Sushi Ben Review: A VR Manga Adventure With Plenty Of Heart

Making little secret of its manga inspirations, Sushi Ben delivers a story-rich VR adventure packed with personality. Read on for our full review.

I didn’t expect to be reminded of Animal Crossing when I began. Reminiscent of Nintendo’s social sim, Sushi Ben starts with a simple conversation as you leave your old life behind for new adventures in Kotobuki Town. Only, it wasn’t Rover striking up a casual chat on public transport this time — oh no. Greeted by a surprisingly buff elderly hermit, I immediately knew what I was getting in for.



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Sushi Ben – The Facts
What is it?: A single-player slice-of-life 3D narrative adventure game inspired by anime.
Platforms: Quest, Viveport, PSVR 2 (reviewed on Quest & PSVR 2)
Release Date: Out now
Developer: Big Brane Studio
Price: $25

The next seven hours felt like I’d been transported directly inside a manga and what follows is the classic underdog story of a local community fighting to save its existence. Upon visiting the local sushi bar, you discover that the whole town is being threatened by some unscrupulous land buyers, who are trying to force Ben into selling up. Our mission soon becomes clear and though the premise is a little cliched, that honestly doesn’t matter when it’s such a pleasantly lighthearted tale.

Saving the sushi bar involves re-establishing the supply chain and convincing locals to visit the restaurant. That’s usually achieved by exploring the town and completing a nice range of minigames. Fishing adds a more personal touch to each quest, usually tasking you with finding someone’s seafood of choice, requiring you to control the rod and manually reel your catch in.

Walking a shibe around this colorful town was equally enjoyable for different reasons, though others like bug catching, table tennis, and ghost hunting don’t have tremendous depth. This isn’t a major problem though; Sushi Ben lets you activate a ‘Story Mode’ that skips these minigames, so you can continue without any issue. I’m told these minigames will be updated with “additional depth” but presently, most of them aren’t particularly remarkable.

Where Sushi Ben truly shines with its strong cast, humor, and story. Between the powerful but surprisingly sweet farmer who can communicate with animals, the local American who takes table tennis far too seriously, and Pot-chan, the post office’s pigeon that goes around making deliveries, Kotobuki Town is host to a hilarious group of residents with endearing personalities.

The expressive presentation largely assists in this. I do wish there was more to do across this open world but exploring Kotobuki Town feels peaceful and Sushi Ben’s heavily stylized visuals are a delight to witness, with the 3D manga-esque panels adding further character to an already rich narrative. As someone who’s spent considerable time reading manga and watching anime, I appreciated this greatly and that’s helped by enjoyable Japanese voice acting.

Comfort

Sushi Ben uses artificial stick-based locomotion – based on either your hand or your head direction, and teleportation movement. Walking speed can be adjusted. Smooth and snap camera turning are both supported with adjustable rotation speed or adjustable degrees, respectively. A seated mode is available with a seated height slider.

Dialogue can be auto-played without button inputs, and you can select English or Japanese voice acting. Dialogue boxes can be moved and resized at will during cutscenes for better visual accessibility. Controller vibrations can be turned off and your watch can be set to your left or right hand.

My biggest criticism is the ending. Without any spoilers, Sushi Ben ends in a dramatic fashion that feels more like a halfway point than a natural conclusion. The game itself acknowledges this is as far as we can go “for now” and that’s left me wanting more. How this tale will continue is currently unknown and once you’ve reached the end, you can keep exploring the town.

This does little to diminish the wider experience, though, and Sushi Ben holds up well across each platform I’ve tested, though a few differences are worth noting. Quest 3 benefits from 90fps performance compared to 72fps on Quest 2, and Quest Pro uses eye-tracking for dynamic foveated rendering. PSVR 2’s sharper visuals and native 120fps performance make Sony’s headset a strong pick, but no matter your hardware, it looks great all around.

Sushi Ben – Final Verdict

Sushi Ben is an impressive effort from Big Brane Studios, one that delivers a heartwarming tale filled with great humor and a charming cast. The basic minigames, sudden ending, and quiet open world let this down, though the expressive manga-inspired presentation delivers one of the most visually distinctive VR adventures in recent memory. If you’re searching for a new VR narrative adventure, Sushi Ben comes recommended.

UploadVR uses a 5-Star rating system for our game reviews – you can read a breakdown of each star rating in our review guidelines.

UploadVR uses a 5-Star rating system for our game reviews – you can read a breakdown of each star rating in our review guidelines.

Editor’s note: Big Brane Studios is planning future Sushi Ben updates that include “adaptive trigger and headset vibration support for PS VR 2, additional depth to the mini-games, bug fixes, and full localization of the story into a variety of languages.” While we feel confident in awarding a star rating at this time, we’ll revisit this review once these changes are live.

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