People often consider Japanese video games and anime as a single category. Despite being an inaccurate representation of the two different forms of media, this notion is exemplified through titles like Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. The game straight-up looks and sounds like an anime, with its vibrant artstyle, exuberant characters, catchy music and theme song, a dramatic story, enthusiastic sound effects and lively voice acting. While not everyone will be excited about this comparison, the game’s anime persona is definitely not a bad thing.
The story follows an energetic young character named Musashi, who can be a girl or boy based on your choice at the beginning of your journey. Other than the visual and vocal differences between the two models, Musashi is a essentially a duplicate of the other, but this option gives you more control in terms of who you want to play as. At the start of the game, players are introduced to Musashi, whose parents were taken away as a result of a full-blown war known as the Sushi Struggles. Under its regime, the Empire has managed to get a hold of the world’s sushi supply and outlaw the consumption of sushi by commoners.
As such, Musashi never got to try sushi and abhorred it due to associating it with the loss of beloved family members. That is… until he tasted it for the very first time. Musashi meets a character named Franklin, who convinces Musashi to eat sushi and become a hero with a goal of dismantling the Empire’s repressive monopoly. Mesmerized by the delectable flavor of the iconic Japanese dish, Musashi quickly accepts Franklin’s offer and sets out on an adventure brimming with sushi. No matter how silly it may seem, the story does a good job addressing a serious theme with a lighthearted and entertaining approach. You’re constantly motivated to continue playing by wanting to find out what happens next. However, the same can’t be said about the core gameplay.
Sushi Striker is essentially a matching puzzle game with action and role-playing elements. Gameplay takes place between cutscenes in the form of battles that consist of devouring conveyor-belt sushi, matching sushi and different-colored plates. Defeating an enemy or boss is achieved by flinging your collected plates at them to reduce their health points to zero. Throughout the game, you’ll meet and collect cute creatures known as Shrine Sprites, each of which has a unique ability to give you or your opponent an advantage during battle; some temporarily boost your attack, increase your defense, give you health, provide a barrier, etc.
While Shrine Sprites manage to mix things up a bit, battles are extremely similar for the most part. You find yourself facing off against pretty much the same rivals, who happen to have slightly different names but appear and sound identical to their comrades. This commonly occurs multiple times in a row until you eventually reach a boss. Because of this, you might feel like you’re replaying certain stages over and over again.
Matching sushi types and plates is accomplished via the left joystick or touchscreen in handheld mode. After extensively dabbling with both of them, these control methods have proven to be unimaginative. I received the highest rank possible on every single stage so far by simply rotating the joystick in a repetitive fashion to collect plates to toss at foes. Touchscreen controls were even more counterintuitive as you could casually move your finger randomly all over the place and easily come out on top. Furthermore, the fingers you’re using begin to feel uncomfortable after repeatedly executing the same gestures to fly through a number of stages.
Despite its engaging story and charming characters, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido undergoes a significant setback when you take its gameplay and controls into consideration. It has a good amount of flair to appeal to different kinds of players, especially those who are also anime fans. But in the end, it comes down to being just another matching puzzle game with tiresome controls at its core. As a side note, one major impression that could be taken from the game is how delicious sushi can be. Therefore, like Musashi, I am also thinking about trying sushi for the first time.
A review copy of Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido on Nintendo Switch was provided by Nintendo UK.