Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto Review: An Aging Ninja

A feature-packed port of one of the most beloved games in the series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto has, unfortunately, aged poorly.

With every passing day, it seems crystal clear that Nintendo has been listening to folks who, when the Switch launched, were hopeful that the console would also turn into a veritable port machine.

Over the past few years, the Switch has seen re-releases, remakes, and ports of most, if not all, of the best games to come out in the past decade  well, at least the ones not published by Sony, Valve, or Microsoft. And now, for fans of the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series, the franchise's crown jewel comes to the Nintendo Switch complete with all of its DLC, including a game mode based on the Boruto movie.

With three story modes and a staggering list of playable characters, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto would be a perfect package for fans of the series if it didn't show its age in so many different, frustrating ways.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto Review: An Aging Ninja

The title of the game is a mouthful, sure, but the game does what it says on the cover. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto packs in three story modes: one based on the events of Naruto Shippuden, one "adventure mode" focusing on the events afterward, and another based on Boruto: Naruto the Movie.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto's main story mode bears mentioning because if you haven't played the game before, you'll likely be pretty surprised at the way CyberConnect2 frames battles. At its best, the story mode can be reminiscent of Asura's Wrath, blending battles with dynamic voice acting, pre-rendered cutscenes, and flashy quick-time events that reward you with bonus scenes if your reflexes are up to snuff. 

It's a great way to unfold the story of the anime for the player and gives added weight to the emotional peaks and valleys of the show. 

Unfortunately, only about a third of the game's story mode progresses that way. The rest is force-fed to the player through a slideshow of low-resolution stills from the show that cycle as the show's audio plays. It's a real letdown to exit the crescendo of battle and be rewarded with a still of Sasuke with his mouth hanging open as the audio from the anime plays.

This problem is compounded by the fact that each and every battle is couched in these scenes, which range from three minutes to as long as 10 or more. It would have been amazing if the developers were able to render those cutscenes, or failing that, just use actual show footage instead.

Often, I found myself idly scrolling through my phone, just waiting for the next fight to start.

Thankfully, the other two story modes operate differently, eschewing this style for a sort of limited open-world experience complete with customization options, side quests, and (thankfully) rendered cutscenes. The only downside is that where the game's main story mode will likely take you around 10 hours to complete (assuming you don't skip cutscenes) adventure mode, and Boruto's Tale will only take you two or three each.

This is a port, sure, but it would have been a real treat for fans if the developers were able to smooth some of these bumps out between the game's initial release and now.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto is a 3D arena fighter like many of Bandai Namco's other anime offerings. That's because the first game in the series set the tone for pretty much every other anime fighting game Bandai Namco has ever made, from the one-button combo mechanic to the dynamic over-the-shoulder camera.

The face buttons unleash a basic attack, charge your chakra, jump, or throw a weak projectile, while your trigger buttons guard, evade, and call in support. Combinations of these buttons trigger throws, special moves, transformations, and super moves (called Secret Techniques) depending on the conditions of the battle.

Although many characters have at least a few special moves and supers to choose between, you'll only enter battle with one of each. This flattens battles, as these moves are the main things that differentiate how characters play. It's disappointing because this both limits the number of options you have in battle and makes every character feel relatively similar.

One exception is the "Awakening" mechanic that allows certain characters to undergo unique transformations after their health is lowered. These transformations are flashy and range from relatively mundane (Might Guy turning red and getting huge stat buffs) to downright game-changing (Naruto turning into his kaiju-sized nine-tailed form). These awakenings change basic and special moves, so there's at least a bit of variety there.

Like any good anime game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto features special scenes that play if you finish an opponent with a secret technique or if you unleash a linked secret technique with the right team members. These are all ripped straight from the series, and they are a nice treat for the fans.

Sadly, that's not enough to paint over some of the bigger issues with the game's combat.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto Review — The Bottom Line

 

Pros

  • Staggering character list
  • The story mode, when it succeeds, is amazing
  • Kaiju battles

Cons

  • The battle system hasn't aged well
  • Characters only have one (or two, in certain cases) special moves, making them feel flat and indistinct
  • The story mode slideshows are unappealing

I've made no attempt to hide the fact that there's a lot about Bandai Namco anime fighters that I think could be vastly improved. And, credit where it's due, they have taken a bunch of steps in the right direction with My Hero One's Justice 2

This makes it a lot harder to go back to a game the studio released four years ago, with none of the quality-of-life upgrades that have been added into their more recent releases.

Canceling combos into special moves is finicky as there's no way to do it organically. Player stagger is a huge problem, meaning that when you have expended your evasion gauge (a function that allows you to break out of combos early), you'll be trapped in stunlock for a really, really long time as your opponent mashes "A"  even longer if they string their combo into a finisher. 

Battles just feel clunky compared to Bandai Namco's newer titles, which is odd for a game that's about ninjas.

Bandai Namco is releasing this title hoping to trade on the goodwill of folks who played the game back in 2016 and now want to take it on the go. If that sounds like you, I'd highly encourage you to rent the game again first. You may find that the katana has lost a little bit of its luster.

[Note: A copy of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto was provided by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
6
A feature-packed port of one of the most beloved games in the series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto has, unfortunately, aged poorly.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Featured Contributor

RobotsFightingDinosaurs has been writing about games for 10 years and playing them even longer. Despite the millions of hours he's played across multiple gaming generations, his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Robots has written for Polygon, Thrillist, Kill Screen, and more.

Published Apr. 30th 2020

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