Much like Dragon Ball and Attack on Titan, Naruto is a hit manga that’s had its fair share of video game adaptions over the years. The latest addition is the newly released Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, a game that, in summary, allows up to eight players to battle it out in four on four matches to become elite ninja masters. That means that if you’re here for a story in the traditional sense, you’re going to be left in the rough. Shinobi Striker is, first and foremost, an online multiplayer battle arena experience, and on that front alone, it’s a pretty decent game.
Despite the lack of true story elements, the game does indeed fit into the timeline with Naruto as the Seventh Hokage of Konoha. Now, I should point out that there are some single player elements within, but overall, you’ll be spending much of your time fighting in the world ninja league – where you will earn your rank and work towards hitting top spot. Players begin their adventure with a simple yet intuitive character creation suite ranging; gender, background, cosmetic facial differences, height and physical appearance of your avatar. Basic stuff.
You can indeed play as a master character, characters taken from the source material. Once you’ve finished here, there’s some lengthy loading screens to get through before arriving at the game’s main hub. Get used to this hub folks, you’ll be visiting it often. Whether you’re in between fights, appraising acquired scrolls, or changing outfits and equipment, the hub is your all in one place to be. On top of having the two main mission hubs to pick and choose quests, there’s a total of three tutorial missions to sink into before you’re allowed to go online and showcase your skills.
The tutorial missions are short but sweet, giving you all the basics that you need to be aware of before hitting the deep end. Furthermore, they all count towards your level-up and progression. The game consists or two mission choices; single-player missions in ranking order, or the ninja league. Single-player missions can indeed be played with other people, which is massively helpful if you want to chase after those fabled S-ranks or just need that extra bit of support – me, I found myself hitting C-rank, time and time again, so it’s a nice touch nevertheless.
These missions offer a great way of breaking up the flow of the game so that you’re not just doing the same thing, over and over. There’s plenty of different missions to tackle too, but the only downside is that they do tend to repeat, albeit with harder variations. Still, frustrations aside, you can still earn XP and items here, regardless. There’s also some fan service thrown in for good measure, being that the VR missions allow players to take part in fights from the old Naruto episodes and fight alongside many different characters, since dead or currently alive.
Setting up these missions is as trouble-free as needs be, simply select the mission you want to take on and it will slot in the appropriate co-op players for you. Unfortunately, this leads me to another gripe. I’m not sure if there are some server issues or the game simple isn’t populated enough, but it too me north of ten minutes just to get enough players together, which for launch week, isn’t an ideal situation to be put in. When you’re not sinking time into these single-player focused affairs, you’ll be starting your journey in the game’s main aspect; ninja league.
This four on four mode can be tense, but it’s always fun. Here, there are four different modes for players to take on. These are thrown at you at random, rather than being player selected. Players can indeed choose from a total of four different classes; attack, ranged, healing and defense. Each class can be swapped out and all bring their own skills and abilities that determine the way that you play, and let me tell you, playing Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker can be an absolute blast when everything falls into place, thanks mostly to the game’s fluid movement and combat.
Taking into the fray whoever you have selected, you’ll be using not only your natural abilities and talents, but the very map itself as you fight for supremacy. The combat literally looks like it’s been ripped from its source material; from battling it out using a wide range of outputs, right up to running across walls with fluidity that would make Faith Connors blink in disbelief. This, again, all filters into the aforementioned classes, instantly granting you access to a dizzying amount of moves and special abilities. There’s really nothing else like it, and that’s the biggest compliment I can extend.
It helps, of course, that the controls are precise and response throughout the entirety of play. Whether you’re working through the single-player missions alongside a chosen mentor (that can also be leveled-up for tasty rewards) or fighting to climb the ranks of the online ninja world, you’ll be glad to know that any error or loss is down to the player. I did find the occasional issue with some classes being a little OP, but hopefully some balancing can be achieved in a post-launch patch. The bottom line here is that this game plays as well as it looks.
In regards to the visuals and the audio, I have to admit that I’ve been impressed. The game has been built in what’s penned as a completely new graphical style, and the end result shapes up magnificently. Each and every character looks fantastic, full of color, personality and depth. The same can indeed be said about the audio cues, which collectively goes hand in hand with the solid visuals to produce an experience that’s damn near inline with the game’s counterpart show. Safe to say that if you’re on the fence, you can cast any doubt to the side.
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker captures the essence, the speed and the personality of Naruto magnificently well. It’s deep, engaging and distinct. There’s certainly some adjustments needed for class balance, and matchmaking can indeed drag on for longer than it should, but when everything clicks into place, there’s little else that comes quite as close to the source material as this does.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.