After getting to participate in Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Strikers’ closed beta, I feel like I have a better understanding of what life as a ninja might be like in this new entry. It feels more active and dynamic than I expected, with my ninja possessing terrain traversal abilities that might make Spider-Man jealous. The flag capturing doesn’t work exactly the way I expected it to, in part because there are certain jutsus that seemed to break it a bit. But overall, it reminded me a bit of the Dragon Ball Xenoverse series in terms with what it seems like it may accomplish, what with the creation of custom characters, ability to determine your role and use various skills, and opportunity to work with or against other players.
The Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker closed beta began with a relatively limited character creator. In this trial, only the basics were in place. You choose a home village, deciding if you are from the Hidden Leaf Village, Hidden Sand Village, Hidden Mist Village, Hidden Stone Village, or Hidden Cloud Village. You can then choose your gender and go through a few different hair styles and different colors for hair and eyes. Nothing too fancy for now, but enough to set your avatar apart. Everyone in the beta found themselves in the Hidden Leaf Village after this segment.
Before I could do anything, I needed to attend a tutorial mission with Kakashi in the VR Ninjutsu Arena. Yes, ninjas have VR technology now. While the full game will have multiple Training and Normal Missions, all that was accessible here was one to go over basic movement and attacks. It is here that the dynamic nature of the game opens up. Characters are able to channel chakra into movements. This means if you run toward or jump up against a wall, you will immediately begin running along it. You can also send out Wire Kunai to grapple while jumping, making it easy to save yourself when falling. If there is a great gap to cross, you can charge a mighty leap with R2 to soar through the skies. The standard and heavy attacks are present, you can have a sub weapon to send out kunai, each role has two jutsu two use, and everyone has a Secret Technique they can perform. Everyone is quite capable.
Only one of the gameplay modes was available outside of the lone Tutorial Mission in the Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker closed beta, and that was Flag Battle. It is rather straightforward. On either side of a wooded area, a team of four has a flag inside of a ring. Your goal is to take the opposing team’s flag three times before time runs out. This did not happen at all during my experience; rather, in my encounters the team with the most flag captures when time expired was the winner. To capture it, you need to stand next to the flag, undisturbed, for a brief period of time. You then hold it on your back and can start heading back to your base. If this happens, you’re supposed to try and prevent the thief from returning by attacking him or her until it drops.
The problem is, certain roles are much better than others at Flag Battle. So much so, that I noticed stalemates happening when people caught on to this. The defensive character has two jutsus that threw logic out the window. The most valuable is Sand Barrier, which creates an impenetrable barrier for ten seconds. I noticed more than a few teams with at least two characters in this role, and the characters would park themselves at their flag and keep anyone from getting near it. Their Human Boulder jutsu was just as devastating, as they would turn into spinning, spiky balls of death and send any opponent around them flying. Healers were also rather helpful, since they had a Byakugan that would allow them to see where enemy ninjas were on the field by sensing their chakra or heal all allies within range when their healing jutsu was active. I felt like the attackers’ Rasengan and Leaf Flash kicks or ranged units’ Lightning Net (Chidori) and Fireball couldn’t compare.
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker seems like it could give people a chance to become ninja. Certainly, the character creator and different roles present in the beta seem to offer options and various jutsu to make everyone unique and useful in their own ways. The Flag Battle mode seemed like it could use a bit more balancing in this trial, especially since certain jutsus resulted in a few near-stalemates while I was playing. But it does seem like there is room to grow here and potential for the game to be to Naruto and Boruto fans what Dragon Ball Xenoverse is to Dragon Ball fans.
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker will come to the PlayStation 4 in Japan in 2018. It will come to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in other regions in 2018.