Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 – rather bringing into question how ‘ultimate’ Ultimate Ninja Storm 1, 2 and 3 were – splits the action up into three main game modes. The first and most important, Story, follows the events of the series through a string of battles, following one or more characters along branching, sometimes parallel, storylines. What this really comes down to for each chapter is watching several minutes of lengthy anime or still frame cut-scenes, all nicely scored and voiced, interrupted by fights or the occasional quicktime event. Win that chapter’s fights and you’re rewarded with more cut-scenes before the next chapter opens up. Depending on the chapter, you’ll possibly spend more time watching than actually playing.
The cut-scenes alone can be bewildering, but the real shocks start when a fight kicks off. For one thing, the combat takes place in full 3D arenas from a range of anchored camera angles, so it takes a while just to orient yourself to that. For another, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 doesn’t play out like any conventional fighting game. Quick attacks have a part to play, but this is really about maintaining awareness, well-timed blocks and counters, moves that shift you quickly into position and charged and combo moves that dish out huge amounts of damage. You can easily spend your first few battles getting ass-whipped without knowing what on Earth just went wrong.
Returning to this game from previous instalments is the "Wall Running" feature where two shinobi are able to fight while climbing the walls of the selected stage. Unlike previous instalments however, where if one player ran up the wall the other player was forced to fight on the wall as well, in this game it is implied that if one character runs up the wall the other character can still fight on the ground.
A new feature will be introduced in the game called "Leader Swap", where you can switch out the main character you're fighting as to fight against your opponent with your support characters. To add balance, the character switched in will share the same life bar as the main character, as well as still maintaining an Awakening state. It is still unknown whether supporting characters will make a return in this game due to this new feature. A new version of Naruto and Sasuke will share a unique Combination Awakening when played together.
According to Hiroshi Matsuyama, the option to select one of the three fighting types from Storm Revolution (Ultimate, Awakening, and Drive) is removed. Just like its predecessors, the player can use all three types at once during a single and/or team battle. It has also been confirmed that before starting a battle, you will be able to choose between multiple jutsus and Ultimate Jutsus to use in battle, a feature that has been in previous entries of the Ultimate Ninja series, but now makes its return.
The game will be more realistic than its predecessors where an outfit can be damaged if it is hit and even worn off. Jutsu will have long-term effects on the outfits. For example, if a fireball hits the character, it will remain ignited for a while, but water can reverse that effect. Stage destruction will take place as well in boss battles and free battle, and there will be more details showing particles as they get worn off from an attack.[