Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido Switch Review
Initially revealed as a 3DS title at E3 2017, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido looked to me like one of Nintendo’s crazy small experimental downloadable titles. It quietly disappeared after that event, until appearing in a 2018 Nintendo Direct earlier this year when it was revealed to be also a Switch title and gaining a physical release. If I was to take a guess, I would say that the developers at indieszero (Electroplankton, NES Remix series, Theatrhythm series) have a love for Sushi, a common Japanese dish featuring vinegared rice and a variety of toppings ranging from tuna, shrimp, eel and even omelet. Why else would you create a puzzle game based around this Japanese cuisine – it’s almost like Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is trying to say that you should all be happy devouring on such tasty food. But enough about that – it’s making me hungry – and let’s get on with this review for this latest quirky Nintendo release.
The madness isn’t limited to its concept, because Sushi Striker has a rather ridiculous plot as well. This story puts the player, as either a male or female sushi striker, into a world where a destructive war over sushi, dubbed the Sushi Struggles – yes, you read that right – has caused this source of food to be come a rarity for everyone who isn’t part of the Empire. Those evildoers have taken all of the world’s sushi supply for themselves and as the hero, Musashi, you must save your friend and get back sushi to the masses. This is full on anime storytelling that won’t win any awards for its tale, but what you get is something so silly that it can be enjoyed, and it is rather jammed with cutscenes and short anime videos for each chapter, which add a fun element to the presentation for this wacky story and its bizarre cast.
At its core, Sushi Striker isn’t exactly an original mechanic. It takes the idea of the puzzle matching battler concepts and sticks its own spin on it with the sushi skin, which is what makes it highly enjoyable. You are literally eating huge amounts of sushi, then throwing plates at your opponent to damage them until their health is depleted.
Sushi Striker is a one-on-one puzzler where each contestant has three conveyor belts, with a shared belt in the middle. All of these conveyor belts are packed with various sushi sitting on coloured plates. The idea is to match as many coloured plates as possible by sliding to each of them within a seven second time limit, while avoiding other colours that block or come in the way of the link before the last linked plate reaches the end of the belt, sending what is collected to the player’s table. The more plates collected, the more damage done- once hitting 20, there’s no point continuing as the damage is at maximum. Up to five piles of plates can be held in stock before the next successful collection moves the front stack off the table. Players can then fling their plate stacks at their contestant to deal damage, and this continues until either one runs out of health. This is Sushi Striker‘s core gameplay, which on its own would be alright, but it’s the added flavour with its additional mechanics that make it more engaging than one is probably expecting a sushi puzzle game to be.
What I found surprising is the amount of content included. I suppose it is released as a full price title, but still, having over 150 stages and many hours of content was something I wasn’t expecting to get out of the single player portion, even if the back end feels like it begins to run out of ideas, maybe dragging the campaign out a bit too longer than ideal. While there is a lot to learn from the single player, it never felt it was an extended tutorial, offering much more than simply introducing new gameplay elements. Sure, at first, it seems rather easy, as the game lets the player learn all the features that are introduced during the first few battles, but it’s not long until things are in full force and a few interesting mechanics are introduced to add some spice to the gameplay.
This is brought in through the use of sushi sprites, special entities, which up to three can be equipped to the player that each offer their own ability. With 100 of these in the game to unlock, there are many skills to play with to suit anyone’s play style. These abilities can include simple tweaks, such as switching all the plates to the same colour, adding more damage to plates, healing foods or protecting with a shield. The enemy also has these, and one of the earlier ones demonstrated is a wall that will not allow any damage unless the stack of plates thrown at them contains more than 8. On top of that, there are favoured sushi that can offer more damage, experience, scores or extra healing if players manage to eat them during a link, gear to equip that change the flow of the conveyor belts and one use items that can resurrect or make levels harder. Finally, the last bit of mechanics involves capsules that sit on the conveyor belt that require a certain amount of links to grab to gain the benefit or cause trouble for the opponent.
These features combined with the solid base puzzle formula ends up producing a very engaging title that keeps offering that addictive gameplay loop. Every new opponent brings a more difficult challenge, some feeling a tad on the cheap side, but even so, this constant frantic action keeps players on their toes. Rewards for beating stages come by experience points that level up Musashi (this increases strength and health), and if you want to be the best then there is a rating system for scores (S rank is the best) and a 3 star rating system that require three tasks to be completed during that stage battle. There is even some local – including same system play – or online multiplayer, which sadly takes a couple of hours to unlock, but offers options to keep playing once the campaign is completed, just don’t expect something all that different, as this isn’t fleshed out, featuring two modes – the base gameplay or one with the conveyor belt capsules added in.
But all the joy bundled in Sushi Striker doesn’t hide the fact, nor does the developer really try to, that this title was original made for the 3DS and its stylus control input. Playing on the Switch does work, but it doesn’t feel intuitive using the controller to hop to highlighted links, lacking precise control one would get with a stylus input. It does feature touch controls when playing in handheld mode, and that is how I would recommend playing the game, as it enables one to keep up with the hectic gameplay.
As one might expect with adapting a 3DS game to the Switch, Sushi Strikers doesn’t offer much in terms of graphical prowess, but its clean colourful art and charming design helps overcome this. It’s a shame that the voice acting wasn’t given as much love. Voices deliver unfinished quotes in cutscenes, opting for a few phrases that are spoken when mentioned in dialogue, but never delivering the whole subtitled text. It’s a strange inclusion, because if you do not want to voice all the text, then why not use various short words to give the sense of tone, rather than just reading some of the lines halfway through…Maybe hearing it in Japanese would have been better – it would certainly add to the wackiness of the game’s presentation – but that isn’t an option.
Jumping into Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, I really did not know what to expect from this title. As I mentioned, I was initially expecting it to be a download only bite size game, but the developers have tried to use the base of a familiar puzzle mechanic and offer something a bit different by wrapping it up in this sushi themed story and building in additional mechanics. There is a question to ask about its origins – while I haven’t played the title on 3DS, it’s fair to assume that it most likely suited for that device. Even so, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido does well enough on the Switch to be a recommended purchase for puzzle fans. It has the challenge, the fast gameplay and the well thought out added depth. If you are looking for a charming and damn right silly plot, and you don’t mind paying a little more for your puzzle action to have it on the Switch, then I feel you will certainly find a lot to like with Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido and its captivating bizarre world of sushi eating puzzle combat.