Developer: Nintendo EPD & indieszero
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Puzzle, Action & Role-Playing
Release Date: June 8, 2018 (Worldwide)
“It’s an all you can eat buffet in the form of a puzzle RPG game that you can play on the go and I’m hungry for more!”
In the last 8 years of video gaming, we have seen some many incredible things. We have seen video games become interactive movies, we have seen the rise of indies and the fall of developers and publishers. One such company that had it rough, was Nintendo themselves. Instead of blowing us away, the Wii U bombed, forcing the Nintendo 3DS, to become the priority platform for all Nintendo gamers to own, while Nintendo worked on something better.
Despite how much of a failure the Wii U was, Nintendo was still open to taking chances and in 2015, they released their take on the shooter genre, in the form of Splatoon. Once believed to fail, Splatoon instead found success and a fan base willing to support it when 2017 sequel debuted on the Nintendo Switch. Sadly, due to its popularity, a new fighting game by the name of ARMS, was overlooked by many, which is a downright shame. Not only is ARMS the Splatoon version of what a fighting game could be, it’s fun, it is responsive and quite imaginative too. Personally speaking, it’s one of the best fighting games I have played this decade, but, what is the purpose of this? Don’t worry, it’s all relevant.
You see, while the newly released Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (aka Super Rotating Sushi Striker – The Way of Sushido, as it’s known by in Japan,) looked like a bizarre Japanese title that no one will want to play, when it was shown off at E3, the truth is, we were wrong to ever cast judgement upon it. Seeing may be believing, but what we saw last year for the 3DS at E3, and got to experience last months, as part of a demo, is simply a mere taste of what Sushi Striker has to offer. To put it bluntly, while I don’t see it reaching the same success as the Splatoon series (especially in the West,) the fact of the matter is, Sushi Striker is Nintendo’s next Splatoon-like game, but only if it is able to overcome the hurdles that ARMS could not. So, that is what brings me to the purpose of this review. This is my attempt at convincing you that Sushi Striker isn’t just worth your interest, but your time and money as well.
Initially developed for the Nintendo 3DS and started in 2015, Sushi Striker: The Way of the Sushido, is a puzzle RPG game that comes from both Nintendo and indieszero. It is not known when exactly the decision was made to have the title come to 3DS and Switch, but it was decided post-E3 2017 and I’m glad it was. Although I had intended to get the game for my 3DS, as it looked like the bizarre 3DS exclusive, I’m usually interested in, but having spent 21 hours playing it, across 3 days, it is simply a pleasure to have it on playable on Switch.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that the Switch version is the best version and that’s in spite of the great touch-screen precision that’s offered by the 3DS, by way of a stylus. Sure, the Switch costs an extra $10 dollars more, but with TV play and video capture, I have actually had a fantastic time playing it these last few days and I’m not going to forget that any time soon. But that’s enough of that! Let’s starting talking about the story already, because after that it’s gameplay and content and trust me, there is a lot to cover.
The story begins, in a world where humanity has polluted the sea and the marine life meet their end, only to find new life as a Sushi Sprite. In that same world, a deep love for sushi has ravaged the world and led to a war being fought over the “fishy finger food.” The war was known as the Sushi Struggles and there were loses on both sides. Unfortunately, the Empire won and sushi became forbidden to the majority. Now, years may have passed, but for some, the struggles and the war, are still alive and well and without even knowing it, Musashi will become the force of nature that could end it once and for all. But, because Musashi can’t do it all alone, that’s where Jinrai comes into play.
As a Sushi Sprite and one of the most powerful and sought after sprites, Jinrai can create free sushi for everyone to partake in. But, great power is all well and good, only if you can control it and for Musashi to prove himself or herself, worthy of being Jinrai’s master, the journey is a long, dangerous and surprising one. Sure, it’s all about sushi but with an anime art style to it, anime writing and cut-scenes, the questionable subject matter can be discarded out the window and replaced with an eagerness to see the long winding story, all the way to its end and beyond, thanks to post-game content.
But before the journey can even get underway, first the player must choose which Musashi they wish to play as, a boy, or a girl. Now, when I played the demo, I played as the boy and thought he was okay but in the English version of the game, the girl Musashi, is voiced by Christina Vee (voice of Shantae and Risky Boots,) so naturally, I decided I’d rather listen to Christina. After all, once the sex is picked, there is no going back and changing it.
Now, although Jinrai is the second Sushi Sprite players will get, as the first is one they are loaned to by Franklin, (aka he who gives Musashi sushi and gets her hooked,) a Sushi Striker can actually pledge to more than one sprite by eating their sushi and take 3 into battle with them, with an additional 2 tagging along for the ride. In a lot of ways, Sushi Sprites are quite like Pokémon, but are handled in such a way that there is large enough of a difference that Sushi Striker won’t feel like a major rip-off. The biggest difference though, is in the battles.
Making up almost all of the gameplay, Musashi must battle Sushi Strikers serving the empire and fight in sushi battles. Except, instead of battles being a case of taking it in turns, attacking with your chosen sprite, they’re time and puzzle focused. Think Puyo Puyo Tetris, but not Tetris and Puyo Puyo, as both player and CPU play at the same time, trying to link as many plates as you can within 7 seconds, before moving on to the next chain. You can’t link just any plate as the plates need to be the same colour in order to chain, but if luck and speed are on your side, using your 3 lanes and the shared one, you can chain between 2 and 25 plates easily. To go beyond 25 plates, you will need better gears that can speed up how fast the lanes travel and to improve your sprites skills.
Talking of skills, while chaining plates can be more than enough to win you some easy battles, near the beginning of the game, it is skills that will become vital to your future success. Each sprite may only have one skill each, but with the right combination of 3 skills, you can become an all-out striker, an intense defender that your opponent will struggle to harm, or a perfectly balanced individual. This is actually one of the things that makes me love Sushi Striker so much. The battles may be puzzle-based, but there is so much depth and strategy to this game that together it just makes it such an intriguing and addictive title.
But, even the perfect combination of skills can be undone if you don’t put the time and effort into sprites. Not only can every victory and loss earn Musashi and his/her sprites, vital experience points, but when levelled up enough, Sprites (of which the game’s catalog says there are 102 nearer to the end of the game,) will become even stronger and Awaken. It’s similar to what happens with Pokémon with regards to evolving, but although the Sprite will change form and get a different number in the game’s catalog, the name, however, will stay the same. Some sprites however, can evolve a second time by reaching their Ascendant form. There are no words to describe just how much fun I had evolving my various sprites, just to see what they will turn into.
Still, while levelling up will also increase their stats and defence, which is added to your HP during battles, it, however does not affect their skill. To improve upon that, and improve their use/decrease the cooldown time, Skill Charms are required. Sadly, there is not an abundance of them, so you will have to only use them on your favourite sprites, because it won’t make things easier in the long run, but it will give you a chance for when faced with some levels that are so tough, you might want to rip your hair out.
For those levels, sometimes what you need, is an item. From a black belt that can earn you more exp and give you a 1.5 multiplayer on any level you can successfully beat, thus helping you to Rainbow S rank, to beans that will bring you back to life when you’re HP hits 0. But should items not be enough and you’re ridiculously 10 levels higher than the recommended one for the level you’re on, when all else fails, it’s time to trust your favourite sushi. In order to have one, you will need to have eaten plenty of a particular type and once you have, each sushi option comes with an added bonus of increasing your Attack Power and better more time for chaining combos when your life is low.
This is what I mean regarding the depth of Sushi Striker, it really is not a game just about matching plates and auto-attacking an enemy, or deliberately attacking them during a Sushi Jubilee state, where you can do more damage. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is a very elaborate game with more than 200 levels, which you can attempt to earn 3 stars on. Plenty of Sprites that can be earned randomly after winning battles, with some specific ones needing to be gotten by other means. Yet, sadly, there are some sprites that are just outright denied to the player.
But some sprites even require you to be a greater Sushi Striker than you are in the beginning and that is only possible by completing enough in-game achievements called Triumphs, which operate on a Tier system. When Triumphs have been reached, it is time to head to the Shrine Grove location and rise to new heights. As you progress in the game, the requirements for reaching the higher ranks, get a lot harder, but sticking to it is worth it in the end, because the more you play, the more you will get to see Shrine Grove transform. It will go from a place of very few buildings, to becoming a home of levelled up restaurants that are good for tips, a mini-game that will force you to battle against a Sushi Robot and even an arena. Online battles aren’t available in the beginning, but they can be unlocked.
Sadly, it is the online mode I have an issue with, as I found it so incredibly laggy that it got to a point where I just had to walk away and return to the main game, but at least the local games against a friend in the same room, or someone nearby with a Switch of their own, are fun enough to play. But, to its credit, the online games are nowhere near as bad as Rio. Rio is this very annoying character that refuses to talk properly, always runs away and insists on having Musashi play his game. It would have been nice if it was a game, but instead, it’s just another battle, with another rule to learn.
But you know what? Those two things are not enough to tarnish what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable, food-fighting game. There might not be pies being thrown in faces and more broken plates than at a Greek wedding, but there really is so much depth to this game that it does justify putting as many hours as you can into it. Sushi Striker does reward you at every turn. There are Rare Sprites to earn and so many secret areas that there really is just so much to do and that’s before you begin the necessary grinding that is often required of an RPG game. So what if the Pro Controller is nowhere near as accurate as playing by hand is, as long as you invest the time to honing how you play with a controller, you will be a sushi master in no times.
Regardless of how odd it might look and how childish it might seem, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, is one of the most compelling games I have played this year. It’s fun as hell. Has just enough Pokémon aspects that make it hard to walk away from and it really is the next Splatoon/ARMS game, so as long as you’re a fan of the puzzle RPG genre, you should get it. If you’re not convinced though, try the demo, because if you like what you see there, you will LOVE what you get from the full game. Like I said, I played it for 21 hours before writing this review and I don’t regret a single second.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Nintendo
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This post was written by Solid Jack