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Review

Strider Review

Eagle-y the best futuristic ninja in town.

To those of us of a certain age, Strider is a name likely to evoke some fond gaming memories. Capcom’s arcade classic made the transition, in many forms and states of completeness, to a multitude of home gaming systems but the one I personally knew the best also happened to be the one that is widely accepted as the best – the Megadrive version.

That version was close to the arcade original and this also seems to be the basis for this 2014 remake from Capcom’s Osaka studio and Double Helix – a developer who made Killer Instinct for the Xbox One and were recently bought by Amazon.

The premise is fairly simple – you’re Hiryu, the youngest ever graduate into the Strider organisation of ninja-like assassins. You’ve been sent, on your bird-like glider, to the dystopian city-state of Kazakh in order to assassinate Grandmaster Meio and bring to an end his oppressive regime. You start the game with your trusty Cypher sword and a very limited set of abilities, but as you move onwards to your ultimate goal – a journey that lasts around five or six hours, although there’s a trophy for doing it in under four – Hiryu unlocks new abilities and more powerful or useful weapons.

This remake takes a few cues from the NES version too, in that there are “metroidvania” elements in the way you can explore the world map and gain access to new areas by unlocking new abilities. You’ll begin by gaining access to Hiryu’s iconic slide attack but there are also heavier sword attacks, charged attacks and various technologically-assisted attacks to be unlocked too. You can also add to your health bar, energy bar and recharge time, and unlock concept art and levels to play in the game’s challenge modes of play, outside the traditional story mode.

Those two new game modes are Beacon Run and Survival Mode. The first is a simple timed dash from point to point through an environment you encountered during the story mode, while Survival Mode is a wave-based attempt to survive increasingly difficult foes.

While the game starts out with a limited move-set, the difficulty of the foes you face are measured against this and you can simply charge into any situation mashing the button to swing your sword. As you level up your abilities, which are doled out at a pace considerate to the repetitive nature of the action, your enemies become harder to defeat and you’ll need to vary your attacks accordingly.

Except that there are health pickups everywhere and defeated enemies offer a little bit of restoration to your health and energy meters too, so although you’ll need to approach some situations accordingly, the game is never overly difficult, so long as you’re exploring a reasonable amount to find the upgrades – something that the original was well known for. One notable exception is the end sequence, where the enemies did seem to spike in difficulty and pose a real danger for the first time in the game. Perhaps that was an indication that I should have explored a little more and upgraded my own weaponry and health systems before facing the final stages of the game.

Something else the original is fondly remembered for is its boss battles. These crop up at a decent clip, and the most memorable from the arcade version are still there. There’s the giant robotic Chinese dragon and the mechanical ape-like enemies that have their own difficulty progression as you progress through each of the game’s four main areas. They’re very much faithful to the game’s roots too, being largely attack-pattern based examples that teach you when to wait, when to evade and when to attack.

During gameplay, it’s a great looking game too. The scarlet trail of Hiryu’s neon scarf and the glowing edge of his blade – different colours corresponding to the different earned abilities like bullet-deflect, fire and freezing – pop from the dark and oppressive backgrounds of Kazakh. The brightly coloured attacks and the more sparsely graduated shading of the resulting smoke create an interesting art style that’s a kind of mix of the arcade game beginnings for Strider and its Manga origins.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t entirely migrate to the elements of the game that aren’t playable. The unskippable cutscenes (which are often, frustratingly, just after a checkpoint) are clumsy, basic and poorly voiced, with character models and animations that look a little rough around the edges. Likewise, the user interface is not particularly successful at marrying the arcade simplicity and large-text stylings from its arcade influences to the bold outlines and drawn-backgrounds of its Manga influences – although it should perhaps be commended for trying.

There’s also a slight misstep in the way the game’s maps are handled. Rather than rely on one large-scale map as many similar games might, Kazakh is broken up into four distinct areas. Each area is only accessible via a long corridor or a trip on the game’s fast travel system, which is a kind of train line system whereby you catch a lift on a robotic eagle or panther from one stop to the next, rather than choosing your own destination. This means that backtracking to access previously unreachable areas – the door you can now phase-shift through or the spinning gateway you’re now able to freeze, for example – is less fluid and enjoyable as it could have been.

What’s Good:

  • Satisfyingly powerful upgrades and abilities.
  • Looks great while you’re playing.
  • Smart design and nostalgic elements.

What’s Bad:

  • Struggles to elevate itself above other examples in the genre.
  • It’s generally incredibly easy.
  • Voice acting and the unskippable cutscenes are poor.

Strider is an enjoyable game but it’s not one that particularly stands out against others of its type. It is cleverly designed, as this style of game must be, but not so much that it earns the right to sit alongside the genre’s ageing greats like Symphony of the Night and it’s not quite up to the complex replayability of modern classics like Shadow Complex. It’s a decent game that generally looks very nice and will while away a few hours, but you won’t be rushing to tell your friends about it and you might not want to return after completing it.

Score: 7/10

Version tested: PS4

10 Comments
  1. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Good review that, kinda makes me want to give it a try but it’s a little over priced for what it is I just know it’ll be on ps+ soon enough.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2014 at 16:38.
    • JesseDeya
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      Doesn’t it have to score over 80% to qualify for PS+? Currently sitting at 77%.

      Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 02:02.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        It used to be 70%, and since the addition of ModNation Racers on Vita, that seems to be a rule they’re happy to ignore.

        Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 10:47.
  2. double-o-dave
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    Doesn’t sound too bad but I think I might try and resurrect MacMame and give the original Strider a blast. Haven’t played it for years! From what I remember it was the dogs b*ll*cks, although I was probably only about 10 at the time.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2014 at 16:41.
    • double-o-dave
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      I wasn’t far off either… Just looked up the original release date… 1989.

      Comment posted on 20/02/2014 at 16:44.
  3. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I tried the PS4 demo last night, not bad at all but as you say nothing to make it really stand out either.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2014 at 16:51.
  4. Severn2j
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Does it feel like Strider when you’re playing it? I was a huge fan of both the original arcade and the mega drive version. As long as it feels right, I’m in.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2014 at 21:45.
  5. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    The original was just designed to steal your money, like all 80s/90s arcade machines. I for one am glad this is “easy”. But with Dust on Humble Bundle I think my money is already spent.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2014 at 23:12.
  6. lambchop
    Member
    Since: Aug 2013

    I’ll defo give this go when its a bit cheaper. There was a good co-op take on Strider on PSN a bit back, but I forget what it was called?…

    Comment posted on 21/02/2014 at 11:11.
    • Yorozuya
      Member
      Since: Dec 2013

      Moon something but it wasn’t great.

      Comment posted on 25/02/2014 at 04:36.

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