Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is the first Naruto game on PS4 to not strictly follow the anime, rather than follow the story of the anime, and it’s shaken up the core formula greatly. A friend said to me that Shinobi Striker is Splatoon-like in the way it tackles gameplay, and that’s possibly the best way to put it.
Shinobi Striker is a competitive team-based fighter, with four roles for each member of the team to fulfil. Attack, Ranged, Defence and Healer make up these roles, and you’re going to be in for a rough time if you think simply attacking will wield good results. With four modes to pick from, and very little single-player content, this is a game that lives and dies with its community — and with good friends to play with.
The four modes rotate, similarly to Splatoon, and this applies to both casual and ranked. The modes range from capturing bases, capturing flags, simply battling the other team and barrier battle, where one team must protect their base and boss, whilst the other team has to destroy it — these are pretty standard online modes, but they feel right at home in Naruto’s universe.
Each mode is good fun, although playing solo isn’t particularly enjoyable, and there’s a steep learning curve despite its simple mechanics. With four classes to get to grips with, it’s worth mastering more than one so that you can change based on the mode and your team’s choices.
Matches are 4v4, and the mechanics don’t allow for as visually impressive battles like in Ultimate Ninja Storm. Battles are slower paced with more exploration to find opponents and objectives, rather than blistering fast ninja action. You have two special abilities per character, which you can change before a match begins, and a mix of melee and ranged attacks, substitutions, etc, but winning a battle alone is quite difficult. It’s truly a team-based game and so communication is vital, and those who want to go at it lone wolf will likely find little to enjoy.
I love the character customisation in this, although there’s one problem here that rings true for several anime-inspired games, and that’s in the hairstyles. There’s a shocking lack of original hairstyles, with most, if not all, of them being based on existing characters. Most of the outfits are based on other character’s outfits too, although there are several colour schemes for each piece of clothing. Creating a character and customising them is still a lot of fun though, although I wish there was a little more to it.
Although it lacks the cinematic flair of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, Shinobi Striker’s aesthetic is gorgeous. It has a softer palette, there’s a good variety and enough customisation options that you’re unlikely to run across someone who looks very similar to you, and many of your series favourites, who are also available to play as, look fab.
It looks marvelous in motion, and I’m open to seeing this engine used for future anime games by Bandai Namco. As always, Naruto’s English and Japanese dubs are both excellent, as well as its music.
I appreciate Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker for not rehashing the Ultimate Ninja Storm formula, and for branching out into something different. It might not be as good a fighting game as its predecessors, but it’s a great team-based game that’ll delight Naruto fans, and will be a great learning experience when creating Naruto games going forward.
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