I spent the bulk of 2016 playing Pocket Card Jockey on the Nintendo 3DS. In case you missed that game (or my original review), let me break it down for you; it’s a hybrid horse-racing/solitaire game. Yes, really. I tell you that to tell you this; food-flinging puzzler Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, releasing this week on Nintendo Switch, offers that same brand of ridiculous, addictive fun. Yes, really.
In a world where the tyrannical Empire hordes all the sushi, starving its lowly citizenry of this clearly superior foodstuff, only you can bring balance to the For… I mean, only you can liberate the sushi supply and share this rice-heavy bounty of the sea with your fellow man.
Taking on the role of Musashi, your male or female avatar, it’s up to you to right the wrongs of the Sushi Wars, and, in typical RPG fashion, it just so happens that you are a rare and powerful Sushi Striker. This means that the lion’s share of your playtime will be spent matching sushi plates as they pass by on a series of conveyor belts.
(Stay with me here.)
Using either the touchscreen or your Joy-Cons, you drag a selector from one piece of sushi to the next, connecting as many same-colored plates as possible as quickly as you can, gobbling down their contents, and then depositing the empty plates on the table in front of you. These plate stacks can then be flung across the field of battle at your opponent, with higher piles rapidly whittling down his Hit Points in the process.
Of course, as that premise alone simply isn’t strange enough, you’ll also enlist the help of Sushi Sprites, magical allies that unlock powerful skills to heal Musashi, deal additional damage, and help you manage the madness that is conveyer-belt sushi combat.
You’ll learn more about the Sushi Sprites, the evil Empire (and its unbelievably buff generals), the opposing Sushi Liberation Front, and all the other over-the-top denizens of this game world in various anime-style cutscenes and pre-match banter. This makes such an intentionally goofy story that much more engaging, as the visuals, voice acting, and soundtrack are topnotch.
Much in the same way that the laughable plot is serviced by its stellar production values, Sushi Striker‘s seemingly simple gameplay belies a deeper, nuanced battle system. Not content to be just another cookie-cutter match-three, it instead presents seven rows of rotating sushi belts—three for you, three for your opponent, and a shared central lane. Sushi can be matched by either player across his four lanes in all directions, with the complicating factor being the constant movement of the on-screen entrees. Smart thinking and quick reflexes can net you massive 20+ sushi combos, while hesitation can exhaust your meager 7-second timer or, worse yet, allow the conveyor belts to sweep that killer combo away before you can collect it.
Eating sushi powers up your equipped trio of Sushi Sprites, who can unleash special moves—controlled by the left Joy-Con’s direction buttons—when their individual meters are full. This can be anything from bonus electrical attacks (Electrozap) to shielding you from damage (Sushi Shield) or reducing the size/power of your opponent’s plate combos (Plate Downgrade), and your Sprites earn XP and level up (eventually evolving, à la Pokémon) alongside Musashi, making them ever-more formidable allies. Your enemies, of course, have Sushi Sprites of their own, so fast, precision matching and a healthy dose of strategy are needed as you challenge progressively tougher opponents.
Add to this Gears, which alter the speed of the conveyor belts, equippable items, and a “Favorite” sushi mechanic that unlocks extra power from your preferred rolls and you begin to see that Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido is a charmingly deep experience. Most importantly, though, it’s a genuine joy to play. So be sure to treat yourself this Friday, June 8, to this deliciously deranged RPG-puzzler. Yes, really.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America