to believe that this is the case.
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