So I might have gone into my other Bandai Namco appointment at NYCC 2023 with minimal knowledge of the franchise and underwhelming performance. But surely with a Naruto: Ultimate Ninja title, a series in which I’ve played 5 entries (of 6 as of right now), my performance would dazzle both the Bandai Namco reps and producer Hotaku Suto. Unfortunately…the skills of a games journalist showed up once again.
Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is the 7th entry of the long running Naruto: Ultimate Ninja franchise that has been developed by CyberConnect2 since 2008. The series’ key features include having story modes featuring open worlds, bombastic ultimate ninja techniques sequences that would even outdo what the anime has depicted and unique characters which have won my heart (Mecha-Naruto, are you still around during the New Era?). The game is billed as part of the celebration of the Naruto anime’s 20th anniversary so it looks to recap the story of Naruto and Sasuke, which began with them as academic rivals, then to mortal rivals and finally the Hidden Leaf Villages’ greatest protectors. It will also feature an original tale following Boruto as he unwittingly finds himself ensnared in a plot to overthrow Ninja World.
The first thing I got to do during my demo of the title was to check out the game’s History mode. This is a mode which recaps the Naruto/Sasuke saga from the prologue to the end of the Fourth Ninja War. The first fight I got to experience was the two’s reunion in the Shippuden/Post Time Skip Era where Naruto and a revised Team Seven infiltrated one of Orochimaru’s bases. Naruto desperately attempts to reach out to his once ally and Sasuke remains aloof and off putting. They eventually decide to clash physically and control is handed over to me.
The game’s control pretty much remains consistent, although I was informed chakra will gradually refill which felt like a minor tweak…charging chakra is literally holding down a single button. I attempt to do what I do in most of these games…an ultimate ninja technique which if it hits the mark will take off a huge chunk of life. Sadly the stage’s special condition prevents them from being used. So I opted for my other bread and butter move of chakra dash into a melee combo, rinse and repeat. Since there was an audience I decided I would vary it slightly, occasionally canceling the combo midway to pivot to an aerial juggle into a knockback. Eventually I took down enough health to trigger the QTE sequence that signal the end of the level. The first one threw me for a loop…and please let me explain. Traditionally the Ultimate Ninja Storm titles were PlayStation exclusive (The game went multiplatform with 3) so seeing the Y button absolutely confused me to which I verbally made excuses and pleaded my case. The result of my effort was an A….which was not an improvement over the grade for that stage.
The second fight in my demo takes place slightly further in the Shippuden timeline. This was during the lead up to the Fourth Ninja War, when the mysterious Tobi only had 2 tailed beasts left to capture. The Allied Shinobi Forces opted to sequester Naruto and tasked him to master control of his tailed beast, the wild and power 9 tails itself Kurama. So rather than a fight against humanoids, it’s a fight against a significantly larger opponent. Despite his size Kurama was rather mobile, shooting concussive blasts from his mouth while bobbing and weaving throughout the battlefield. Thankfully I was able to summon fellow Jinchuuriki, Killer Bee to aid me in the fight. During this fight I recounted to the folks in the room that one of the tougher fights for me to secure the S rating in UNS4 was the multiple tailed beast fight towards the end of the games’ story mode. You would think recounting that story would make me use the strategy I learned from the internet to score that elusive S rating (chakra charged projectiles), but alas I stubbornly stuck to the ninja dash into melee combo and that netted me a B ranking for the mission (which was also the highest ranking for that mission on the demo unit).
Compounding my unimpressive history showcase, I was able to play a versus match against one of the reps in the room. During the session I commented about a running gag in all of my Naruto coverage for the site…being that despite being a character from the first arc, all Naruto games must feature the androgynous missing nin, Haku with no exceptions and the rep called back to that joke and said that I should pick Haku for the vs match. I obliged and was confident I could use his Bloodline Limit abilities to put my opponent down. Needless to say that was not the case and I was utterly dominated by my opponent…he even closed off the match with a multi-character ultimate ninja technique finish. So I did the only thing I could do, and that was to laugh off the drubbing, offer a handshake and congratulate my opponent on his superior skills. I guess there’s a reason why my online record in these titles are non-existent…
As the session winded down, I spoke to Producer Suto about some of my concerns for the title and the series moving forward. While it has been billed as a title celebrating the whole of Naruto, we’re still leaning on Naruto and the older generation of ninja. The Boruto contingent of roster is still relatively miniscule compared to his father’s generation. Suto assured that post game additions will introduce more New Age characters into the fold and the team is actively monitoring the ongoing Boruto series for characters to be considered, he even hinted at a character which even raised my brow…I certainly will be watching to see if this addition would come to fruition and if it does I’m sure it will send shockwaves throughout the fandom. I guess there will be that one person who will run the online leaderboards with a team of Chuunin Exam era characters, but here’s hoping one day we’ll have a title that only includes the name Boruto…hopefully before his generation gets eclipsed by the next.
Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections will exit the shadows on 11/17/2023 in the land of PC, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox!