Earlier this week I got to go hands-on with Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker at a Bandai Namco event. Many of you played (and loved) the game during its online beta, but I had the unique privilege of playing with with eight human beings, who were all audibly cooperating, laughing, shouting, and cussing together. It was an incredible multiplayer experience, the likes of which I haven't enjoyed since I was a teenager.
For those of you who don't know, Shinobi Striker is a 4-vs-4, team-based action game featuring all of your favorite Naruto characters, or your own custom ninjas. It's everything you'd want out of a Naruto game: you can ninja run like a boss, you can quickly scale and dash across walls, each character has an impressive arsenal of flashy combos and devastating ninjutsu, and visually, the game looks like an episode of the anime come to life. The brilliance, though, is in its objective-driven gameplay, which demands teams work together in unique and exciting ways.
Each character on your team will play a role. Some characters, like Sasuke, are 'ranged' characters who specialize in harassing and flanking opponents from afar, preventing them from rushing to the aid of their teammates, or returning your flag to their base. Other characters may specialize in 'healing,' and could elect to stick around their base with a 'defense' player to make sure no one infiltrates your base and steals your flag without getting punished. 'Attack' players are all about offense, and are often the first to jump into a team fight or charge into an enemy base.
During my time with Shinobi Striker we played a few rounds of capture the flag, and we were able to win multiple rounds thanks to constant communication, and a few expletives to convey urgency (very important). From the moment each match began, teams were talking across the table to each other, plotting courses, declaring roles, calling for help, and teasing each other. There's nothing quite like grabbing the enemy flag and hearing, "We've got your back Sasuke, let's go!"
Hell yes. There's no squad roll quite like a Naruto squad roll. With the flag in our possession, we all power jump high into the air and grapple onto a nearby wall, three ninjas dashing and blinking up and across its rocky surface while our defender holds down our base with some stunning ninjutsu. Along the way, an enemy attack! Fists and bolts of lightning come crashing down us, and for a moment I was ready to turn heel and fight back with my teammates, but I knew the objective was more important.
As I jump and leap closer to our base to return the enemy flag, I see that two more enemies are there waiting for me, still engaged in an intense battle with our defender. One member of the enemy team is smashed against the side of the enormous cliff which looms over our base, and I knew that was my chance. Stealthily, sneakily, like a damn ninja, I ran the flag into our glowing ringed goal, and scored. The feedback was immediate, and my team all celebrated together while our enemies verbally regrouped to respond.
It was incredibly thrilling, and the sense of comradery was a huge boon. I had almost forgotten how fun it was to work together with an entire team of human beings who you can actually hear, and Shinobi Striker offers some incredibly-paced action to keep everyone laughing and jeering.
For fans of the series, I know this is going to be a huge hit, but honestly, I don't read or watch a lot of Naruto. I approached this game out of curiousity more than anything else, but now I know that it's something I want in my library. I know for a fact that we're going to be playing this in the office and loving every second of it. If you've yet to check this game out and chock it up on your wishlist, you should remedy that immediately; this could be one of the best multiplayer games we see this year.