Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto Review — Keeping The Fighting Dream Alive
A port to the Switch along with all content up to Road to Boruto makes this release of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 well worth picking up.
The Ultimate Ninja Storm series of Naruto games have long been one of my favorite anime-based franchises. The series’ latest title Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 first released back in 2016. But now with the anime shifting over to Naruto’s son, Boruto, the games have had to follow. So it’s no surprise that as it’s been ported over to Switch, UNS4 was pumped full of every piece of extra content released for the game, including a Boruto focused single-player adventure.
Now titled Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto, the game has (hopefully) reached its final form. And I’m happy to say that it’s more or less the same game I played when it originally released. With downsides that are hand-countable and the ability to pick up and go that the Switch offers, this version of UNS4 is the way to play it if you haven’t already.
One of the staples of every UNS game has been their depiction of the show’s massive, sprawling story. Anime games sometimes find themselves tripping over plot points and story beats, especially when based on massive shonen. Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto solves that issue by focusing solely on the final chapter of Naruto Shippuden and the first arc of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.
If you’ve played a UNS game before, you should know what to expect at this point. Delivery of the show’s story is given truly special care. Each battle is fever-pitched, and some are so distinct and unique that they stand out from the rest of the game. For instance, battling Madara Uchiha’s Susanoo with Naruto’s Ten Tails is classic kaiju excitement. Each slow, hefty blow has weight behind it, especially compared to your regular person-to-person combat. That being said, so many of the regular fights still stand out. The final battles against Kaguya and Naruto and Sasuke’s last fight are all fever-pitched moments, the latter of which changes your character on the fly to show the duo’s years-long rivalry. In all of these fights, the game blends storytelling and combat seamlessly, making it one of the most cohesive story experiences in an anime-based title.
What I’ve failed to mention so far are the brilliant cutscenes in Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto. When you’re not tossing Rasengan’s or charging Chidori’s at enemies, the game has two different kinds of filler. Half of the time, it’s simple character models with text bubbles above their heads where you press A to make them say their next line. That’s not what I’m talking about when I say “brilliant cutscenes” though. I’m referring to the other half, which is full of beautiful, distinct animation that dutifully recreates the animated aesthetics and quirks of the show. In fact, the only graphical issue I had with this game were shadows. Oftentimes, they’re extremely pixelated, regardless of whether the console is docked or in handheld mode. However, I won’t fault UNS4 for one small let down.
However, one small addition to cutscenes takes it above and beyond. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but the quick-time events in cutscenes and during combat assist the game’s storytelling so much that it wouldn’t be the same without them. Failing these QTE’s has no effect on the game, except you might miss out on a secret scene. That being said, you would have to try to fail them. They’re not in the game to make things more difficult but rather to get players more involved. When two characters throw Ninjutsu at each other and they clash, it’s flat-out exciting mashing a button and watching one side overwhelm the other. This one, simple inclusion made me more excited for cutscenes because it always meant I would be able to take part in the theatrics.
This all carries over to Road to Boruto, the game’s namesake story add-on. I don’t want to spoil too much, mainly because this was entirely new content to me and its plot was genuinely interesting. Suffice to say, it offers a new, unique perspective on the young ninja’s life. I can easily see why Boruto may resonate with a younger generation, even though I disagree with him and find him at fault most of the time. And while Boruto was supposed to be the star of the show, I couldn’t help but look for the characters from Naruto’s generation to see how some of my favorites grew up. My only issue with this mini-arc was its closing act, in which it threw everything about fights in Naruto out the window and went full Dragon Ball Z.
Beside the Road to Boruto and typical story content, free battle, and online battle modes, the game offers one more mode to eat up your time – adventure. This part of the game takes place after the events of its main story where the Hidden Leaf Village is saved and life carries on for our main characters. However, you won’t be experiencing new battles, but rather reliving the old classics.
In Naruto’s adventure, for instance, you revisit battles against Garaa and classic showdowns against Sasuke. For me, revisiting these fights is a trip down memory lane, although I wish I didn’t have to run around the ninja world to get there. Rather than taking the main story’s streamlined approach, adventure mode has you running through the hidden ninja villages looking for memory fragments to take part in classic battles. I would say it’s interesting to explore the ninja world this way, but in execution, it simply feels like shallow filler between the fights I want to get to.
Going into Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto on Switch, I had one major concern: performance. While this game was originally released in 2016, ports to Switch can be hit or miss, and even those that do port over successfully lose some graphical fidelity. I was most worried about experiencing these issues during combat, where you’ll spend a majority of time in the game. I’m extremely happy to say that not only did Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 run fantastically while docked and on the go, but it still looks great to this day.
The same can be said for fighting in general – it’s the same but it still impresses. At face value, combat is simplistic; your moves auto-combo, you throw shurikens and can charge chakra to perform a regular and then “super” Jutsu. However, it’s once you start playing around with this game’s movement that combat really opens up. By properly using chakra dashing, you can cancel out of a combo and start-up another string immediately. You can also guard in the middle of a dash to cancel it, allowing you to play a weird kind of “footsies” which is common in regular 2D fighting titles.
When you pair these tricky movement mechanics with the distinct move sets and movement options of each character in the game, you end up with a somewhat deep but massively complex combat system. That’s not even mentioning that standard fights use teams of three. Swapping to other characters can happen on the fly or mid-combo as an extender and each one that isn’t being used in combat can perform a support attack.
Are there optimal teams in this game akin to those in Dragon Ball FighterZ? Absolutely. The real question is whether or not you’re willing to sift through the massive, 100+ character roster of the game to find out what works best.
Eventually, as you do find characters and move sets that click with you, you’ll end up finding ways to chain together enormous combos. Ultimate Ninja Storm 4’s unconventional style of varied attacks in a 3D space at first makes combo building a challenge. But once you understand how easy it is to lock an opponent down, you’ll be hitting 50-hit combos ending in a secret Jutsu in no time.
In all honesty, this version of UNS4 doesn’t add much in terms of new content to the game’s combat systems. The most you’ll find comes in the form of new characters, and they do add a decent bit. Playing as a new character at least once is fun, but it’s always entertaining watching their either devastating or just plain silly secret Jutsu. In all honesty, I’m happy that nothing’s changed. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto’s story begins with a narrator saying this is the unfinished story of a nameless ninja. That may be more dramatic than Naruto deserves, but it’s true nonetheless. The stories of Naruto and Boruto are somehow far from over, and while I may not be actively watching or reading the ongoing manga and anime, following the saga through the games has always been a fantastic experience and is one that I hope doesn’t end any time soon.
Road to Boruto goes above and beyond what I expect from an anime-inspired game. Not a single facet of this game is done lazily and everything has the same effort and care put into it. Barring some minuscule graphical issues and somewhat shoddy plot points, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto is this generation’s Dragon Ball Z: Budokai. It’s the eponymous anime fighting game and is one that will not only be remembered fondly but will also be revisited to see what a great anime fighter looks like.