Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers (Xbox One Review)

Naruto is one of the most prolific anime ever to grace modern media to date. Even with its popularity dwindling in previous years, there is still an unprecedented demand for adaptations. CyberConnect2 previously bought Naruto to life on modern consoles with the Ultimate Ninja Storm series, but they’ve now passed the torch to Soleil to bridge the gap between generations with Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers.

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers starts after the Great Ninja War. The world is finally at peace and ninjas are no longer relied upon for security. As such, there’s no story to be told and Naruto to Boruto’s focus shifts to multiplayer. This means that those lacking familiarity with the series as a whole can jump right in and embrace the game’s aesthetic, combat, and online leagues. Conversely, those returning to the series hoping for a more narrative focussed Naruto game will be left a tad disappointed. However, there is some solace in the VR missions that recreate some of Naruto’s most famous battles.

The VR missions start as tutorials to the systems of Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers, helping you find your feet and learn the fundamentals, and then grow in to larger scale battles that test how much you’ve learned and push you to your limits. You’ll be fighting huge tailed beasts, the deadly assassins of the Akatsuki, and the Susano wielding Itachi. All of which are trademarks of the series. While fantastic in their own right, these battles do lack the cinematic edge that the Ultimate Ninja Storm series was renowned for. Each battle does boast its own sense of flair and scale, that should satisfy anime and Naruto fans alike. And all of this strengthened through that ability to share the experience with your friends as you earn new gear to create your own customised cosplay style characters.

Creating your own unique ninja is all the rage. Thanks to Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers’ character creator you can be the strong silent type from a mysterious village or imitate your favourite character from the series. It’s completely down to you. All of this gear doesn’t come for free, mind you. You’ll need to earn gold and scrolls to unlock additional weapons and gear for your ninja. Gold can be used to buy basic gear and some low rank weapons, but the best gear will be dropped from scrolls. Scrolls are Naruto to Boruto: Shino Strikers’ loot box equivalent, without the ability to spend real money. Scrolls have a good few varieties and the rare scrolls have a higher chance of dishing out rarer gear. No matter the rarity of your scroll, you’ll be able pull gear with special abilities ranging from Jutsu cooldown reduction to increased damage, and a whole load of other special benefits. Thankfully the perks are of an equal calibre and available across the whole ranking spectrum. This leniency of perks lets you mix and match different pieces to create the ultimate ninja to fight in the Ninja World League without worrying too much about your horrible fashion sense.

As much as the character creator and VR missions might keep you occupied, the vast majority of your time will be spent in the Ninja World League. By teaming up with some friends or hoping to be matched with like-minded ninja, you’ll advance through the ranks via deathmatches, capture the flag events, and point defence styled fights. Unfortunately all of these options are not available at once. Instead the game modes are on weekly rotation, preventing you from truly experiencing everything Naruto to Boruto: Shino Strikers has to offer in one single week. Regardless of the game type, you’ll be able to invest heavily and experience the true highlight of the game, the clashing of Jutsu (special abilities) from the various classes and the chaos that erupts from the heat of the battle.

No matter which type of battle it is, they are all typically 3-5 minutes of pure anarchy. Rasenshurikens screech through the air, giant snakes slither across the battlefield, and Raikiris thunder down on unsuspecting victims. There’s a playstyle for everyone that’s enabled by the large scale arenas bursting with buildings, trees, and rubble to scale and plot ambushes therein. It can all be a little overwhelming in fight or flight situations when your thrown into the mix when a group ferocious fighters have you in their sights. And that’s largely due to the additional players compared to previous titles. Long gone are the days of one on one fights, instead effective teams will single out individuals and whittle down the opposition. Although this can all come crashing to a halt given some questionable online latency.

With any online game it’s important to implement good matchmaking and stable netcode. Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers has neither. Lag is in abundance when it comes to this entry. It affects everything from basic attacks connecting to your movement options. And with a game predominantly populated by pitfalls, rubberbanding is at its all-time worst as you’ll regularly be snapped back to almost unavoidable death through no fault of your own. For ever stable and reliable match you play, there’s an equally atrocious match. Striking a near perfect balance of good and awful, which can’t be said for the Jutsu available through unlocking.

While the road to unlocking new gear is random, the path to new Jutsu is a long and testing one. As you earn experience from playing as a role and progress through the Ninja World League, you will earn extra Jutsu. This would be fine if it wasn’t for the haphazard approach Shinobi Strikers takes when creating teams. With no care for rank or ability, teams are cobbled together and can result in an unforgiving environment. There are times that one team will be packed with players dressed in the best gear with unbelievably strong abilities clashes with a team consisted entirely of Newbies. The odds are insurmountable and, as a result, you’ll struggle to obtain all the powerful abilities used against. Even Soliel’s commendable class based system can’t mitigate the matchmaking problems.

Even when you do find a stable game, it won’t be an easy win. Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers is all about teamwork and finding the right combination of classes and strategies. Attackers have one purpose, hit whatever crosses their path. Ranged fighters should aim to back up the attackers from a distance and stay out of sight while whittling down enemy health. Then there’s the Defenders, they act a positional defence that can deploy shield, secure objectives, and buff the team. Finally you have the Healers, the backbone of every good team. Healers often risk life and limb trying to avoid damage while ensuring they top up the team’s health as well as offering some stun abilities for when enemies get too close. I’ve never seen a class system implemented so well before, especially the healer. Every role has its place and gives players a sense of worth on the battlefield no matter their preference.

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers isn’t your typical Naruto game. The linchpin of the gameplay is no longer a big narrative adventure, it’s all about multiplayer. Combat has largely evolved to account for larger scales battles and teamwork plays a vital role in getting the most out of your experience, so long as there are no further latency issues. It’s simultaneously a step forward and step back for the series. There’s plenty of fun to be had with a new generation of ninja, but the pendulum of quality swings so hard and fast that you could be easily put off.

Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers

7.5

Overall

7.5/10

Pros

  • Character customisation is great.
  • Gameplay is frantic and engaging.
  • Classes offer versatility in playstyle.
  • Large enviroments help accomodate those different playstyles.

Cons

  • Poor connection stability in online matches.
  • Not all game modes are available to play at once.
  • Skill based matchmaking is near non-existent.

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