Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is a real disappointment.
While I wouldn’t say that I’m a massive fan of the Naruto franchise, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ninja STORM games. They had action, adventure, and some utterly brilliant, but overly-dramatic, cutscenes. With the story they cover coming to an end, however, it was time for something new. And while in theory Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker could have been a winner, it ends up leaving you nothing but frustrated and let-down.
Create a ninja
Online focused, Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker offers you the chance to create your own Naruto character and fight alongside the legends. Starting out, your character customisation options will be very limited, but as you complete missions and take part in online events, you’ll acquire scrolls can be appraised and turned into items. Of course, you can also buy items too, providing you have the money to do so. Overall, I believe there’s a whopping 4,000 customisation items to acquire, offering plenty of longevity for those determined to unlock them all.
Customising your very own ninja doesn’t end with how they look, either. There are four character classes in the game, each fulfilling a role, and they all have a range of Ninjutsu and Secret Techniques available to them. To unlock new abilities, you’ll need to select a VR Master and train under them; basically, you need to complete missions and events. In all honesty, it’s a bit of a grind. It can be frustrating at times, too, as while you can see what type of abilities any given VR Master can teach you, you can never be 100% sure what class can use them.
Everything you do in Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker stems from the game’s hub. There’ll be other players running around in real-time, and you can choose to interact them or just get on with your own business. In the hub you can visit a range of popular Naruto characters to perform actions such as taking on VR Missions, changing your VR Master, entering online events, buying new items, or changing your equipment and/or appearance. It’s a nice environment that feels open, but you’re never more than a 10 seconds or so away from any option. Even then though, having to visit someone to change your equipment does feel like a chore.
When you first start the game, VR Missions will be your friend. You can tackle them alone or with up to three allies, and they do a decent job of familiarising you with the game’s mechanics, as well as letting you try out each of the four classes available. It’s just a shame that they’re not particularly interesting or exciting. They basically boil down to collecting scrolls, engaging in skirmishes and defending things, but enemies within them are often overused. Even as you unlock new, more advanced missions by talking to characters that pop up in the hub, you’ll resign yourself to the fact that they’re simply filler.
Online battles are meant to be the biggest draw to Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker. Team-based, you and up to three others can battle it out with another team of four in either either quick play or the World Ninja League; the latter offering rewards for your performance. Four match types are on offer, but you can’t freely select which one you’d like to take part in; they change on rotation. Though whether you’re taking part in a straight-up battle or a more strategic base capture match, the result is likely to be the same. You’re going to get frustrated.
The action in Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is flashy and fast-paced, but the camera simply can’t keep up with it. It also often likes to get stuck on walls. Danger can come from any direction, and it frequently does, but you won’t know until it’s too late as there are no indicators. It wouldn’t be so bad if the game had a decent lock-on system, but that too is also pretty terrible. At the moment, the lock-on cursor doesn’t even fix onto the centre of your opponent. Instead, it hovers to the right of their feet. The combination of the camera and lock-on system just makes everything feel messy. Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is chaotic, and not in a pleasant way.
To make matters worse, the online community is already so thin that as a newcomer you’re likely to get matched up with level 99 opponents on a regular basis. They’ll fly around the screen with heaps of experience, a bevvy of skills and good items, thwarting every move you make. As a result, any progress you make will be slow and frustrating. You’ll wonder if it’s worth all the hassle. It’s probably not, especially when the game has a tendency to crash just after you’ve finished an online match.
It’s a shame that Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is almost painful to play, as it looks absolutely gorgeous. You could take a screenshot at any second and it’d look like a work of art; a beautiful painting to hang on your wall. I also love its fluid movement system which allows you to run on walls, and your ability to fire out a wire kunai in midair to prevent you from falling to your death. Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker has some good ideas, but it just squanders them.
Whether you’re a devout Naruto fan or not, I think Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is a game you should give a miss. With some major updates and a perhaps a price cut to draw more players in, it could become a decent way to spend your time. But until then, it’s likely to just annoy you. The idea of developing your own ninja is a great one, but here it relies on you engaging in action that feels borderline broken at times, sucking all the fun out of the process.