Friday, July 27, 2018

Five things I don't love about Sushi Striker

If you read my last post, you know what I love about Sushi Striker.

As much as I adore this recently released 3DS and Switch game, though, it's not perfect.

In fact, a handful of its components could be called honest-to-goodness turn-offs. They're not so terrible you should pass on the game, of course--I still put more than 51 hours into it, after all--but they're definitely occasional sources of annoyance.

So, which components am I talking about here? Keep reading for all the not-so-gory details.

Sushi Striker does a horrible job of explaining how things work--I don't know if some of this information was "lost in localization" or if it wasn't included in the Japanese version either. Whatever the case may be, Sushi Striker drops the ball--or maybe I should say plate--when it comes to educating players about many of its rules and gameplay quirks. It's nothing a little trial and error, not to mention a few trips to an FAQ, can't fix, but it's a bit frustrating all the same--especially after you become aware of just how much text has been stuffed into this fast-paced puzzler.

It also doesn't make it clear which "Sushi Sprites" you can and can't recruit at any point in time--This is a big deal because not only are these adorable (at least at first) Pokémon-esque creatures one of the highlights of Sushi Striker, but they're also often the key to your success. The reason: they provide you with various abilities that can give you a leg up against your sushi-slinging opponents. To get these cuties to switch sides and join your campaign against the evil "Empire," though, you have to impress them in battle. I like that take on the "gotta catch 'em all" shtick a lot, actually, but I also find one aspect of it irksome. You see, it's not unusual to come across Sushi Sprites early on that you can't recruit until later in the story. Sushi Striker never tells you that, though, so unless you scan the web for this information, you may waste a lot of time trying to woo creatures that aren't, well, woo-able.

You have to put a good number of hours into the game before you unlock local or online battles--Get this: I had to play Sushi Striker for between five and 10 hours (sorry, I can't remember the exact amount of time) before I unlocked the ability to engage in local battles. Then I had to play another five to 10 hours to unlock the ability to engage in online battles. So, basically, it takes as many as 20 hours to open up a pair of modes that should be available right from the start--in my opinion, at least. On a related note: I have to imagine this is the main reason it's so difficult to find strangers to duel while playing the 3DS version of Sushi Striker.

It's nearly impossible to find a stranger to battle on line in the 3DS version--This may be the worst offender of them all. At least you can search the internet for help with the rest of the stumbling blocks mentioned here. There's nothing you can do about the lack of other players looking to take part in online battles. In the 50-plus hours I've spent with Sushi Striker so far, I've successfully completed exactly two such battles--and both were against the same person. Admittedly, they were laggy as hell and as such not a whole lot of fun, but I'd still pop into the "Arena" (where these matches take place) now and then if finding a competitor weren't such a pain.

Some of the star requirements are completely ridiculous--When you first start your way through Sushi Striker, it's easy to be fooled into thinking it's going to be a rather straightforward and superficial adventure. Match plates, stack them, and throw them at your opponent--bada-bing, bada-boom! In reality, there's a lot more to the game than that. For example, you're given stars if you meet certain conditions, like, "use five skills or more and win." Collect enough of them and you're granted access to secret areas that provide you with the best (or at least rarest) Sushi Sprites around. The thing is, some of these requirements are ridiculous. Oh, well, nothing worth having comes easy, as the saying goes.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Five reasons I've fallen head over heels in love with Nintendo's Sushi Striker

When Nintendo unveiled Sushi Striker this time last year, I was certain it would be my cup of tea.

I mean, it was a puzzler, it featured a selection of (cartoonishly) beefy dudes, and it was being made for the 3DS--if that's not the recipe for my kind of game, I don't know what is.

My interest in Sushi Striker plummeted, however, after I played through the demo that hit the Switch eShop a couple of months ago. Not because I thought it sucked, mind you; in fact, I loved many aspects of it, including its colorful art, spirited soundtrack, and wacky (if sometimes longwinded) cutscenes.

So what didn't I love about it? Its too-frantic gameplay.

Although I've been a fan of puzzle games since I broke in my GameBoy with the freebie classic-to-be Tetris, I've never really enjoyed ones that demand Shazam-esque reflexes. I usually prefer puzzlers that allow players to contemplate their next move at least a little bit.

As such, Sushi Striker and I got off on the wrong foot thanks to the at-first frenzied action at the heart of its demo.

I say "at first" here because while I found the demo's sushi-matching gameplay loop too hectic early on, I actually grew kind of comfortable with it after putting some time into the full game. (Yes, I bought the 3DS version even though the Switch demo disappointed me.)

In fact, I grew so comfortable with it that I played Sushi Striker almost nonstop after it arrived on my doorstep. And not only that, but I played it right through to the end--a journey that took me just over 50 hours.

What prompted this out-of-nowhere turnaround? Here are five reasons:

1. Sushi Striker's cutscenes are surprisingly enjoyable--And that's saying something, as a ton of them have been crammed into this game. In fact, you encounter one after nearly every round. Most are mercifully short, but a bunch of brief interludes could still prove annoying--or worse--if they were pointless or handled poorly, right? Thankfully, I doubt many would describe Sushi Striker's intermissions as anything even close to boring. They're so goofy that all but the most stone-hearted are sure to grin while watching them. (Don't worry, gloomy Gusses, they're skippable.)

2. It's got a wonderfully goofy cast of characters--This is another reason I had a hard time hating Sushi Striker's seemingly endless cutscenes. Every one features at least a single character who gives new meaning to the word colorful. There's the brawny, tan, and tattooed General Kodiak, his pinheaded (but still impressively buff) minions, your hapless rival Kojiro, the "soosh"-loving hipster Rio (he even has the black-framed glasses to prove it), and a slew of others. All of them have personality to spare, so even if they start to get on your nerves a bit, you'll probably do as I did and continue to guiltily enjoy them rather than race ahead to your next skirmish.

3. The sushi-flinging action at its core eventually becomes deliriously instinctual--There's no question this game's sushi battles are frantic at the start. Everything moves so fast that early on you're more likely to find them frustrating than fun. Thankfully, those negative vibes slowly fade into the background after you successfully finish a handful of stages--or at least that was the case for me. By the time you advance to Sushi Striker's second or third area, you'll be wondering how you ever found it so overwhelming. At a certain point, you move your stylus (if you're playing the 3DS version) to match, stack, and toss sushi plates almost on instinct. That's when the game hits its stride and shows just how exhilarating it can be once you get the hang of it.

4. It's pretty deep, too--Not only is Sushi Striker's gameplay delightfully frenetic, it's also surprisingly deep. At first, it's difficult to think beyond matching like-colored plates from the four conveyor-belt lanes in front of you. If you want to beat the best opponents in the game, though, or if you want to access its many hidden areas (most of which reward you with special "Sushi Sprite" companions when conquered), you have to bone up on things like the jubilee meter, the helpful skills provided by the aforementioned Sushi Sprites, the lane-drive gears that let you alter the speed of your conveyor belts, and more. It's a lot to take in, admittedly, and the game doesn't do a great job of explaining most of it to you, but you've got to wrap your head around it if you're to have any hope of reaching Sushi Striker's credit roll.

5. The soundtrack complements all of the sushi-matching perfectly--That's not to say it sounds like something you'd hear in a sushi restaurant. It sure puts you in the mood to sling some plates of Japan's national dish (or maybe not) at the evildoers who get in your way, though. As you might expect, the tunes here are the definition of upbeat. However, they're not as syrupy sweet as most of the songs that support puzzlers these days. This is due, in large part, to the crunchy electric guitar riffs woven into nearly every track. Combined with the plucky piano runs and techno-y blips and blops (technical terms, for the unaware) that pop up nearly as often, they make every Sushi Striker encounter a breathtaking blast.

Have any of you played Sushi Striker? If so, what do you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.