I’ve been playing video games from the Naruto franchise for almost as long as I can remember and the demo of NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS has reignited the excitement once again. When the game was originally announced, most of the shine went on two things, both of which featured prominently in early trailers. One, two new playable characters (Indra and Ashura Otsutsuki) were revealed alongside a sneak peek at their movesets. Two, the game revealed it had an original story mode featuring a new character capable of using a Susanoo. All of this was exciting on some level. The issue was that it didn’t feel important enough. What I mean by this is that the initially revealed information didn’t feel like a substantial enough improvement from Storm 4, which already featured nearly every recurring character in Naruto and had several DLC packs featuring Boruto characters. NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS felt as though it was a remaster of existing games rather than something extra and I think a lot of fans were disappointed at first glance.
The game has come an incredibly long way from that very first reveal. We at Anime Corner were lucky enough to spend ample time hands-on with a playable demo of NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS at New York Comic Con and it made my excitement for the game skyrocket. There are a few changes to the game mechanics that I think are worth covering. Even more importantly though, I finally got to play around with completely new characters, the element that makes new Storm games worth it.
The main changes I want to talk about are, in no particular order of importance:
- Tilt moves have been removed
- Chakra shuriken have been replaced with a second jutsu for each character
- You can be hit by pretty much any attack while on the ground
- Long, extended combos receive a damage penalty, even (and especially) when you mix an ultimate attack into them
- Health resets between rounds in a match, there’s more damage taken while blocking, and items aren’t limited
Personally, I find the removal of tilt moves a bit upsetting (there are some long-standing combos developed by creators like AfroSenju that relied on them) but the addition of a second jutsu move is quite nice. Having grown up playing the Ultimate Ninja games on PlayStation, I was quite used to having multiple jutsu options for each character, especially given how many techniques exist normally in the series. Removing chakra shuriken was a welcome change for me, as they were very boring for the vast majority of characters in Storm titles. Typically the move was just throwing a lot of shuriken rather than a few, with a few characters having some sort of special weapon thrown instead. NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS gives a lot more attack variety with this second jutsu, especially considering how important it is in these games to mix specific kinds of attacks into combos at particular points.
Speaking of combos, the combo length penalty is probably my absolute favorite gameplay mechanic change. To explain how this works, when you execute a combo attack by pressing the attack button and extend that combo by adding jutsu, chakra dashing to continue the combo string, or using an ultimate attack, the damage you deal is reduced proportionally to how much you’ve extended the combo. At times this damage reduction can be very substantial; while testing this out and letting loose an obnoxiously long combo on an opponent (sorry, whoever that was) that ended with an ultimate attack, the move took a bit under a quarter of his health bar. Normally these attacks can take half or more of someone’s health. While fighting games of course rely on combos, I think this change, alongside increased chakra regeneration and the ability to hit people on the ground, breaks up the monotony of the game while simultaneously increasing its pace. I no longer need to wait for my opponent to roll away and jump up after being knocked down and I’m actually incentivized to knock them down and start a new combo to maximize my damage. It’s a very clever change.
New Characters From Boruto
The NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS features 7 brand new characters and brand new versions of a few others. Kawaki, Ashura, Indra, Jigen, Delta, Boro, and Kashin Koji make up the new characters while Naruto, Sasuke, Boruto, Sarada, and Mitsuki saw changes to their existing Storm characters. Some fan favorites were also included in the demo and, to my dismay, many people playing saw fit to use Minato rather than the new characters half the time. My personal favorite of these new characters was Kashin Koji, by far. I’ve always been a Koji fan in general but his Storm character feels like what Jiraiya always should been in games. He moves rather quickly and lets loose constant strings of fire and toad-related techniques. He’s a nice balance of melee and jutsu combat with punchy combos, my personal favorite type of character in these games. The others were pretty satisfying as well. Kawaki is very true to his fights in the manga and anime and moves less like a ninja than the others. Jigen is able to throw giant blocks at people just as in the anime and characters like Indra and Ashura have movesets certainly inspired by their filler arcs in the anime. Luckily they aren’t complete Naruto and Sasuke clones in their overall combat even if some moves are.
Modified characters were plenty exciting to see too. Baryon mode Naruto is an obvious standout here and is absolutely amazing to play as. Others, like Mitsuki, had (in my opinion) incredibly bland and boring movesets in Storm 4 and have more personalized, unique ones now (such as Mitsuki having his sage mode).
Looking Forward to Naruto X Boruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Connections
This demo didn’t feature any insight into the game’s story mode (or the new elements within it) which was one of the main things I was curious about. I imagine that sort of thing might be relegated to an officially released demo or alongside the new Naruto episodes rather than a convention demo meant to show off gameplay and new mechanics. The Storm franchise is one that, like many video games made from anime, always manages to re-capture my attention and excitement even before a full game is out in the world and key new elements are revealed. I think the changes that we’ve seen thus far, especially with the characters that have been added, will themselves garner enough excitement to bring a whole lot of people back to playing the game. Storm 4 came out in 2016 and the game’s online community was more or less dead up until the announcement of NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS, which resuscitated it as people dusted off their skills. The meta for players is guaranteed to shift and it’ll make for some excitement as everyone is forced to adapt old habits and learn new ones.
NARUTO X BORUTO Ultimate Ninja STORM CONNECTIONS is set to release on November 17th, 2023 for Xbox (One, Series X, Series S), PlayStation (4 and 5), Nintendo Switch, and PC. For full details on the game and details on preordering you can check out the official website here.
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