Originally revealed as a 3DS title, this action-packed puzzler has just landed on our Switch.
It has long been a commonly held belief that puzzle games are particularly suited to portable gaming. It's probable that this perception has something to do with the very first Game Boy, what with its small screen and four terrible variants on grey/green which made it hopelessly hard to see what was happening when playing faster-paced games. Titles like Tetris and Dr. Mario, however, were incredibly entertaining and perfectly suited the format, screen, and performance on offer.
Today, this is an old and outdated truth and our smartphones, PS Vita, and Switch have all shown that it's just as great playing more technically advanced action games on the go. There still remains some relevancy to the link between portable platforms and puzzles, however, as puzzlers demand a lot of focus and can actually be harder to play on a larger screen where you constantly need to move your eyes to see everything that's happening.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is one such game that still suits on the go gaming and works well on the Switch. It's got a pick up and play-friendly concept that will let you put the game away for a couple of weeks and then enjoy it during a five-minute break when you can get back up to speed and start having fun without any hesitation about what to do next or how things work.
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The basic concept is absolutely wonderful and revolves around the evil Empire that banned all sushi from the Republic. The people are starving and no-one even talks about the dish since even doing that's illegal. Of course, this has to be stopped, and so you assume the role of Musashi, a young guy/gal who is dubbed Sushi Striker in the game's first minutes and is set the task of bringing the Empire down so people can eat their rice and raw fish in peace. The story is light-heartedly written and the presentation is absolutely stunning, and it's all done in a way that fans of Japanese anime will appreciate.
An example of the fan-pleasing style comes as soon as you start up the game; an opening theme is played with typical anime lyrics complete with some random English phrases thrown in every now and then, just as it usually is. The story is then told through cutscenes that are so absurd that you smile occasionally, like when topics like sushi plates, super attacks, sweet desserts, and magical creatures are discussed in the same sentence. The production values are really good and that helps make it feel like a meaty experience in a way that puzzle games rarely do (said without any contempt for the genre).
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The basic concept is really quite simple. If you've ever been to a Japanese sushi restaurant you'll know that the food is often served on a conveyor belt where you just pick up what you want when you want it. The colour of the plates you've chosen then decides what you pay for the food. Here it works in much the same way, only now you have several conveyor belts in front of you and they go in different directions (right to left or vice versa). Thus you have to pick plates of the same colour to earn points and by combining several dishes under seven seconds you get a combo that grants you more points and bonus features.
In the game you play against a computer-controlled opponent (there are local and online multiplayer modes as well, all based on the same concept) who does the same, and all those empty plates aren't used to pay for your dinner but rather to attack the opponent. That's why it's important to make sure you're really optimising your play so you get insane numbers of plates in these seven seconds, getting a really nice weapon and also high scores, over and over.
Another twist is that at the top of the screen you and your opponent have a sushi conveyor belt that you both share. If you collect yellow plates and your opponent does the same, don't miss the ones that pop up at the top and snag them first. Additionally, there are also extra items that roll over the shared conveyor belt, so it's important to keep track of everything (although that's easier said than done when sushi plates of the wrong colour block your combos as you're navigating a moving playing field to create combos).
Additionally, there are little Sushi Spirits that can assist you with various super attacks, and the first gives you the opportunity to transform all of the plates into the same colour for a short period of time to either get a truly magnificent points boost or turn all sushi into desserts that restore your life. Then you have to consider factors such as how playing fast can give you an advantage and how you can combine the colours on the plates with the sushi dishes on them to get an extra bonus.
There's even a menu where you can switch and change your conditions to increase the chances of winning each battle according to your game style. This helps make the game feel fresh when playing, and by replacing your Sushi Spirits you can finally get the skills you need to take out a particularly hard enemy. You can also go back and replay challenges you've already managed to beat to gain more experience points and level up Musashi.
As it should be with a good puzzle game, it's simple enough to draw you in but there's enough there to keep you hooked. We've had a hard time putting it down during the weeks we've spent playing Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, which is always a good sign. It's not flawless though, and one issue is the at-times inexact controls which meant we slipped up and made wrong moves even with 20 hours sunk in. It's possible to play with both the Joy-Cons and the touch-screen, and the latter option could have solved that problem were it not for the fact that at times our hand covered important things on the screen and that simply doesn't work in a game where the milliseconds are so important. We also would've like a somewhat slower pace when it comes to adding new features, and it can get a little bit grindy in the first 30 minutes.
These are but minor complaints though, and unless a better on-the-go experience emerges out of nowhere, this will be the game we take with us out and about this summer. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is wonderfully charming and well thought out, and the superb presentation makes us actually want to know what happens next, which is a rare treat in a puzzle game.
8 / 10
Original setup, Deep game system, Good level of challenge, Fun story, Addictive, Replay value.