Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido
超回転 寿司ストライカー The Way of Sushido (Chou Kaiten Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido)
Action / Puzzle
indieszero / Nintendo
Nintendo 3DS / Nintendo Switch
Years ago, war broke out over sushi. The Empire wanted to keep sushi to themselves; the Republic wanted everyone to be able to eat it. The victorious Empire banned sushi in the Republic, and children like Musashi were orphaned. One day, Musashi meets a strange fellow offering sushi, and Musashi’s destiny is changed forever!
I have to give props to a piece of work that comes up with a ridiculous premise yet wholeheartedly devotes itself to it. It then takes something so laughably unbelievable and yet draws the audience in.
I knew Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido was going to be one of these types of media when the opening song started to play:
Yep, a full-blown addicting, anime-style song all about eating sushi.
Sushi Striker is set in a world without any fish. So how can sushi exist in such a place? Well, sushi, which is often called the most delicious dish in the world, is made by the mysterious sushi sprites. Control the sprites, control the sushi. This is how the Sushi Struggles started, and Musashi’s parents died in the conflict. Now, sushi is banned in the Republic while the Empire’s elite can feast on sushi.
So Musashi is looking for food to gather for orphans and has a run-in with Kojiro, the local bully who ends up ruining all of the food Musashi collected. Then, a young man named Franklin appeared and offered the hungry Musashi sushi. Musashi originally refuses, but Franklin’s partner, the tanuki-like Ara-o, makes a piece of sushi appear. Musashi tries it and falls in love with the dish. Franklin introduces himself as a sushi striker, someone who teams up with a sushi sprite and faces other strikers in a battle where you throw your eaten sushi plates at an opponent. He even gives Musashi a mysterious device Just then, the Empire appears to capture Ara-o. Franklin protests that Musashi has nothing to do with sushi, thus sparing Musashi. A frustrated Musashi clutches the strange device and hears a voice. The orphan asks for power… and the legendary sushi sprite, Jinrai, appears and agrees to be Musashi’s partner. Together, they’re going to save Franklin and spread the joy of sushi to the masses!
Sushi Striker is a fast-paced puzzle adventure with some RPG elements. First thing’s first though: players have to choose whether to play as a boy or girl. The story appears to be the exact same, although some scenes and interactions may — at least by anime standards — seem to favor one gender over the other. Even though I played as the girl Musashi, the default or canon is a boy, so I’ll call Musashi a him from now on.
Anyway, the basic idea is that Musashi (you) face off against an opponent in a sushi-eating battle. Each side has three lanes of sushi rotating by that only you can access, and then there’s a shared fourth lane in the middle. You need to connect same-colored plates by either having them line up vertically, diagonally, or horizontally or have no other colored plate in between them. The longer the chain, the better your score — and, ultimately, the amount of damage you’ll inflict on your opponent. But you only have seven seconds to keep connecting once you start; otherwise, you lose your entire chain! Eat the same sushi in a row for a boost. Clear plates, and then you may be able to make more connections before you time out or your plate goes off-screen. If not, you start a new set. The plates of eaten sushi stack up in front of you, up to five different link chains at a time. At any time manually, or automatically if you would cause a sixth stack, you throw the plates at your opponent. That’s how you knock your opponent’s HP down to zero. Of course, your opponent is trying to do the same to you! If you throw stacks of the same color in a row, you can get another damage boost. Making chains also fills up a Jubilee gauge which causes better quality (higher damage) sushi to come out and increase damage of thrown plates.
The game also introduces other aspects like equipping a device that can alter the speed of the lanes, choosing a favorite sushi that gives you a bonus depending on which type (restore HP, increase attack, increase score, etc.), and items on the conveyor belt. But perhaps most significantly, you can choose up three Sushi Sprites to bring into battle. These sprites control what types of sushi appear in encounters, and they have their own unique abilities to activate in battle. Once you win, you are given a rating based on what you ate, how fast you completed the stage, and other aspects that seem to be hidden. You can also earn up to three stars per stage by completing the stated goals. Some of these are straightforward like to finish within a certain amount of time or defeat the enemy within a certain number of plates. Others are trickier like causing so much damage on the final throws. A lot of these goals will require you to replay the stage since you can’t do all of them at once — or at least not if you want a good grade.
Sometimes, after finishing a stage, one of the opponent’s Sprites will join you. If you already have it, that Sprite will gain EXP. However, even if an opponent has a certain Sprite you don’t have or haven’t seen before, sometimes, you are unable to recruit them. If you have a Sprite you want to level up but not in battle, you can have up to two as your reserves that will earn EXP along with your party. The game is played across nine chapters made up of about 150 stages plus bonus stages. You automatically head to the next stage if you want to start it, but you can backtrack whenever. You can also exit out of any battle, so you can never get stuck. If you lose, you still gain some experience. If you want to take a break from the main story, you can try to unlock hidden areas, take on puzzles, or face other players online.
The game was originally designed for the 3DS, which is what I played it on. You use the stylus to connect plates. If you play on the Switch, you can either play on the touchscreen or use buttons. If you use buttons, you use the left analog stick to choose the direction of where you want to connect as you hold down the A button. I think most people agree this is a more natural fit for the 3DS even though the system is declining in popularity. You don’t want your arm blocking the screen as you travel from one belt to another, and the battles move too fast for you to be worrying about whether you have the right angle to move to the plate you want. The battle screens are slightly rearranged between the two consoles in regards to the placement of gauges and such, but I think it’s more natural on the 3DS with the opponent’s lanes and tables on top and pretty much everything else on the bottom instead of everything on one (albeit larger) screen. Otherwise, if you only have one system, you don’t have to worry about missing out in regards to content. But if you go with the Switch, overall, it’s likely going to be harder than the 3DS version.
And this game is not always a pushover. If you just want to finish the game, that’s one thing and not too bad since you just need to win to advance. But if you are the type to tackle the challenges, prepare to get to work. The game isn’t always the most user-friendly in regards to some of the advanced techniques either. As I mentioned earlier, you will likely need to replay stages. But if you want to get the highest score possible and get the stars as you complete the story (instead of waiting for late-/post-game), expect a lot of restarts. For instance, suddenly, one challenge is to break the opponent’s stacks of plates. Except the first enemy you face with this mission hardly ever keeps stacks of plates around! You are supposed to have a higher stack of plates and somehow wait for the few seconds he might keep a stack around before throwing yours. Except even then, it’s still only a chance that their plates will fall. And as with any puzzle game of this type, there’s going to be some luck built in due to the randomization of your starting setup.
Also, the puzzle minigame is pretty horrendous. The goal is to clear an table of sushi in five moves. That would require thinking caps normally, but now you must figure out a solution in 10 seconds… max. Yes, with every puzzle you complete, that time limit resets, but it also goes down. So whether you have 5 seconds left or .1 seconds left, doesn’t matter; you can’t carry it over. The game is also pretty notorious for having you slip and miss a plate. So even though you knew what to do, your finger wasn’t over the fraction of a centimeter enough for the game to register that plate, and suddenly, you lose. The goal is to get to at least 30 in a row, and the puzzles are in random order. It’s very unfun since you have absolutely no room for error. I imagine it’s nigh impossible without touch controls, which is pretty inexcusable for a game that advertises button options on the Switch even though the Puzzle Hut is optional. There are also additional in-game challenges that range from the easy-to-do as you clear the game to borderline insane.
Anyway, the RPG elements of the game are well-done. In Chapter 4, for instance, you can choose which area you want to tackle. Sprite-hunting is a lot of fun since luck is involved and/or requires you to access hidden areas. You also may like certain Sprites, but you also want to find a team of three who jive well together. The more types of sushi they share, the easier it will be to make powerful, long chains. Sprites also evolve a la Pokémon, and you can also use items to level up their abilities to make them more powerful and/or faster to activate. You can also freely change the gear that affects the speed of your lanes between battles as well as your favorite sushi. Need a healing boost? Choose one that increases the power of healing sweets. Want one that can increase the time to link plates? There’s a sushi for that. But you must unlock these various Raw Powers! So there’s quite a bit to encourage you to play around with Musashi’s setup and encourage you to try a little harder for those stars and S ranks.
The story is shown both through anime-style cutscenes and sequences with visual novel-like sprites. The former are fully voiced, and Musashi (whether it’s a he or a she) is shown in full and is not a silent protagonist.
The VN-style segments have the characters speaking in phrases. It is often awkward since the way the lines are voiced and written, it’s like the characters are cut off mid-sentence. It’s one thing in other games where the game only uses sounds like grunts, cries, or names which will be spoken and reused repeatedly. Here, though, a good portion if not most of these voice clips are recorded specifically for that line/moment in the game. So the developers made the voice actors record a piece of dialogue but couldn’t bother to add maybe another sentence to it — in some cases, it would only be two or three words more! It also was really awkward when whatever Musashi or somebody would talk but the word/phrase is not actually used in the captions/text. Remember that this is an all-ages game, so it’s not like the dialogue here is advanced or anything, but there’s a definite disconnect at times.
Lines are also often very soft-spoken to the point where characters are extremely hard to hear. I don’t just mean like some characters have soft voices; it was like someone just randomly hit volume-down at points on my console. It is noticeable a bit with the sprites, but it is very obvious in some of the anime cutscenes. Doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or a reason to it.
As for the anime sequences, quite often, the mouth flaps often don’t match the English dub. This makes the game feels like a lower or older-quality production, which is a shame for a Nintendo first-party published release. The cutscenes aren’t always high-quality either with some off-model shots. But at least they’re fully animated with versions for both Musashis.
Personally, I thought female-Musashi was the strongest out of the cast. A lot of the others weren’t bad, but a combination of soft-spoken lines plus the odd half-voiced lines brought the game down in the audio department.
The strongest aspect of the game, as I alluded to earlier, is the pure fun of the story. Sure, the gameplay itself can be enjoyable, but Musashi’s journey to help allow other orphans to eat sushi is what elevates Sushi Striker. The story isn’t revolutionary in either sense of the term; it’s an all-ages game after all. Still, it’s easy to bond with the young orphan who gains a friend who shares food with him only to see him dragged away. Musashi does meet a colorful cast of characters as he joins the Sushi Liberation Front (SLF). The various opponents, whether they lay down their arms after defeat or become a true Musashi ally, range from a musclehead to an annoying hipster who wants to play games. At least one of them turned out to be an unexpected surprise. Otherwise, animanga and JRPG fans will recognize these archetypes and enjoy Musashi’s anime-style reactions.
But in this world, sushi is a BIG DEAL, and that emphasis is both surreal and funny. How can you resist a game with a line like, “Even when a lover betrays you… sushi never will.” That’s a direct quote by the way. Yes, it’s stupid, but that’s the whole point! Most of the mob villains have punny names, and their loss quotes combined with Musashi’s victory quotes will earn some laughs. The Sprites appear to have their own personalities, but we see so little of them outside of Jinrai that we can’t appreciate their differences. Unfortunately, the game’s ending seems like you should be able to unlock a true ending, but no, that’s how the game concludes. I imagine it was meant up set up a sequel, plus one recurring character’s true identity is never revealed. Unfortunately, I doubt Nintendo is going to revisit Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, at least not anytime soon. Perhaps it would have been better if it had remained a 3DS title. Then, in a few years, there could have been an enhanced port for the Switch that could have added a second chapter. It probably would have made the original price tag, especially for Switch. Yes, there are many stages and extras, but the impractically of making some of these challenges so tough and/or time-consuming means that a lot of gamers are going to go, “Whelp, never going to get all the goals anyway, so I’m done!” When it first came out, this was likely a death kneel and turned Sushi Striker to a game to wait on.
Not much to say. A lot of people won’t get references Musashi/Kojiro, but that’s to be expected. Other characters are renamed, like Yukichi to Franklin. I’m guessing that one is a joke involving money, but not exactly sure how アブリコス (something like “Abliques”) became “Kodiak”. A reference to as strong as a mountain or something? Ryoma is renamed Masa, Dalton to Archie, and other characters have similar localizations and changes. Japanese media fans will likely reverse-translate terms like “itadakimasu” due to the bad lipsync job at points. Things like “Sushigami” (literally “Sushi Gods”) are localized as “Sushi Sprites”. Other cultural aspects like shrines and priestesses (complete in miko outfits) are kept because it’s not like they could be removed. “Sushi Striker” (寿司ストライカー) is usually shortened to “Sushi Raiker” (スシライカ) in Japanese, but no nickname exists in the English version.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is delightfully quirky. Considering the prices for a copy now, fans of Japanese media may be pleasantly surprised by the entertainment value even just by completing the main story. That may require some extra work for Switch players though, as things can get hectic against a tough opponent or just bad luck. At the very least, enjoy the meme-worthy opening song.