Like most ports of Japanese origin, the Nintendo Switch version of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto has taken its time to go handheld – the original launched back in 2016, and its anime film tie-in expansion a year later – but with three different story modes, and a frighteningly large number of playable characters, this full-fat version certainly helps ease the pain of its timekeeping skills with a sheer force of content. Should you have exhausted the substantial offering of the 2018 port of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy on Switch, then you should expect something equally gripping.
There are few anime series quite as successful and beloved as the journey of one Naruto Uzumaki, and developer CyberConnect2 has produced a videogame adaptation that’s so good some might even consider it better than its source material. The Ultimate Ninja Storm series has been around for almost 17 years now and has grown from a humble fighting game with a small roster on PS2 to the gargantuan battler we see today. The arena battle formula has served Namco Bandai’s anime adaptations well countless times before – just take a look at Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 or the My Hero One’s Justice games for starters – with each battle consisting of free-roaming throwdowns between various characters from the Naruto universe, with lots of QTEs and a lot of cutscenes.
Thankfully, the action more than lives up the Naruto brand, with its 3v3 battles as captivating to watch and play as before. Some old systems have been reintroduced, while some recent additions have been taken out, making this instalment more in line with the first couple of games. Now you can change between characters at will with a flick of the analogue stick – enabling you to best utilise your support characters, only now with a single health bar between them – making it far easier to switch up your attacks on the fly. Wall-running returns, adding in a welcome extra dimension as battles shift between walls and the ground, and so do awakenings and ultimate 'jutsus' (over-the-top super moves that see your characters teaming up to pull off extra powerful manoeuvres).
Thanks to the relatively simple input scheme, it’s quite easy to pick up and enjoy Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto’s arena battles (that heavy dose of over-the-top set-pieces and QTEs certainly help), but don’t expect to actually follow the story if you’re a newcomer to the world of Naruto. This is, after all, the fourth game in a long-running series, one that picks up on the manga/anime’s storyline part through the Fourth Shinobi World War. Sure, you’re getting a lot of content – a roster size and story component that rivals that found in Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm – but unless you know the source material intimately, you’ll only getting half the experience. New Naruto fans are better off investing in the aforementioned trilogy before going all-in with this instalment. Even the addition of the Baruto expansion – which follows the exploits of Naruto’s son – is a slice of story best served to existing fans.
The cutscenes in Story mode – one of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto’s many modes – are probably its biggest letdown, mainly because the developers have relied on semi-static images played over audio from the anime. It’s as if the developer wanted to make this adaptation feel a little different from the anime, but why trade the quality of the source material when its inclusion would only serve to enhance the interactivity of the fights themselves? The result is a conveyance of narrative that’ll likely put off long-standing fans and potentially bore newcomers into simply skipping them until the next fight is unlocked.
As a port, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road To Boruto runs really smoothly, with next to no instances of slowdown or noticeable framerate drops. Menu transitions are smooth, and we found being able to switch between characters far smoother than previous entries. There’s also support for online play, and the netcode held strong in all of our multiplayer matches, although we learned quickly that those simple inputs hide some real complexity when you start learning which characters and their jutsus make the best team. However, there’s no real additional content for Switch users over other console versions, bar the obvious handheld support.
Thanks to some welcome changes to its core systems – mainly the improved battle mechanics and the great onus on story content – Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 Road to Boruto is the most accomplished and enjoyable instalment in the series yet. While it’s certainly more for the hardcore Naruto crowd, it’s nevertheless a meaty package with an impressively vast roster, a huge amount of unlockable content and the addition of the film-tie in for the Baruto storyline. If you love all things Naruto, this fourth instalment is a must-have addition to your ninja collection.