Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is what you get when you put together the basics of an online multiplayer game and put a ninja skin over it. Fans of the long-running anime series about ninjas may appreciate all of the fan service and nods that make up this new Naruto game, but everyone else will be left unsatisfied. An overly repetitive series of missions, shallow custom character creation, and frustrating multiplayer modes make up this overall meager experience that is definitely not hokage material. Being able to put yourself into the world of Naruto is a great idea, but the execution within Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker isn’t what fans may have hoped for.
The biggest downside of Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is that it is primarily an online only game. If you aren’t constantly connected to the internet, a lot of the content included will be unavailable to you. But even without the ability to get into some of the online modes and events that make up most of the game, everything else that is present is very shallow. You can create your own ninja character and choose between one of four classes, each with varying equipment and moves that relate to a style of ninja combat. The options for how you can customize your ninja are very limited with very little room for any range of expression with how you look. The majority of players will have the same clothing and body type options equipped, which can be very boring for an online focused game.
With your custom character, you can play through a series of VR Ninja missions that are based on the events of the entire Naruto Shippuden series. There are nods to early parts of the second half of the Naruto anime, with a few clever ones that go even further back in the series that hardcore fans of the anime and manga will like. The quality of the missions themselves, however, is very poor. Missions can be done alone offline or with a few allies through matchmaking online. For the majority of the time you’ll be either collecting items scattered around overly large maps or defeating waves of enemies that appear randomly.
This can get very repetitive and boring very quickly, especially when you’re doing missions over and over again to gather EXP for your character and money to purchase new custom items. Controlling your ninja’s movement can be stiff and monotonous between the different classes you have available to you. There’s Attack, Ranged, Defense, and Heal classes that each have their own jutsu abilities, but your actions during missions will primarily be the same no matter which one you choose.
The biggest annoyances about missions come from the varying difficulty spikes and myriad of bugs and glitches that occur both online and offline. The hit detection of your attacks and those of enemies can often feel completely off-based or broken, with attacks often hitting you in weird and unorthodox ways. Getting knocked down by an attack is the worse because your character is stuck for a brief moment as they recover, giving anything enough time to follow up with more attacks before you can defend yourself.
One moment you’ll be trying to dash over to your objective, only to be hit by a random projectile and then have to struggle to recover as your enemies heavily damage you with consistently devastating attacks. This also goes hand in hand with the steep curve you have to overcome with powering up your custom character with new items and grinding for EXP by completing missions. The grind can become a very big time waster and not fun when you find yourself playing earlier missions alone just to gain more items to help you with your next main mission.
Most of what you end up doing in Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is complimented by the abundance of extra systems that seem tacked on. You can equip a sensei to your custom character in the main hub, which gains experience and opens up new jutsu abilities as it levels up when you complete missions. You can choose from a wide variety of characters from the show as your sensei, each with different abilities and bonus items to unlock for your character, but it takes a long time to level up and obtain them. The higher level rewards you gain don’t seem to really do much other than give you online titles or aesthetic clothing options for your character, making the struggle to get them not worth it. Outside of this you can gain new items and equipment from scrolls you gain during missions, which act like the Naruto version of loot boxes obtain after every mission. They’re random and often give you rewards that you probably won’t use ever again after a short period.
The online game modes of Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker are a mess. You gain access to the Ninja World League after completing your first few missions, which opens up the competitive online modes. This includes VS modes like Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Escort game types that have two teams of ninjas battling each other. These modes might seem fun at first glance, but a ton of online connection issues and unbalanced matchmaking make them a very frustrating experience.
You’ll often find yourself matched up with players that have access to very late game items and abilities that give them a gigantic edge over everyone else, making the matches feel incredibly one-sided and unfair. But more often than not, the matches will suffer from connection problems that will heavily slow down the action or suddenly boot everyone back to the lobby. It can be hard getting into a match that will be completed when these problems are so rampant and bring everything to a screeching halt.
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker is not a great game for Naruto fans hoping to get a fun online multiplayer experience. It’s very repetitive and has issues that make the entire experience feel shallow. The online modes are plagued by issues and the offline modes aren’t very interesting or fun to play through. The character creation options are limited and don’t offer much room for creating your own ninja to take with you into the world of Naruto. Fans of the series are better off looking elsewhere for a far more entertaining experience with their favorite anime ninjas.
This review is based on a digital review code of Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker for the PlayStation 4, provided by Bandai Namco.