If you’re in the market for puzzle games, the Nintendo Switch has more than a few it would like to sell you. But if you’re searching for something a little wackier than your average match-three title, look no further than Nintendo and co-developer Indieszero’s wonderfully silly cartoon puzzler Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. As the title suggests, you’ll spend a lot of time using sushi to strike your opponents. And after spending over 20 hours with the game and finishing out the campaign, I still feel the urge to return to this colorful world for more sushi-flinging action. It’s the perfect game for quick sessions before work, during your lunch break, or when you need a gaming fix but don’t have a lot of time for a multi-hour session. In short, it’s a ton of sushi-loving fun — as long as you’re ready to absorb a lot of gameplay information.
Things start off simply enough: match up same-colored plates to make your hero devour tons of tasty sushi. When you have a stack — or when you run out of room on your table — you fling these plates dangerously at your opponent, who is attempting to do the same to you. After taking down your bruised and battered enemy, you’ll gain much-needed experience points and advance through the game’s satisfyingly silly story. As the game moves forward, however, you’ll find more gameplay elements thrown into the mix. You’ll also start collecting Sushi Sprite, adorable creature who infuse your hero with extra power (health-replenishing sweets, electrified plates, etc.). You’ll also collect gear and various items, as well as experience from eating a lot of a certain type of sushi. As you can probably tell, it doesn’t take long for the game to get pretty complicated, but for the most part, these additions become second nature the more you play.
To match-up plates of sushi and then toss them at your over-the-top, anime-inspired adversaries, you can use either the Switch controllers or the touchscreen. Honestly, after messing around with both options, I found that the Joy-Con controllers were the easiest to handle. The touchscreen, while engaging and fun at first, became a bit too much when I had tons of extra things to handle. Of course, both methods are a little janky at times, and you’ll soon discover which one works best for your style. There were a few times when the controls worked against me, causing me to accidentally hop from one lane to the next. When you’re trying to stack 10 or more plates (which is one of the keys to taking down your foes quickly), timing is everything. If you don’t strike while the iron is hot, so to speak, you’ll miss your chance for a great combo. And when you’re up against an enemy who outclasses you by a few levels, messing this up can lead to a bitter defeat — and humiliation.
Although that description sounds a little basic, Sushi Striker actually requires a bit of strategy. Knowing when to use your Sushi Sprite’s powers and when to unleash a multi-plate combo against your foes takes practice, especially when you start battling some of the game’s meatier foes. Blindly collecting plates and tossing them whenever you get a fat stack will win some battles, but probably not for very long. That’s okay if you’re just in it to kill some time, but those of us who have a problem moving forward before mastering a level will need to thoroughly comprehend Sushi Striker’s advanced tactics. That’s not as daunting as it may sound, but the game isn’t as casual as other puzzle games. Also, don’t be afraid to grind for XP if you find yourself up against sturdier and more powerful adversaries. During my time with the game, I stayed about three levels above the recommended level during challenges, and I had little trouble taking down most opponents.
The game’s story and presentation help set Sushi Striker apart from other like-minded match-up games. If you’re into anime (and you probably are if you’re drawn to this title), you’ll have what boils down to a quirky, well-executed story featuring ridiculous characters, bonkers storylines, and so many sushi references and jokes that you might swear off the delicacy forever. Most of the story unfolds in visual novel-style cutscenes, though there are several fully animated and voiced sequences that help bring this stable of oddball characters to life. While I tend to skip cutscenes in puzzle games, I found myself drawn into this tale of heroes, villains, rivalries, and the quest to bring sushi to the masses. If it sounds beyond goofy, that’s because it is. Sushi Striker never takes itself seriously, which makes it a blast to play.
Speaking of goofy, the story follows a youngster named Musashi (boy or girl, depending on your choice), an orphan whose parents disappeared during the great Sushi Struggles. As such, Musashi has a deep-seated hatred for sushi, though this changes when he stumbles across a strange fellow named Franklin, a man who longs to introduce the world to the wonders of sushi. After some convincing, Musashi decides to dismantle the sushi-hoarding Empire and help spread the tasty food throughout the land. Unfortunately, Franklin gets arrested by the Empire for his rebellious plot, prompting Musashi (and his trusty Sushi Sprite sidekicks) to embark on a quest to join up with the Sushi Liberation Front, free Franklin, and completely destroy the Empire. Along the way, players will face around 150 challenges, including several characters who seem overly obsessed with working out. Even after you finish the story, there’s plenty of stuff to keep you occupied for several hours — especially if you’re obsessed with getting an S rank and three stars on each encounter.
Does all of this sound a little overwhelming? Well, it kind of is. Thankfully, Sushi Striker introduces its story and gameplay elements piece by piece. And if you’re having difficulty grasping a particular mechanic, you can replay the tutorial levels as many times as you wish. You’re always encouraged to move forward, but you can progress through the levels and challenges at your own pace. And by going back to previous levels to brush up on your skills, you’ll level up Musashi and his/her adorable Pokemon-esque Sushi Sprites at the same time. Grinding completed levels also gives you a chance to get a hang of those wonky controls before getting to the harder stuff. I haven’t played the 3DS version of the game, but I have a strong feeling that it plays much better on that handheld than the Switch.
Trying to create an original, inventive match game these days seems like an impossibility, but Nintendo and Indieszero have managed to do just that with Sushi Striker. Sure, it’s essentially nothing you haven’t seen before, but it takes that familiar concept and tosses it into a zany, colorful world filled with intriguing characters and, more importantly, challenging gameplay. While most puzzle games are light on content, Sushi Striker comes packed with stuff to do, from completing the storyline and collecting Sushi Sprites to leveling up Musashi and his companions. The finicky controls do have a tendency to make things more difficult on occasion, they don’t completely break the game. Given the number of games released on a monthly basis, outshining the competition on the Switch requires some finesse. That said, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido has more than enough personality and quirkiness to stand above like-minded puzzlers. I doubt this one will ever leave my Switch.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Nintendo.
Despite some wonky controls, Sushi Striker's insanely colorful presentation and stable of silly characters make it one of the strongest puzzle games currently available on the Nintendo Switch.