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Review: Strider (2014)

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strider_boxYet another in a long line of modern re-hashes on cult favorites, I went into Strider with a bit more optimism than than other titles to date.  Aside from spruced up graphics the game appeared to be faithful to the arcade original, which my retrospective and the podcast last week contested is the best iteration of the series.  Couple that with the development being handled by Double Helix – a very popular developer with success not only in Killer Instinct 3, but also was purchased by Amazon for an unannounced project – and the open map MetroidVania game design, things were shaping up to success.  Having completed the game, I must admit that just like the anomaly of the original, Strider is a melting pot of prior series staples that gets it right from start to finish.

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The scale of the overall world is massive and can be stunning.

If you sit still too long in the original arcade game, you will die.  Best laid plans are to push forward (ie: to the right) and just attack anything in your path while trying not to fall off a ledge.  In the new game that theme is aggressively applied with herds of enemies so thick they will literally be a blocking point for you at times in the game.  As a member of the Strider clan, Hiryu is able to cut down most adversaries with the greatest of ease and the balance between enemy hit points and his acrobatic abilities result in a fast paced romp.  I never had down time in Strider and felt like a masterful ninja with frantic but controlled moves as I navigated the game’s massive map.  While I can concede to the basic MetroidVania label, I would say the game more closely resembles Rondo of Blood rather than the hybrid genre.  Even when you have a full moves list at your disposal these hiding places are more off the beaten path rather than the wide open areas you uncover in other titles of the genre.  What results is a game that is more linear than anything else, and despite it being a huge map the development team broke it up into different areas complete with a boss battle and new weapon at the core, so basically it’s just like having levels that you can return to.  Strider is no stranger to this method of map design, the original NES title was quite similar and a small following prefer it to the traditional “run to the right” design of the arcade title.  In the end I grew tired of looking too hard for too much because I was having such a blast following the marker to the next step of the main mission that I played it exactly like a linear game.

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Two bosses on opposing sides are no problem for Hiryu.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

Strider Retrospective

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Strider_Hiryu_arcade_flyer

Starting today the reboot of Strider hits home consoles and PCs as developer Double Helix attempts to capture the charm that came with the original’s dedicated cult following.  When I try to look back at Strider – and yes I grew up playing every version from the arcade at my local bowling alley that was ported to the Genesis along with the completely different NES version – it’s hard to see what exactly needs to be in the new game.  Still, there’s no denying the hardcore appeal of this unique and odd addition to classic gaming that justifies looking back for those that didn’t grow up with it.

Strider_1If you haven’t played it, the original arcade version of Strider is all over the place.  There are multiple languages, settings across the globe, massive mechanical ape bosses, and even lead protagonist Hiryu riding on a whale at the end.  As one of the pioneer titles of Capcom’s new CP arcade platform – think of it as a cartridge-based cabinet that allowed quick swapping of games with only a few ROM changes – the graphics are indicative of the cartoon style all CP titles shared (ie: Ghouls’n GhostsWillow, and of course Final Fight).  Graphics aside, the game is also noted for its crazy gameplay that features hanging from walls and ceilings, fighting massive enemies, and reversed gravity.  To accompany this eclectic melting pot was an equally frantic soundtrack that covered all the bases from electronic progressive music to ambient classical style.  While the soundtrack is uncredited to original composer Junko Tamiya (she also did the solid NES version of Bionic Commando as well as my personal favorite Sweet Home), the original versions of the arcade game didn’t feature the Aerial Battleship or Third Moon stages (replaced instead by the first stage music on a loop) so it can be deduced that someone went back and composed those additional tunes.  While the game itself covers a scant five stages that will take the average person probably 60-90 minutes in total (pros can do it in half that time) the high difficulty and game design that was more indicative of home consoles was fresh.  Instead of trying to rack up a high score or conquer a single mechanic over and over you were progressing through brutally difficult levels with the carrot on the stick being that provided you could afford to continue as many times as it took, you could see the ending.  This is why most people who play it today will either set it to free play on the cabinet or emulator and also explains why the PS1 port flat-out gave you unlimited continues.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm