I can't remember the exact first time I tried sushi, but maybe that's just because I wasn't really alive until I tried it. While some might be turned off just by the thought of eating raw chunks of fish on rice, the delicious Japanese delicacy is still one of my favorite foods to ever exist. I feel like the team behind Nintendo's latest Switch and 3 DS release, "Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido," is just as passionate about their nigiri and hand rolls, if not more so.
Gotta munch 'em all
"Sushi Striker" takes place in a world where wars have been fought to control the flow of the delicious delicacy. The Empire is on one side wishing to control and hoard all the tastiness for them, and on the other side the Sushi Liberation Front is wishing to give sushi to the people freely. Players take on the role of a young male or female child named Musashi who has been orphaned by the war. One day while out foraging for some food for their fellow orphans Musashi runs into a man named Franklin who just happens to be on a quest to bring the love of sushi to all mankind.
While sushi in this universe is still made of the same ingredients it does come from a rather peculiar place. Instead of being made by a skilled chef, the dish is instead manifested by creatures known as Sushi Sprites. They can basically be thought of as Pokemon but instead of elemental powers or skills, they just make various plates of tasty sushi appear that can be used in battle.
As Franklin and his Sushi Sprite Jinrai give Musashi their first taste of raw tuna, the Empire's guards show up to arrest them all. While Musashi and Jinrai escape, Franklin is not as lucky, and the two escapees set out on a quest to rescue their friend. Along the way, Musashi makes new friends, collects more sushi sprites, and even joins up with Sushi Liberation Front.
The story is adorable and quirky and it's told through some very quality anime cutscenes and some zany dialog. There's a heavy amount of polish put into the visual presentation of "Sushi Strikers," so much so that I had to go online and double that this wasn't already a preexisting cartoon series. It's almost surprising how much work has gone into making it look just as good as its "Pocket Monster" cousins.
Too much tuna
"Sushi Strikers" wackiness doesn't stop at its story and presentation, the games core gameplay of combat puzzling is definitely a creature all its own. Sushi spins out on three conveyor belts that players can exclusively access, plus a fourth row that both sides can access and occasionally throws out special bonus plates that can change the tide of battle. As the sushi comes out players must eat as many pieces as they can on same colored plates so they can then stack the plates and throw them at their enemies.
Players can bring up to three sushi sprites with them into battle who can lend a hand with their special skills which can range from things like turning all the plates on the belts into the same color, provide a shield, add extra plates to a stack, or even adding elemental buffs to an attack. Sushi sprites can even evolve and become more powerful as the game progresses.
There are several other nuances that are slowly introduced into combat as the story mode progresses and the challenge intensifies. Conveyor belt gears can be switched out, players will get a special buff from their favorite type of sushi, and there are items that can be carried into combat that can add modifiers to the challenge. Each level also has three challenge stars that can unlock some hidden bonus areas if enough of them can be collected in a certain area.
Overall, the games theme and puzzle mechanics are quite enjoyable and definitely unique to say the least, however, they aren't without a few foibles. The biggest problem I had was not being able to identify colors quick enough on the Nintendo Switch's touchscreen without holding it very close to my face. I also had problems using the touch controls to swipe my way around the conveyor belts and make combos. While the control scheme for the buttons was much easier for me to use to navigate through combat, I still found it difficult to be extremely accurate with my aim when comboing. I wouldn't say it ruined the core game for me, but there is a puzzle mode that becomes available to players in the hub area that I could not get the finesse down to beat beyond the first timed challenge.
I would hardly call the problems I had with some of the controls a deal breaker though. "Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido" is a game that's akin to great the puzzle battlers of yore like "Puzzle Fighter" and "Bust-a-Move." It delivers a great experience in an impressively detailed and adorable package. "Sushi Striker" deserves a place in the hallowed halls of gaming history with its aforementioned brethren, and it has definitely left me in the mood for some California Roll and Unagi. It's fun title with some great RPG elements and a lot of nods and winks to the Pokemon series while still being its own thing. Nintendo has definitely once again struck gold with another first party title for the Switch.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital code provided by the publisher. "Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido" is available on Nintendo Switch for $49.99 and on 3DS for $39.99. For the latest information about videogames, visit http://www.shacknews.com.
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