Naruto to Boruto Shinobi Striker is the latest video game entry in the massively popular anime and manga series Naruto. It has a heavy emphasis on co-op and multiplayer gameplay and allows you to create and then develop your own original avatar character for the first time in a Naruto game. It’s addicting multiplayer game modes and loot based gameplay loop will keep players engaged for many hours. But if you’re expecting a story mode narrative to play through this may not be the Naruto game for you were looking for.
Right off the bat you get to create your own original character that will be jumping into the Naruto universe. Timeline wise the game is set during the events of the Boruto series, so when navigating around the city hub world you’ll notice that Naruto is the current Hokage, Konohamaru is now grown up and Sakura and Sasuke have finally married. This has little impact on the missions in game but sets the time period and setting well for any fans of the Naruto series.
Character creation is restrained and limited at first allowing you to create a good starting point for your character’s overall look. The templated body parts you can choose from and their designs make it quite easy to make a great looking character that look like they fit right into the Naruto universe.
The real customisation options open up as you start to play and become the prime driving force for the game’s addictability. You’ll be unlocking new weapons, outfits, face paint and abilities as you complete more and more quests so your character you started with at the beginning will be ever changing and will continuously grow into your own specially crafted shinobi.
The opening tutorial ‘VR mission’ stages seem to go on for too long and are quite hand holdy but it is crucial players know how to traverse the environments and hold their own in combat in the bigger scheme of the game. They are the two biggest gameplay mechanics that feature in all of Shinobi Strikers’ game modes. Knowing how to attack, dodge and perform your characters special jutsu moves will only get you so far. What will really separate players in this game will be how well they can manoeuvre around the stages, seamlessly transitioning from running on walls to zipping across large gaps implementing the shuriken teleport and straight into combat with an enemy. There is a lot to master in Shinobi Striker but you have the drive to become better each match because of the potential loot rewards.
When not participating in the game’s missions or game modes you’ll be travelling around the town hub world. Here you will meet various key characters from the Naruto series that will either give you PVE missions to complete or act as the merchants you’ll speak with to accomplish certain tasks. Tenten will sell you weapons and appraise your collected scrolls, Sakura will allow you to change your appearance and load-out and Kakashi will be the launching point for your missions.
There is also a DBZ Xenoverse style mentor system at play in the game that will grant certain abilities depending on who you decide to train under. For example selecting Sasuke as your mentor grants you the chidori ability and allows you to unlock and use Sasuke’s various costumes on your character. Best of all, you’re able to swap your current mentor at any time so you aren’t locked into your choice and can test out different ability load outs and perks from other mentors whenever you like.
As mentioned earlier in the review there is no narrative driven story mode in Shinobi Striker like there was in the Ultimate Ninja Storm series of games. Instead Shinobi Striker’s focus is on cooperative and multiplayer game modes that consist of PVE missions or PVP competetive games. The game can be enjoyed solo if you really want to but you’ll find many of the PVE missions become extremely difficult to tackle alone and almost force you to team up and take on the bigger foes with friends or in online co-op.
The solo and co-op PVE missions will have you doing tasks like eliminating all enemies in the stage, escort missions, defending characters or key points and oversized creature boss battles. These are fun and all but the real addicting fun comes in the form of Shinobi Strikers 4v4 PVP multiplayer modes.
In this mode you’re able to team up in a team of 4 and compete against an enemy team in base battles, flag battles, barrier battles, and a deathmatch mode. In these modes team work is key and those that are victorious are rewarded with scrolls which are used to unlock new pieces of gear for your character.
The best formed teams make good use of the game’s 4 character classes. These classes define your play type and role in the team during your matches. Upon entering the match and choosing your load-out you can select the class you want to play as from attack, defense, healer and the ranged class. Each has their own pro’s and con’s and can help the others in your team in different ways. Upon dying in a match you’re given the option to swap classes which can be useful to gain a mid match advantage and fight back against the enemy team’s current strategy.
And there’s so much available to unlock. There’s hundreds if not thousands of items you can swap in and out to build up your character to better take on certain quests or game types and you’ll unlock them quite frequently with just about every mission or game type rewarding you with scrolls.
Scrolls act like loot boxes in this game, not the kind that cost real world money and have gotten a bad rap in recent years, they’re more like the engrams you collect in Destiny. And similarly to Destiny, after collecting these scrolls you take them to Tenten in the hub world to have them appraised and turned into items. As with booster packs for card collectors you can get duplicate items or on occasion come away without an item at all and just receive ryo (the game’s currency). It can be a really long grind to finally unlock or be lucky enough to find the one item you’re pushing for next. But that seems to have become the business model for many games these days and Shinobi Striker does a good job teasing you with the potential gear you can unlock soon keeping you trapped in an addictive loop.
The main technical problem I found in Shinobi Striker is the game’s camera. The camera can be really iffy at times and with the on screen gameplay already being quite chaotic the last thing you want is to be fighting the camera as well as your opponent. Numerous times I suffered deaths in game because the camera had positioned itself in an awkward spot or failed to lock onto the correct enemy. Hopefully these issues are addressed and fixed up down the line in a patch as it can cause some extremely frustrating moments during close matches.
If you’re a gamer who prefers to play their games solo this may not be the Naruto game for you, honestly you will likely find it more enjoyable to play one of the great Ultimate Ninja Storm games. Shinobi Striker has a heavy emphasis on multiplayer with it’s lack of story mode and the multiplayer game modes making up the main focus of the game’s replayability and loot grinding addictiveness. That said, fans of the Naruto series will have an enjoyable time with this game and will likely get stuck in the addicting loot grind just like I did.
A PS4 review code was provided by Bandai Namco Australia for my Naruto to Boruto Shinobi Striker review.
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