Recently I was invited to a Bandai Namco press event where I got to try out a bunch of games they’re releasing in the coming months. One of them is: Naruto To Boruto: Shinobi Strikers. Where do I even begin with this? Being a franchise I’ve spent a decade with, it’s hard for me to say I love this after experiencing the Ultimate Ninja Storm series with its incredible story telling and single-player content. When this title is meant to be a primarily multiplayer experience, it doesn’t fill me with much excitement.
The core combat at the event was rather jarring at first, while the camera was more of an enemy than an assistant at times. Part of this is due to the movement system, which felt sluggish initially, it’s very possible to out-maneuver someone to the point it’s possible to take on multiple people at the same time. Chakra dashing/jumping and chaining all of the possible movements meant it was possible to jump across the ravine in one fell swoop and still catch up with someone in the capture the gamemode on hande the flag gamemode that was on show during the event. Before I go into the combat, the 4vs4 aspect of the game is ridiculously difficult to get your bearings. Part of the problem stems from the camera controls, but what makes it worse is the inability to perform a comeback. The need for teamwork and coordination is somewhat high with the possibility of being ganged up being the main deciding factor on whether or not you win a combat encounter.
Now to the combat. It’s difficult to make any judgement here due to the potential high skill ceiling. Quick thinking and fast reactions are necessary to maneuver around enemies while keeping up with the tight timings of attacks, similar to a traditional 2D fighting game. The dodge can turn into a dash that will make you orbit a target if you’ve focused on them. This can lead to dodging quite a few basic strong and weak attacks. But once someone hits their Ninjutsu attacks it’s almost game over depending on what you have on offer. Whilst there are clear strengths in each class, the core limiting factor in winning a fight is the ability to maintain space. Having had several goes on the game I was able to pick some of the inner intricacies of certain characters and their builds. Naruto for instance suffers quite a bit on range, whilst Sasuke would in theory be his counter due to him being a ranged character. His lack of versatility left certain parts of maintaining an offensive more difficult. Kakashi in that regard is potentially the least offensive attack type Shinobi/Ninja. His Sharingan is a glorified second substitution that has a slightly higher cooldown and his Raikiri/Lightning Cutter didn’t deal a noticeable difference in damage compared to Sasuke’s Chidori. Sakura is surprisingly a capable fighter who could, in theory, beat every single character because of the rate she can recover her health during the event. Healing about half her health, she was able to access the main combo set that can devastate an opponent.
If you’ve played a Storm game you might know what I’m talking about, but with the Kunai/Ninja tool you’re effectively able to reset the invulnerability timer to maintain a high combo. Which was possible in Storm 3 where characters who could switch attacks mid by entering Burst Mode led to near infinite attack combo. Dodging can rectify this, however much like Chakra Dashing could force the player to Substitute. A Kunai can halt any comeback potential. The custom Shinobi on hand had various quirks, notably the Defense type Shinobi 3 who’s Ninjutsu on hand catered strongly to defending and holding the flag’s position. But compared to Shinobi 1 and 2, Attack and Range respectively, it felt underwhelming with its lack of offensive capabilities. Healer Shinobi had the advantage in that regard, their ability to sustain in combat made them strong assets if you have the movement down, recreating the anime’s fight scene in its first 27 volumes. As well as taking the Ninjutsu attacks, that can be swallowed whole thanks to the healing. I would argue that the current build wasn’t heavily balanced, but these could be small intricacies that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things thanks to the 4vs4 format and other game modes available.
Overall, it’s hard for me to say if this is a Naruto game I would want. The lack of information regarding singleplayer content feels off, but when I look at its multiplayer aspect I fear it’s going to be the way of the dodo like Revolution with its emphasis on multiplayer. Factor in that the game is effectively competing with Arc System Works games, I’d be deluding myself to say it’s got some tough competition.