Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido (Nintendo Switch) Review

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I remember the first time I saw Sushi Striker. Announced at Nintendo’s 2017 E3 event, I found myself quite frankly confused. Who came up with such a mad concept as fighting with sushi, and why did Nintendo think it was a good idea to support them? I want to preface the review by saying you shouldn’t let your first impression cloud your judgement, this game is so much more.

Silly Sushi

Sushi Striker is an odd game from the start. After selecting which character you want, you’re introduced to a fishless world where sushi is a natural resource. With no resolute way of dividing the sushi across the continent, the Empire went to war with the Republic; a long and destructive struggle documented as the bitter Sushi Struggles. The Republic were eventually pushed back, the war lost and the mention of sushi outlawed; the eating of it a severe crime. Its divine taste still craved by many, the Sushi Liberation Front fight on. With the goal of toppling the Empire and sharing sushi across the world, our story begins here.

If you managed to understand that, you should have an idea of the sheer childish joy this game has to offer. If you’re willing to sit back and embrace strange as normal in this most alternate of worlds, you are in for a fantastic ride. Each minor interaction with overly zealous enemies as they announce their plans to you, each deflated muscle, each plate thrown, it threw me back to a time of simple excitement and fun. This bursts through in the artwork and in the cutscenes that feel almost out of place with how nice they are. The entire storytelling experience felt well polished and enjoyable throughout, despite following standard and easy to understand tropes and cliches. It’s something anybody from a child to a grandparent could enjoy effortlessly, capturing the feeling of accessibility and togetherness Nintendo often strives for.

Serious Sushi

Looking to the gameplay itself, it’s perhaps not quite what you’d expect from a retail game. Putting a large focus on the touch screen and brief, frantic battles, the experience is something you might expect to find on a phone. While I can definitely see this putting some people off, I personally find myself happy to see more games utilising the Switch’s featureset to its fullest. The battles are easy to pick up and explained well as you play, but at its core, it’s a colour matching game with moving lanes and an opponent to compete against. As you go through the game, you collect Sushi Sprites, each with their own skill and sushi types to bring to battle. It’s up to you to create the best team and sushi set to suit your play style.

The amount of versatility the game offers rather surprised me; an offensive player can chain skills to deal destructive damage in one hit, while defensive players can create shields and prioritise taking as little damage as possible. This pairs well with the game’s bonus objectives, each level having three. These vary from level to level, from beating it under a certain amount of time, to having certain amount of HP at the end of the battle, to using limiting the amount of plates you can have in a single attack. Each one forces you to alter your play style and team of sprites and learn far more ways to play the game than you otherwise might by staying in your comfort zone. Even with the bonus objectives, I still originally felt the game a little too easy, and as if it was fate, the game offered me a lifeline in the form of the Training Black Belt. This item lets you change the experience to be high risk, high reward. Tempting you with a 1.5x score multiplier at the cost of half your health, it creates much more of a challenge for those who want it whilst not forcing it onto you. It allowed me to struggle on a boss fight and actually cry out in triumph as I toppled his rippling muscular body. In all honesty, I still haven’t figured out the benefit of having a high score and rank on each stage, but there was a certain satisfaction from seeing an S encircled by a rainbow that kept me going. The lack of health to fall back onto actively forced me to move quicker, I felt my reactions improve along with my sense for good chains. It’s a great option to offer and I’m glad the game had a sense of difficulty about it, albeit an optional one.

To keep things fresh, the game changes the way you play from battle to battle. While some are standard, giving variance in trying to meet its bonus objectives, others put forward a completely different experience through means both clear and subtle. On the clearer end of the spectrum are special Sushi Sprites, the most memorable of these acting as a complete shield for any attack with less than eight plates. You have no choice but to create strong combos and brute force your way through the obstacle. The more subtle changes come from elements such as capsules. From time to time, a battle may have capsules appearing on the lane you and your opponent share, giving you both the opportunity to steal a quick bonus. These can often change the tide of battle, and are locked behind a number of plates. The beauty of these is that they don’t necessarily force you to change how you play like the Sushi Sprite previously mentioned, but you put yourself at a disadvantage by not. The way these levels are distributed comes across as a way of saying “hey, you should use the shared lane a bit more, it’s really useful!” and I can’t fault it for that. After you get past the tutorials, the game has a great habit of guiding how you play without overtly telling you. The times it is clear in its intent, it feels like a test of skill, something you almost feel you’ve earned.

Sushi Switch

While the Switch version is what I had the pleasure of playing, the game is also available for the 3DS. It’d be easy to say the 3DS version is worse—with the system being far inferior in performance, it surely must be the case? It ultimately depends on what you’re after from Sushi Striker. The Switch version excels and outperforms in its presentation. The larger screen allows for lush visuals that feel alive, the vibrant and fluidly animated cutscenes a spectacle to be anticipated and enjoyed. The 3DS version still has these same cutscenes and design choices, but is of course limited to its smaller screen and lesser resolution. It remains fine, but pales in comparison to the Switch. What may appear to be another clear advantage is the ability to play on both the TV and on the go, the foremost marketing point of the system. While you definitely can play the game in docked mode, it isn’t something I found myself particularly fond of. The game retains its fantastic presentation on the larger screen, but removing the touch controls really took away from the overall experience for me. The physical controls still felt responsive and fast, but lacked the precision of the touch screen. It’s something I would recommend trying for yourself, you may get on with it better than I did.

Where the 3DS version excels is in its gameplay. It is identical to the Switch version, but it’s in the touch screen where the vital difference lies. Its resistive screen requiring a stylus allows you the same precision of the Switch, whilst not forcing you to obscure your view as your fingers cover the screen. With a larger pen stylus, you can slam down the sushi with great speed and the best view of the battlefield. The 3DS version also finds itself slightly cheaper than its Switch counterpart, potentially making itself more appealing given the content itself is identical. If you’re still on the fence about striking sushi into the hearts of your enemies, there’s a free demo available on the Switch eShop I encourage you to check out. I had a great time with this game, and quite honestly feel it a shame to see the mobile-esque gameplay driving people away. Even if you feel it too expensive now, I encourage you to add it to your wishlist and buy it when it gets to a price you can justify; you’ll be in for a treat beyond the delicious dish’s divine taste.

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