Because I’ve worked at Shonen Jump since the print magazine days and been the de facto “video game guy,” I’ve probably reviewed more Naruto video games than anyone on Earth. Is this something I brag about at parties? Yes, just like I’m bragging about it right now. So when a Naruto (or Boruto) game comes along that’s totally different than anything I’ve played, I get excited. And that’s exactly why I was stoked to play Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker.
Whereas most Naruto games are one-on-one fighting games, this one is a four-on-four online brawler. That’s right, you’ll be duking it out with strangers in a variety of online matches. I got a chance to play it at a Namco event and it was a blast, but it does take some getting used to.
We played a capture the flag style match that had two teams jumping and wall running across a giant chasm to get each other’s flag. The movement is very different from other Naruto games and just getting from one side to the other was a bit of a challenge at first. I fell into the chasm multiple times trying to get a feel for the controls.
Each character gets a regular jump and a “super jump” that allows you to jump ridiculous distances by holding a button and charging your character. You can more-or-less figure out where you’re going to land by a line that indicates the arc of your jump. If you land on a wall, don’t fret, because you can run right up it like a real ninja. And if you hit X while running up a wall, you’ll get a boost to get to the top faster.
Aside from wall running, you can also use your R2 button to throw out a kunai on a rope that will attach to any surface, that’ll keep you from falling. However, you can only use it once per fall, so if you miss, it’s down into the chasm you go! This is mainly how I died. But “death” in the game is only a short time out until I was back in the game and falling into the chasms again.
The big selling point of the game is the create your own ninja feature that unfortunately wasn’t available at the time I played it, but looks to be a lot of fun and have tons of variety. And like many modern online competitive games, each of the ninja has roles like attacker, defender, healer and so on.
The combat is fairly simple but engaging. There are projectiles, medium and strong attacks that charge up bigger super moves based on characters’ signature justu moves. The combat really shines when you’re in the middle of the fray and the whole crowd is going at it. It’s a blast, even if you’re not exactly sure who’s attacking you. And it captures the chaotic battles of the series perfectly.
We only had one level to play at the event, but I think the developers are really on to something here. This is exactly what Naruto (or Boruto) gaming needed, something fresh and fun. Fans are going to get a kick out of this when it comes out.
by Urian Brown
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