Release Date: August 30, 2018
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Reviewed on: Playstation 4 (PS Plus release)
When it comes to anime, I have nothing against it, I just don’t have the time. I’ll learn the popular series, who the main characters are, get the bullet points of the story down, and be on my way. But when the anime gets a video game released, for some reason, I’m all over it. It’s like the commercials for those vacuum storage bags, just condense everything down into an easy to figure out package, and I’ll take it out when I need it. When Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker got a free PS Plus release, it basically jumped to the front of the line and landed immediately on my hard drive.
Taking place during the Boruto era, Seventh Hokage Naruto is holding the Ninja World Hero Festival, inviting ninjas from all over the world to battle to see who is the greatest. If that sounds like a very basic plot, that’s because it is. That’s along the lines of a spin-off series or even an OVA. It’s a flimsy reason meant as a placeholder so people have a reason to play this live-service multiplayer fighting game.
With the mixture of cel shading and a fairly easy design to replicate, the game looks like any episode of the show. There’s not a lot of detail, but you can recognize characters and understand what you’re doing most of the time. I will give credit to the stage design, as players can explore the setting and run around a little bit more than the stages in the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm fighting game series, which were just flat stages in an area with no hazards.
The one feature that is fairly weak is the user interface and menus. They don’t provide a clear message about what to do. Players could choose a single player mission, and accidentally sit in the lobby area for a couple of minutes, simply because they don’t know the game requires users to push the square button to finally start the mission. While the game looks fine, there are just weird little technical issues that can slow down a play session.
Once players get past the character creation, which allows users to make the weirdest or goofiest ninja possible, the game jumps directly and quite literally into the Hidden Leaf Village, which acts as the main hub world. The two main gameplay modes are online multiplayer and VR missions, which is the closest thing to a single player mode here. There are also areas to change characters’ appearance, weapons, and move sets, letting players live out any possible fanservice needs. There’s also a shop for in-game appearances, weapons, and move sets, because that’s what gaming is now, an excuse to throw money onto something that doesn’t need a new paint job.
The VR missions are a great way to get used to controls and special moves before diving into the online aspect. These missions reenact certain moments from the series, but don’t go in depth into story aspects or motivations. It’s a lot of “That guy is here! Chase him down!” style of missions.
The controls feel fluid and smooth, but there are just strange little ticks in the fighting engine I noticed while playing. I can throw fireballs across the stage and not hit anyone, yet my punches will somehow hone onto someone and land a combo perfectly. Or even just the fact that my lock-on to a target gets immediately broken when I’m hit, rendering that whole system rather pointless. The fun of using all these well-known moves somewhat covers these flaws, but since I don’t have a whole lot invested into the series, it’s a pretty hardy flaw that I noticed quickly.
This is going to sound really strange, but this is probably the most apathetic I’ve felt towards a multiplayer mode in a long time. It has the cookie-cutter basics of any online mode, things like team deathmatch, capture the flag, control the most bases, free-for-all everyone against everyone—it’s online 101.
This game has a wildly specific style to it, so it’s not like players can take this skill set over to a Super Smash Bros. or anything that gets a tournament spot in EVO. But the truth of the matter is that most people would play a Naruto game for either an exclusive story or a fanfiction level of storytelling *cough*Dragon Ball XenoVerse*cough*. Unfortunately, this game offers neither.
It feels like getting really good at this game has a zero percent translation into another, more popular fighting game. And that’s if you even get a full match in. During the first match I tried to play, everything froze up, and I got disconnected, leaving a very bad taste in my mouth towards that entire section of the game.
Overall, I have to give Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker a 2 out of 5 stars. The gameplay itself still works smoothly in fights, the single player Trophies/Achievements are pretty easy to grab, and there is some fun in creating your own character in this ninja world. But with such a focus on multiplayer that doesn’t really work too well and most new characters and skills being DLC, grabbing this game while it’s free on PS Plus is the best thing you can do. Believe it!
What do you think about this entry into the Naruto franchise? Do you like it better than the Storm series? Let us know on the Boss Rush Discord!
Featured Image: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment