I am not a fan of the match-three puzzle games. It was my biggest concern when I started playing Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. I kept wondering how this system could be used in actual gameplay that makes it end up being fun rather than repetitive. The answer to this question lies in the design of Sushi Striker and it is sufficient to say that not only the gameplay is addictive, it also rewards your skills so you are motivated to play more of it.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is not a traditional puzzle game. It relies on you matching sushi plates which are presented on a conveyer belt akin to the ‘sushi trains’ in Japan. The longer you can combo your sushi plates by matching them, the bigger you can damage your opponent. A large combo chain will result in a huge amount of damage done to the opponent and the gameplay is usually fast paced so you will have to rely on your reflexes and skills in order to get the best out of the battles.
It was a pleasant surprise to actually find a narrative and strong story elements in Sushi Striker. The game begins with a backstory that explains why the world in Sushi Striker has banned eating any sushi. You will soon learn that there is no fish that can be used to make sushi and instead this is accomplished through some mythical creatures called the sushi sprites. They have the ability to not only create sushi but if a person is able to gain control of them, they will learn new abilities that they can use as a sushi striker.
Sushi strikers are basically the people who use sushi as a means of combat to battle others. This is done by eating a sushi plate and then throwing the empty plate to the opponent, damaging them in turn. The same applies to the enemies who will use their sushi eating skills to damage your character. They all have a group of sushi sprites with a limit of 3 per person that gives them unique skills to use in combat.
The story begins with the introduction to the world where there is a war ongoing between the republic and the empire to control the sushi. This leads to the ban of sushi in the world and it is commonly referred to as the sushi struggles. You will be offered either a male or a female lead character known by his name as Musashi. One day, Musashi meets a sushi striker who introduces him to the world of sushi and gives him the training needed to become a sushi striker.
I think the best way to explain Sushi Striker is that it is like Puzzle Quest, primarily an RPG that uses the match-three puzzle system for its combat mechanics. Your character will gain experience points every time you defeat your opponent and this is reflected in the increase for the damage that can be done to the opponent or increase in their stamina, which is basically the ability to keep holding a sushi plate for a longer combo chain.
You will start the game with just a single sushi spirit but you will gain a lot more of them as your defeat your opponents that stand in your way to victory. There are not only boss battles throughout the game’s story sequence, you can also try to level up your sushi sprites making them more powerful in this process. The sushi sprites have a unique ability that is activated in battle by first eating sushi to fill up their super meter. They can range from simple defensive moves like a shield, damaging your opponent or gaining health. You have a limit for the number of sushi sprites that you can equip in the battle and they will gain experience points just like the main character after each combat sequence.
The main exploration in sushi striker is done on the world map which is presented with simple dots that represents key points of interest where you can make progress in a linear fashion. The design here reminds me of mobile games like Cut the Rope. These points of interest can trigger a new story sequence or initiate a battle. You can be better prepared for each upcoming encounter through the stats screen that is presented before the battle, which also lists the required level and other details around your opponent.
The art style of sushi striker is a hit and miss. It can be cute to look at and the animation is gorgeous, but the game is deep-rooted in its anime aesthetics so it might be a negative for some people. There are also plenty of animated cutscenes presented to advance the story while the majority of the narrative will be shown in the form of character portraits drawn with text in speech bubbles. It is not a deal breaker by any means and gets the job done for the most part.
There is plenty of replay value to be had here, especially if you are used to the 3-star rating system that is common for puzzle games on mobile. Each combat section on the map has a ranking that is offered based on your skills in the battle and there are also stars to gather by fulfilling objectives given in each level. Some of them can be incredibly tough to complete while others are easy. This adds additional incentive to replay each battle and if you are looking to grind your characters for leveling them up, you can also try to keep repeating a battle in order to improve your rank and gain more stars.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido[a] is an action-puzzle video game developed and published by Nintendo, in cooperation with indieszero. The game was released worldwide for the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch on June 8, 2018.
The fast pace of the puzzle based combat and the fun progression system makes Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido a guilty pleasure for the Nintendo Switch. Don’t sleep on this gem even if you hate puzzle games.