In mid-December, Bandai Namco Entertainment and developer Soleil Ltd gave many people around the world the chance to experience Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker through a closed beta test. We were one of the lucky to participate in this test and were quite interested in seeing how the first in this new generation of Naruto games fared. With the thunderous finish to developer CyberConnect2’s Ultimate Ninja Storm series in the form of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4: Road to Boruto, Soleil Ltd has some huge shoes to fill. After all, it is thanks to the Storm series we became interested in video games and cover them here on Saiyan Island today! Of course, because we’ve only had the chance to play a closed beta test of Shinobi Striker and not the final retail version of the game, it’s hard to give a final verdict on which Naruto game is better. We can only predict what the final version of the game may be like based on our experience with the closed beta. Our review is of the closed beta so we will share our likes and dislikes with on it along with some closing comments on our feelings torward Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker.
WHAT WE LIKED
- Create and customize a character
Creating their own ninja in a Naruto game has been something fans have been wishing for years and it is finally being delivered in this game! In the closed beta, Shinobi Striker gave players the ability to create a male or female ninja from one of the five major ninja villages from the get go. This includes selecting a hair style and skin/eye/hair color. After the initial character creation and venturing into the Naruto world, players could also select from a few sets of jutsu and 10 different costumes and assign them to specific slots that can be swapped during battles.
The options in the closed beta were limited, but for a test, it was a nice preview of what is to come in the final retail version of the game – a variety of voices, body types, mouth types, eye types, pupil types, eyebrows types, nose types, and face paint styles. There will be over half a million combinations that can be made between the weapons, costumes, accessories, and jutsu. And that number balloons to well over five million possible combinations in terms of the facial features likes like hair, mouth, eyes, and face paint.
- Playable Characters from Naruto
This is expected of every Naruto game, however, for a closed beta it was nice to try out four of the different playable characters in battle with their own unique skills sets in addition to the created character. We would have been happy just with the created character for this test, so it was worth highlighting.
While the Naruto Storm series had phenomenal graphics, the best any anime game has ever had in our opinion, Shinobi Striker has visuals we can appreciate as well. They are a vibrant colored-manga style. Think the original Ultimate Ninja series from the PS2 days, but upgraded to PS4 and Xbox One level.
- Lobby Actions and Chat Features
The PlayStation Network has its own function to chat and send messages to players, but sometimes it’s a real pain to hit the PS button and wait for the menus to load in order to say or ask something like simple like “want to play”. Developer Soleil Ltd had made 10 pre-formulated in-game chat phrases that allowed for quick communication. 10 may not be enough for the final retail version of the game, we hope more will be added for that. We’d like to see phrases along the lines of “I’m done playing for the day” or “Hurry up and pick your character so we can start”. Basically things you want to communicate to other players in the lobby. Also, the lobby actions – which are poses like lying down or waving – add extra pizzazz by complementing chat with visual expressions. Many players in the closed beta just used the lobby actions for fun though. There were around 50 lobby actions in the closed beta, you can see them at 4:58 mark in the video above.
- Movement, including Wall Running and Wire Kunai
Naruto Storm 1 included wall running and fighting. It honestly wasn’t that great, felt very ridged, but for all of its sequels it was removed until Storm 4 where it was limited to just certain boss battles. Since 2010 with Storm 2, fans have been begging to be able to roam the walls of the ninja world in battles and Shinobi Striker implements it flawlessly! Running around on the wall is as seamless as running on the ground. And jumping from the ground to the wall and back is just as seamless as just running on it. The transition is perfectly done. It is literally like the Naruto anime, once a character jumps toward the wall, they are on the wall, and we can see the chakra on their feet indicating they are on a wall. Something quite easy to do for most ninja in Naruto and it is just as easy in the game. Allowing players to move on the wall in addition to the ground expands the battle arena and use it to their advantage and as a part of their strategy, just like it is done in the anime/manga. Quite simply, it’s a satisfying experience! All basic movement actually feels quite satisfying in Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker!
There is a tool in Naruto to Boruto Shinobi called a wire kunai where players can throw a kunai that is attached to a wire and basically swing around like they’re Spider-Man. We’ve seen this in the Naruto anime, it’s rare, but we have seen it. In Shinobi Striker, it is a key move to use when fighting in the air or jumping from a wall on one side of the stage to another. We have to say using the wire kunai was very fun to use in the game. It’s like you’re Spider-Man, but in the Naruto world! In addition to wall running and wire kunai is a skill called chakra jumping. This is another feature in the game that makes it a joy to play. With a press and hold of a button, chakra gathers in the feet of a character and then allows the character to leap large distances. Using this in tandem with a wire kunai and then wall running is quite the thrill! Despite being so fun, these are all just basic operations in Shinobi Striker and one of the first few things taught in the game’s tutorial.
- Large Map and Numerical Indicators to Inform Distance
The closed beta had only one map, but it was quite large which made it nice. We feel it would have been somewhat difficult to navigate if it weren’t for the numerical indicators – which seem like they are in meters – that inform us about distance. It could feel like those scenario’s where a character is dreaming and the place they want to get to is right there in sight, but no matter how much they try, they can’t physically reach it! Thankfully that isn’t the case with Shinobi Striker. If we are getting closer to an enemy or enemy’s base, and it is in our view, we can see we’re getting closer via an indicator. And if we move away from an object or opponent, we’ll see the indicator showing us how many meters we’re getting further away from it. It is very simple item, but we liked it and wanted to highlight it.
- Ability to Hold and Use Jutsu While Moving
When performing select jutsu like Fire Style: Fireball Jutsu, players can press the buttons to activate it (for example press the L1 button) and then hold the button so the character will do hand-signs for that jutsu. Upon release of the button, the character will then fire the jutsu. In other words, you can activate a jutsu while running around and shoot it when you feel is the best time to do so! You can see an example of this between 2:03 and 2:11 as well as 8:10 and 8:22 in the video with Sasuke below.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
- Substitution Jutsu
Naruto Storm 4 Road to Boruto did substitution jutsu perfectly. The rate at which the meter filled was perfect and the amount we could do in one meter was perfect. We could substitute enough times where it was helpful, but not enough to abuse it. In Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, substitute once and then wait some annoying length of time to use it again. We’re not sure how long off the top of our heads it was before a substitution jutsu could be used again, but it felt like it was an unhelpful skill to use. Especially since when we did a substitution, there were times where the opponent we substituted from could still attack us or if we managed to substitute away from the first opponent, then another opponent on the field could still attack us.
- Delay in Launching Jutsu
While we really like the ability to hold a jutsu, in most cases while we played the closed beta, we wanted to fire it as soon as possible! It feels like there is an annoying delay between pressing the button to do a jutsu and actually firing it. There are so many times when we wanted to do a jutsu, but got hit before even being able to use it. If an opponent is running toward us, ready to do damage to us, we want to counter immediately.
- Battle System, Including Locking On and the Camera
Part of the reason we dislike the delay in jutsu is the lock-on aspect. It feels flimsy! When you lock on an opponent, you want that opponent front and center, always! The camera felt like it would pan to other places we didn’t want to see. Also when somebody started attacking us, we have to try and search where they’re attacking from and when we try to lock-on, it doesn’t always lock-on to the opponent that is attacking us. Even if there is only 1 opponent around, it just didn’t feel like the game worked right. We don’t know how to describe how to make the camera and locking-on system better, we’re not even sure if we described what we disliked about it properly.
If we are to give an example, it’s basically whatever made the camera and lock-on system in the Dragon Ball Xenoverse series superior when comparing it to Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z. In other words, we don’t want to feel like we’re playing a Naruto version of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, which is what Shinobi Striker felt like while we fought with opponents in the closed beta, we want something more like a Naruto version of Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’s battles – if that makes sense.
- If something isn’t in view, it feels like a surprise
In the Naruto world, most of the time ninja can sense when an opponent is near or nearing them. In Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, no such function like that exists. We can’t sense when an opponent is coming towards us. We only know they are coming toward us if they are in our view. Many times during the closed beta, we got the opponent’s flag and felt like we were home free to bring it back to our base with nobody in sight. But surprise, all of a sudden an opponent throws a kunai or starts attacking us from what felt like nowhere. If some attacks were specifically designed to be surprise attacks were a surprise, we’d be ok with that, but every attack we can’t see is currently a surprise. There isn’t even a map to see where everyone is relative to us, which we feel would be very helpful in a huge map.
- The wait to start a match
In the closed beta there was only one type of match, a quick match to capture the flag, but there was nothing quick about it. The time it sometimes took to start a match was horrendous! 8 human players need to join in order for a battle to begin. Sometimes, after waiting for 10 minutes or so, we still were unable to get into a match because 8 human players were not joining our quick match “room” despite there being what seemed like many players in the Hidden Leaf Village hub world ready to battle.
Everything we’ve mentioned in our review of the Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker closed beta were the obvious things we noticed and remembered a few weeks after playing it. We hope everything we liked stays in and is built upon further. As for what we disliked, we hope developer Soleil Ltd will take notice and update before releasing the final version of the game.
We began writing this review with the intention not to compare it to the Naruto Storm series (particularly Storm 4: Road to Boruto), but when there is a gold standard for a franchise, it’s hard not to.
Most of what we liked are new features in Shinobi Striker not found in the Storm series – for example character creation or wire kunai. We also liked that a few characters from the Naruto universe were included in the closed beta, but we’re confident we’ll be disappointed with the final roster. We’re anticipating around 22 playable characters in Shinobi Striker vs the over 100 in Storm 4: Road to Boruto.
Additionally, what we disliked heavily outweighed what we liked because what we disliked was the battle system, which is the reason people will come back (or not come back in this case) to play a game. We didn’t have fun battling what so ever. Creating a character was fun. Then moving around with that character aimlessly or to capture a flag was fun. But those have no meaning if the battles aren’t fun!
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker was announced to have an early 2018 release. A specific release date has not yet been announced yet, our fingers are crossed the game is still being improved upon and a far better experience than the closed beta. Thinking of Storm 4, that game was announced to have February 2016 release date in July/August of 2015 (six-seven months before it came out). Bandai Namco’s Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced to have a January 26, 2018 release date back on October 23, 2017. A concrete release date has still not been announced for Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, possibly indicating it might launch sometime later in 2018 rather than the initially announced early 2018.
We don’t want Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker to be trash. We want it to be good and we root for it’s success. If the developers need more time to make a better game, we’ll definitely accept that. In the words of Nintendo’s great Shigeru Miyamoto – “a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”
4 out of 10
Note: Whether you agree or disagree with our review, if you participated in the Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker closed beta, you can give your feedback directly to Bandai Namco at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2S5VPGT.
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Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is a multiplayer game set in the Naruto universe. Players will be able to fight with their favorite characters and discover a new gameplay style set in thrilling 3D environments with a graphic style completely different from the Naruto Storm series. Up to eight human players can engage to become the greatest ninja.
In order attain victory, a team of players must combine the right combination of skills as they will be able to select characters with RPG-like attributes – Attack Type, Ranged Type, Defense Type, and Heal Type. Players can change tactics and strategy by changing the combination of styles on their team. Each character must carry out their role in order to guide their team to victory.
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is in development by developer Soleil Ltd. and will be published by Bandai Namco Entertainment to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC/Steam. A specific release date has not yet been announced, but the game will be published sometime early in 2018.