Developer: CyberConnect2Available: April 24, 2020
Publisher: Bandai Namco EntertainmentPlayed on: Nintendo Switch
(Review copy provided by distributor)

Arriving on the Nintendo Switch three years after its debut on other consoles, ROAD TO BORUTO is the definitive take on the Shippuden series. Featuring new characters from the recent film of the same name, BORUTO packs in new characters (to the tune of 106 rostered fighters); new costumes, and dozens of hours of things to do. It’s a dense, packed to the gills package of fan service from over two decades, one that should satisfy even the most diehard gamers who’ve played through Shippuden before.

Recapping the Naruto saga is a fool’s errand and almost entirely unnecessary here. Spanning hundreds of books, TV episodes, and dozens of films, fans are already well aware of what they’re getting into; and newcomers are going to remain confused. The Fourth Shinobi World War is underway, and ninja Naruto Uzumaki battles his enemy Obito Uchiha for the fate of the world. Skipping between flashbacks and flash forwards, the story does an intermittent job of helping newcomers sort of understand what’s happening. But aside from your typical monologues underlining character motivations, there is very little information to be found as to the who and why of it all. 

That’s not exactly a concern, as the title is heavily targeted at fans of the franchise looking to jump into the massive ninja war one more time. Being the final episode in the Ninja Storm series, ROAD TO BORUTO is more interested in wrapping up matters than starting new ones. Can you still enjoy the game without all the lore? Happily, yes. Thanks to a stellar combat system, a gorgeous presentation, and easy to pick up and play mechanics, the game is a blast even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on. 

There are three main modes: Story, Adventure, and Road to Boruto. The first follows Naruto and friends and is the one you’ll want to play first. It encompasses the majority of the main plot points that wrap up the Ninja Storm arc and is by far the easiest gateway into the convoluted lore. Adventure opens up the action for exploration, as does Road to Boruto; though the latter introduces new protagonists from the film to play as. There are open raid missions similar to ONE PIECE, but I found these to be most dire of the bunch. The game is at its best when dealing with the epic showdowns between good and evil. 

The presentation is absolutely stunning for a game already three years old. Utilizing some form of dark wizardry, CyberConnect 2 have brought the anime series to life on the Switch in great detail. The animations are smooth and clear and there’s nary a moment where even the somewhat underpowered console can’t handle the workload. Some cut scenes suffer from odd screencaps of the show, but they’re easily dismissed when everything else works this well. The voice cast is terrific across the board, carrying the nonsensical dialog with gusto. 

The game centers around mythic, grandiose combat, usually between two main opponents, with the occasional henchman thrown into the mix. These secondary antagonists are easily dispatched, and their presence in the game is very similar to the insanity of ONE PIECE: PIRATE WARRIORS.One well placed smack will send dozens of the hapless goons flying about and there’s a distinct pleasure in watching swarms of red shirts scurry out from under your fists. 

On the surface the combat may appear simplistic, but it proves itself surprisingly deep and tough to get a hold of in the long run. In the beginning the basics will get you well on the way; dodge, jump, and attack all work just as you’d expect them to. Much of the strategy comes from the Chakra system, as you balance your attacks to exploit weaknesses of your foes. Eventually you can power up your Ultimate Ninjutsu abilities, which lead to literally earth shattering results. The scale of ROAD TO BORUTO is hilariously over the top, with characters pulverizing mountains and flattening entire regions during combat. It’s the kind of mind boggling insanity fans have come to expect from the series. 

There’s also an online multiplayer mode which seems to be nicely populated with players at time of writing. Just be prepared, as I wasn’t, to get your butt handed to you the moment you venture outside of the comfort zone of playing against the computer. There are some truly vicious fighters out there. 

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: ROAD TO BORUTO is a terrific port of a series I had very little experience with. It’s easily accessible, loads of fun to play, and it never ceases to amaze with its scope and grandiosity. It might not be enough for me to actually dive into the anime, but certainly enough to keep me interested for many more hours down the road.