If you decorated your house with fire-breathing snake statues and had ninja lurking to greet unsuspecting visitors, I’m not saying we couldn’t be friends, but we probably wouldn’t be hanging out at your place all that often. That is, of course, unless we were both ninja, in which case Naruto x Boruto Ninja Voltage tells us that this sort of thing would be just an everyday occurrence.
The latest in a long and successful line of mobile games based on famous anime properties, Ninja Voltage is set (perhaps obviously) in the world of Naruto and puts you in charge of your own village. There’s a little bit of city-building or at least build and battle as you construct and upgrade a few things and gather resources, but the focus of the gameplay is defending your village’s fortress and gathering a team of shinobi to confront and overcome the enemies, traps and defenses of other fortresses.
If you’re thinking that sounds like PvP is a big part of the game, you’d be right, though there are solo missions cleverly turned into the same type of action-RPG-light style (the “light” meaning ain’t nobody mistaking this for Diablo). You take control of one Naruto character with up to three others backing you up. The controls are a standard thumbstick and button combo, and while the action isn’t super precise, it is frantic and mostly satisfying. As Bandai Namco is wont to do, there’s also a healthy amount of story woven in-between solo stages, which always makes it seem like the company is going the extra mile.
Where many similar games make the chase to obtain more characters the biggest hook to keep people playing, Ninja Voltage tries something different but somewhat perplexing. It’s actually really easy to unlock new shinobi, as I was able to get my hands on enough Hero Fragments to have a roster of 10 characters after playing for just a couple of hours. Instead, the rarer resource is actually ninja cards, which can be assigned to any character but work best for the ones depicted on them.
Without the proper ninja cards, your characters don’t have access to all of their ninjutsu, which manifest themselves as your special attacks or abilities. Since giving your shinobi the right cards and then leveling those cards up (which thankfully is pretty simple and doesn’t stretch your resources too far) is a bit of a crapshoot, it’s hard to even tell how much of a pay to win feeling you get with this game.
There’s also some confusion when it comes to laying out your fortress defenses, as the whole process just isn’t explained in enough detail. You’re able to unlock and use different layouts, each of which comes with its own preferred traps and barriers, and you can also assign your shinobi to defend different rooms — while they remain free for you to use for your own fortress assaults, a very welcome move that many other games don’t include. Planning an effective defense is simply really difficult, and there’s not enough information to help one figure out how to do it better.
On the other hand, it’s hard to argue against this as the best looking Naruto mobile game to date. Both the static visuals and animations are highly detailed and true to their source material, and the production values alone probably earn another half-star in any rating system. Fans of the franchise aren’t likely to be disappointed in that regard.
And it’s very possible that there are enough of them out there that Ninja Voltage will have plenty of players despite it’s more puzzling aspects. If it looks good and plays smoothly, which it certainly does, then maybe everything else simply falls into place in time like learning to be a better ninja. Or a better decorator. Or in this case, both.