Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections is the best the series has ever played
Since the initial announcement, I have had a complex relationship with Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. After years of anticipation ...
Since the initial announcement, I have had a complex relationship with Naruto x Boruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections. After years of anticipation for the next main installment in the series (or anything other than Shinobi Striker), the initial revelation decided to present it as a kind of HD remaster of the four original games that were already widely available on most consoles.
Fortunately, this initial rough impression of Connections didn't linger for too long, as since that nightmare-inducing revelation, additional highly requested characters have been confirmed to join the battle. An exhilarating new story mode featuring Naruto and Sasuke fighting was also unveiled, and best of all, the combat mechanics appeared to undergo a comprehensive overhaul based on the showcased materials so far.
After eagerly following grainy clips on Twitter for the past few months, showcasing Ultimate Ninja Storm pros testing the game themselves at events, I finally had the opportunity to try it out at Gamescom 2023. And I left with a much greater enthusiasm for Connections. It could still be more of an intermediate release, akin to Generations and Revolution, rather than a true sequel to Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. However, based on my own experience with the game at Gamescom, it is evolving into the most enjoyable and playable entry in the series.
At its core, Connections will be familiar to anyone who has played other Naruto games. The focus remains primarily on executing combined attack sequences, while simultaneously managing one's chakra for extravagant special moves and being mindful not to deplete supplies of Body Replacement Techniques (which essentially allow for teleporting behind an enemy and interrupting their combos).
The impressive brilliance that made Ultimate Ninja Storm one of the most beloved anime arena fighters (well, it shouldn't be One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, right?) is still present in all its glory, but it's the subtle changes that make the difference. By far the biggest change is the removal of Chakra Shuriken in favor of a second Jutsu for each fighter, which typically represents an enhanced version of their tilt move (which has also been removed).
To those who haven't played much Naruto in the past, this may sound like a lot of technical jargon, but essentially, it removes two of the most useless game mechanics and replaces them with something that everyone can and will utilize. That is the biggest change, but smaller ones like resetting the health of both players per round, increased chakra regeneration, no longer having limits on items, and no longer evading damage while blocking all add up to the result that Connections plays better than any other game in the series. The hour I played immediately felt much more fast-paced than the previous games and relied less on the same three combos and a single Jutsu.
The version I played also allowed access to most of the new characters joining the game, including Baryon Mode Naruto, Kawaki, Karma Boruto, and even Delta, Boro, and Kojo Kashin. I'm not as thrilled about the last few, and I find Delta's instant-kill Awakening attack to be cheap as hell, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the main characters' most powerful forms. It's a bit of a shame that they are limited to the Awakening mode, but the new movesets are still fantastic.
Combine all of that with the numerous little things that CyberConnect2 has added here, such as the ability to choose between character colors (incredibly, this was missing for so long) and even add accessories to the fighters, as seen in Revolution. It's evident that this aims to be the most definitive Ultimate Ninja Storm yet, even if it doesn't carry the title "5".
So far, the only thing that I'm missing are new stages, as it doesn't appear that any have been added to the game thus far. I would definitely prefer to see CyberConnect2 focus on improving the gameplay and adding more playable fighters, but it's a little disappointing not to have seen any new stages yet. I also assume that wall-running has once again been removed from the series, which would be regrettable considering how the mechanic has been handled overall in the series.
Even though there seems to be a lack of new stages, Connections still feels like it has the best mechanics and the most extensive content out of all the games in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series - something I definitely did not expect when it was first showcased. How I ultimately perceive the overall package will largely depend on the quality of the original Boruto story mode and how much story content from the first four games is cut or shifted. But it looks like November will be significant for the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Believe it.