Coming hot off the heels of the Ultimate Ninja series by CyberConnect2, Naruto takes to new heights with Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker with a new developer in the form of Soleil Ltd. Moving away from the single-player experience of the past games, Shinobi Striker sets itself up as more of a multiplayer game with team bases match types and combat. With such a stark contrast in developer and style, Shinobi Striker has big shoes to fill along with high expectations.
There was recently a closed beta for the game, where I got to play quite a few hours of the game, however, the beta itself only really contained 1 map with 1 game mode. In general, this seemed like more of a stress test or a move to garner more interest, as with what little that was offered felt way to minuscule to be a proper beta of sorts.
Character Creation and Customisation
We start off with making our own Ninja, though “our own” seems a far reach with the options at hand. Eyes, head, mouth and body type are all set to default with no other options, while hair had around 6 separate styles. You can choose the style of clothing, along with your “home village” from Leaf, Sand, Mist, Cloud or Stone. Besides those options, you could also choose from 16 different colours of hair, skin, eyes and headband.
Moving away from the aesthetic, you can also create a Set of avatars, a combination of “classes” as such to swap in-between defeats in matches. You have 4 slots per set, but in the beta, we only really had 4 roles so this means little. The 4 roles on offer were Attack, Ranged, Defence and Heal, each having their own Ninjustu, Taijutsu and overall style. Attack gained Rasengan, Leaf Flash and Eight Inner gates whereas Ranged would get Fire Ball Jutsu, Lightning Shuriken Net and Kirin. These menus were more of a show-off or hint to what’s to come, as you could not mix and match, rather just key-bind.
If you are coming into this game expecting a 1on1 typical fighter, then you will be surprised and possibly disappointed. Shinobi Striker has moved much closer to that of an Arena fighter, more akin to that of the Dragon Ball Z games, with a larger map. Almost reminiscent of a MOBA, Shinobi Striker is deep-seated in its teamwork, with classes to deal or receive damage and 1 class to heal up the team during those times.
Movement is simple, left Thumbstick to run around, right for changing camera, X for jump and double jump. When you approach a surface you will automatically chakra run across it, be it vertical walls, horizontal beams or otherwise. Shinobi Striker is all about moving in a 3D environment, with smooth transitions from 1 orientation to the next. If you need a bigger jump you can hold R2 for a chakra jump, charging up for longer distances, but there is a limit to the distance. Whilst in mid-air the R2 will shoot out a wire kunai, pulling you towards any surface it hits, speeding up movement and aiding in your traversal of the maps.
Combat, again, is rather simple, Square and Triangle can be interchanged for combos with Square for light attacks and triangle for strong attacks, these change with the different roles you select, with ranged throwing kunai with triangle. Circle is for your Ninja Tool, mostly reserved for shurikens and bombs in the beta depending on your role, you have up to 4 shurikens, while other classes only get 2 of their tool. You can hold down L2 to guard, with so many hits depleting your guard and eventually breaking it. If you parry with R2 when a hit connects with your guard you will shoot the attacker a good distance away from you. If you are not defending you can use R2 when you are hit to utilise a Substitution Jutsu, negating some damage and teleporting you in the direction you are moving or behind the target, you only get 1 of these and it goes on cooldown when used.
Finally to round off the mechanics you also have access to Ninjutsu on L1 and R1, dealing a good amount of damage and generally tracking your targets. These come in the form of Rasengan or damage, or Sage Palm for the healer role to heal allies in your vicinity. After being used these go on a cooldown, charging faster if you hold the corresponding button. The strongest of all is your Secret Technique that is used with the up directional button, from Kirin to Eight Gates, a lot of these are instant kills if they land in the beta, sometimes wiping the entire opposing team if you can line it up properly.
Overall Thoughts and Opinions
Shinobi Striker has moved away from the original style of the previous games, going for a more vibrant colour scheme, allowing their Justus to look even more impressive and devastating. However, this new style reminds me a bit too much of play dough or non-threatening material, harshly offset from the actions the characters are undertaking. Combined with the design of the hub world and battle map, it didn’t sit well with me, though those who watched my broadcast of it were of differing opinions on the matter.
The hub of the beta was mostly unnecessary for the beta, with half of it not even being used for anything or sending a message of “not currently available”. You could run around and look at the artwork and design, but it felt like more of a place to mess around with character emotes and watch the frame rate drop than anything else. If it expands to more of the city, or allows for better interaction it could prove to be fun, but I found more entertainment in finding awkward spots to lie down on.
The overall gaming experience was rather enjoyable, with the combat feeling rather balanced, Attack role users felt very damaging, Defence took plenty of hits and the Legendary characters on offer utilised visually stunning moves. Playing a Healer for a lot of it, I felt weak but not useless as my healing kept the team going for much longer than usual, whereas my time with Attack or the legendary characters allowed me to dominate in battle.
Just like I mentioned before, this seemed like more of a test, a stress test. I could easily count 40 people trying to get into a match around the Hokage estate, but it would sometimes take me 20+ minutes (my viewers timed it sometimes) to get into a match. With the number of players just sitting around in the hub world, with plenty being there for 1 or 2 days with lower levels, it shouldn’t have taken as long as it did to match-make, especially when there is only 1 map and 1 game mode. Along with the wait times I did find trouble staying connected at times, being booted from matchmaking or in the middle of matches.
Overall, Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is shaping up to be a fun experience, however its huge leap from a fighter to a team based game may put plenty of players off. There are hints at Co-Op versus AI, and if those pan out then I would be much more interested in this release. The game requires a lot of polish and additions from what was shown in the beta, but it has some solid groundwork.
Bandai site – https://www.bandainamcoent.com/
Shinobi Striker page – https://www.bandainamcoent.com/games/naruto-to-boruto-shinobi-striker