Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is the newest game in the Naruto franchise, developed by Soleil Ltd who have only worked on Rockshot in the past and are a generally new company but with employees who have worked on previous Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games. Coming hot off the heels of the Ultimate Ninja series by CyberConnect2, Naruto takes to new heights. Moving away from the single-player experience of the past games, Shinobi Striker sets itself up as more of a multiplayer game with team-based match types and combat. With such a stark contrast in developer and style, Shinobi Striker has big shoes to fill along with high expectations.
Shinobi Striker is seemingly set around the Boruto anime, with plenty of our heroes having aged, Naruto being the Hokage alongside a time of peace for our cast of ninja. With this look into the future, akin to the Boruto anime, Konoha is more developed with skyscrapers, monitors and Virtual Reality. VR is used extensively to train our new ninja, with their training being put to use in the Ninja World League, a tournament-like competition between all ninja.
We start off with making our own Ninja, selecting a home from Leaf, Sand, Mist, Cloud or Stone, these will alter our body types and skin colour accordingly. We can also choose between 10 hairstyles, 10 Eyebrows, nose shapes, some body types, between 16 colours of our hair, eyes and skin with a limited selection of clothing. You are also only allowed 1 ninja, so if you want to share the game with a family member, this will need to use a separate account.
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, which match the 4 roles of Attack, Ranged, Defence and Heal, each having their own Ninjustu, TaiJutsu and overall style. Attack can use Rasengan, Leaf Flash and Eight Inner gates whereas Ranged would get Fire Ball Jutsu, Lightning Shuriken Net and Kirin. Sadly you will need to buy or unlock new gear to equip with these classes, with daggers and short swords being restricted to the ranged role, larger swords for defence and so on.
Training via VR or multiplayer, our Ninja will be able to unlock scrolls for more equipment and gain experience with their VR master. The equipment can be equipped to our classes, with the VR master teaching us new Jutsu or giving us new gear as we level them up. These Jutsu can then be used by the differing classes.
VR is the single player and co-op portion of Shinobi Striker, with 24 main story missions to play through. These missions constitute of killing a set amount of ninja, clones, capturing Intel or fighting large beasts and tailed beasts. Sadly the VR section of the game feels pitiful, with the 24 missions containing only 3-5 unique missions, the rest being copy-paste with reskinned enemies. After those 24 missions are complete, alongside the lacklustre story attached to them, we unlock the ability to replay them at higher difficulties.
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.
Aside from the VR portion of the game, Shinobi Strike is a multiplayer game at its heart. There are currently 4 match modes, Flag battle in which you need to capture the flag, Base battle where you take over zones to gain points over time, combat battle which is basically team Deathmatch and barrier battle where 1 team is protecting a beast and the other is trying to release the seal and kill it. You can either do a quick match to play with random people for fun or Ninja World League which is more for competition and leaderboards, with rewards given based on your ranking at the end of the event, which was 20 days to start off with.
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 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 varying forms, from Rasengan for 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, sometimes wiping the entire opposing team if you can line it up properly.
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.
The hub in which you wait and talk to NPCs feels mostly unnecessary, with half of it not even being used for anything. 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. Since you cannot interact with any of the hub while searching for a match I found more entertainment in finding awkward spots to lie down on.
The gameplay 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, 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.
The matchmaking still takes quite some time, though this could be due to the low amount of players, taking up to 10 minutes at certain points. I also felt that the matchmaking was not working as well as it could be, with my first match as a level 2 pitting me against level 20s, or level 6’s fighting 57’s much later into my playtime.
While I did have fun with the game, the VR/Single player content was very underdeveloped and haphazardly thrown together. Lasting around 5 hours, it carried no weight as it was all virtual and had no reason besides training. Some NPCs even treated VR as more important or crucial, when it was merely a game. It was repetitive and underutilized for those who possibly wanted to play this game as a co-op experience with their own ninja instead of the multiplayer.
Multiplayer also becomes somewhat boring and grindy, as you will need to level up VR masters to unlock new Jutsu, taking anywhere from 3 to 5 missions or matches to unlock a new Jutsu. Having to work your way through early matches with lower-tier Jutsu is painful, especially with the matchmaking setting you against level 50’s that have way more Jutsu unlocked.
I was able to find quite a few glitches while playing, from normal immersion breaking bugs to pathing that made masters powerless. One of the most occurring glitches was that of hair physics, with my character constantly having his hair inside of his head or freaking out via tornado-like movement. My master would get stuck in terrain and not be able to help and enemies would sometimes get stuck behind objects and not hit me. I also encountered a bug where my screen turned its darkness to 90%, making it almost impossible to see anything, while the menu was unaffected.
Overall, Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker gets a 6/10, it is a big let-down for me, as I had high hopes for the game during my time with the beta. The hub feels empty and too spacious for what it contains, VR feels somewhat pointless and the matchmaking kind of forces you to do VR as a pre-requisite as it pits you against much higher level players. The huge leap from a fighter to a team based game may put plenty of players off, however I feel it is done rather well on the gameplay side of things. Being able to fight the beasts in co-op and undertake missions is a fun addition, but due to how many hits enemies require it can become quite stale.
Bandai site – https://www.bandainamcoent.com/
Shinobi Striker page – https://www.bandainamcoent.com/games/naruto-to-boruto-shinobi-striker