Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is a bit of an odd one, both as a game and in terms of its plot. Taking on the role of lead character Musashi, you’ll be diving headfirst into a world where sushi has caused terrifying wars and devastation, dividing the morals and behaviours of its inhabitants. To progress through this setting, you’ll be taking on multiple battles which feel like they’re stuck somewhere between a puzzle game and pure action, all while feeling like you’re trapped inside a fully-fledged anime. It’s weird, but somehow it works.
Before the game even begins your senses are attacked by a loud, overly colourful intro song that had us pumped from the word go. We immediately started to think about how this would be perfect as an introduction to an anime series, and we were kind of right – the opening scenes of the game play out in this way, and the presentation is great. It’s quite a lengthy introduction, but one that's full of charm and quality.
After learning about the Sushi Struggles and how you can finally end the fighting over everyone’s favourite food, you’ll find yourself practicing your first Sushi Striker battle, and things can be pretty overwhelming at first. The basic idea is that plates of sushi line up on conveyor belts in front of you, all waiting to be collected and thrown at your opponent to deal damage. You do this by linking together plates of the same colour to make towering stacks – the higher the stack, the more damage you can dish out.
It’s from here that things start to get complicated, though. On top of these core foundations that sit at the centre of each battle, you’ll also need to manage special abilities, hold items, and various battle tweaks and alterations available to you in the game’s menu. A lot of this takes place in between battles, but your abilities are used throughout the main event, forcing you to keep an eye on both your own available skills, and those of your opponent.
These skills come attached to Sushi Sprites – Pokémon-like creatures that sometimes appear before you to join your team. There’s a full listing of these available in the menu, which fills in when you collect them, and they level up as you take them into battle. Each one comes with its own ability, such as providing you with a limited-time shield, turning your sushi into sweets to regain health, and one that zaps your enemy with electricity to deal heavier damage.
These abilities go deeper still, however, with items and experience boosts which can upgrade their attacks, extra abilities that appear on plates mid-battle to be collected by either opponent, and recharging limits which restrict how much you can spam each ability. When you combine all of this with the menu extras - which impact the speed and style in which your sushi lanes move from side to side, and attach yet another ability to Musashi which remains in play all battle – you’re left with something which goes above and beyond what you might expect going into a game about food fights.
Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t take too long to get to grips with how it all works, and the 150-or-so battles you’ll be facing during the campaign are more than enough to get you from fishy novice to supreme sushi master. The most important thing to note is that the battles are great to play, with every giant plate stack combo bringing yet another course of tasty satisfaction.
The one main niggle we have with these battles is that they can sometimes rely a little too much on chance; while your skill, player level, and ability choices are definitely the main differences between winning or losing, the starting location of your plates can sometimes have an annoyingly devastating impact. If you start a battle with very few plate-linking options, your opponent can start to build their stacks and ability meters way before you, causing high amounts of damage that can be hard to recover from.
Luckily, jumping back into a match and trying again isn't too much of an issue and you’ll want to see the story through; the anime-style cutscenes present throughout will keep you hooked and entertained in between key battles. In fact, you’ll be discovering brand new things way into the game (your main central hub doesn’t unlock until you’re about two hours in), so you’ll definitely want to keep going back for more.
Battles can be played either with your Joy-Con or Pro Controller as you’d expect, or the touchscreen in handheld mode. We much preferred the touchscreen thanks to how quickly you can select your desired plate; the sushi plates are placed almost like a moving ‘QWERTY’ keyboard, so trying to select the exact plate you’re after can be a little fiddly at times with a control stick. Having said that, there is an optional feature which will lock onto nearby plates that have higher potential if you play in the traditional style.
When you’re exhausted from the main campaign you can go to the central hub, called Shrine Grove, and take on a puzzle mode or multiplayer. The puzzle mode tasks you with clearing all sushi plates from the belts with a limited amount of moves – and is extremely challenging – and the multiplayer acts as you’d expect, allowing either local or online battles to be played.
The multiplayer side of the game isn't the focus here, though, and you don’t actually unlock the online features until you’ve reached chapter five of the main game – a good handful of hours in. You can play standard battles or ‘Chaos Battles’ which feature those additional abilities found on sushi lanes, and your Sushi Sprites from the main game are carried over at a standardised level. Interestingly, if you’re playing with two players on the same console, the game doesn’t go into splitscreen, instead forcing the most experienced player to the back. It’s a welcome addition, of course, but the main story definitely trumps the multiplayer in terms of content and overall appeal.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is a crazy, over-the-top experience that gets better the more you play. The game feels incredibly polished, with a mostly satisfying battle system that gets surprisingly deep, and beautifully presented cutscenes that progress the story along nicely. The focus here is definitely on the lengthy campaign, although we can imagine top online players becoming intensely competitive with practice. It might not be able to completely blow you away, but our playthrough has left us with a pleasingly satisfying aftertaste. Make sure to give this a go if you’re intrigued.