I have fond memories of the MegaDrive version of the original Strider, though I don’t think I ever ended up finishing it back when I was a kid. Unlike many of Capcom’s franchises from the time, Strider is one that hasn’t come back all that often, with the only Capcom made sequel coming out during the era of the original PlayStation. Strider Hiryu, the main character of the series, did however make an appearance in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a couple of years ago, bringing him back into the spotlight a little.
Unlike the 2.5D remakes of Bionic Commando and Duck Tales, Strider is a completely new game that acts as a reboot of the series. While retelling the basic plot of the original game, it features completely new level designs, a wider range of enemies and new powers and skills.
The range of enemies you fight is quite wide. While the majority of them are basic soldiers or robot drones, there are also soldiers with rocket launchers and shields, weird sewer monster things, zombies, mech suits and robot snakes, as well as the oddball characters (that all get an introduction screen) that make up the bosses throughout the game.
As you progress through the game you will increase Hiryu’s skills through plasma upgrades that change your attack type (standard, fire, ice and.. weird electric thing), increase your maximum health and attack and extra special attacks such as the Options A-C super powers and the kunai throwing knives. Hiryu also gains some additional movement upgrades with a double jump and teleport boost. It’s all paced well so that each new area you go to you get a cool new toy to blow things up with and get to the next area and so on. Finally, there are hidden collectables that unlock behind the scenes content as well as fallen Striders (with an 8-bit style icon) for different costume colours.
For the most part the game looks great. Hiryu moves very fluidly, and his attacks in particular are bright and colourful, often contrasting with the surroundings and enemies. Most of the grunt level enemies are pretty standard, but the bosses and robots are also well designed and quite cool. The backgrounds in particular are quite impressive, with some areas being able to switch between planes and you moving into the background. Many of the areas in the game have a lot of background details too, with the starting area having a city filled with classic Russian style buildings many rows deep. There are also subways with trains running through them (and occassionally coming out into the screen) and a brightly lit underground city. Other areas include a military base, crazy science laboratories and a flying fortress. The character models aren’t quite as good up close however, and the animation in the story portions of the game is very early 2000s.
While the map is significantly better than Arkham Origins, it does still have a couple of slight annoyances. Unlike most Metroidvanias, not all of the collectable items that you come close to but can’t reach are tagged on the map, so it’s fairly easy to miss them. The map also doesn’t indicate which areas link to where, so one area can have several exits to other areas, but there is no way of knowing which is which unless you remember from the first time through or by trial and error which results in a lot of backtracking. Neither of these things are too much of an issue while playing through the story, however if you like to track down all of the collectables like I do it does make it a bit more frustrating.
The audio is a bit of a mixed bag. The music mostly consists of remixes of the original game’s music, and these are on the large pretty decent but most of the rest of the music is rather standard and not at all memorable. The sound effects are totally serviceable but nothing terribly noteworthy, but the voice acting is pretty dire. Dodgy accents and stilted sentences pepper the few cutscenes which makes them feel (perhaps intentionally) like a bit of a throwback to the early days of badly translated games, but luckily these are fairly uncommon.
Most important with a game like this though are the controls. A fast paced action game can completely fall apart with a subpar control set, and thankfully that isn’t the case here. The controls are tight and accurate, and I don’t think I ever once got annoyed with the game Hiryu not moving to where I’d wanted him to. He's very agile, and can scale or climb across almost any surface in the game as well as darting around quickly on foot, which adds a lot to the sense of exploration especially when you have to combine several moves to make it through an area. As you acquire and learn all of Hiryu’s powers the game feels even better, and towards the end you begin to feel almost invincible, particularly when you return to earlier areas to progress to somewhere you previously had been unable to access and literally plow through enemies without difficulty.
Strider is probably one of the most simply fun games that I’ve played in a while, and I’d very much recommend it to pretty much anyone who enjoys fast paced action games.
Strider is out now on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.