Review

Strider

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Originally appearing in videogame form in the arcades in 1989, with a follow-up on the NES and sequels on various platforms in 1990 and 1999, Strider fans would have been pleased to find out that they wouldn’t have to wait another decade to get a new game in the series thanks to a collaboration between Capcom and Double Helix, resulting in the reboot – or re-imagining – of the first Strider title all those years ago.

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What You Need to Know

As a 2D side-scrolling action platformer, you’ll once again get to control our hero, Strider Hiryu, one of supposedly many ninja-like ‘Striders’ who have undergone rigorous combat training to take on secretive and dangerous missions around the world, using speed, swordplay and high-tech weaponry to get the job done.

In Hiryu’s case, he must travel to Kazakh City (modelled after communist USSR) and remove the region’s despotic ruler, Grandmaster Meio, with a little help from the underground (literally) resistance, but not before encountering and defeating Meio’s many and varied protectors, including a group of mystical sisters, a mech-driving general and jetpack-wearing bounty hunter, all imbued with character and fighting ability of their own

Strider plays out in classic ‘MetroidVania’ style, where certain areas are locked until you find a specific weapon or ability that will help you progress through a previously blocked path, with a handy 2D on-screen map to show you where you’ve been and where abilities might be used. These abilities will then further help you solve puzzles and defeat newly introduced enemies as you progress.

As a reward for exploring the generally massive maps, there are also a good number of secrets to discover that make meaningful changes to your fighting prowess, including health and energy upgrades to move these bars closer towards the maximum.

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What’s New?

Not only does Strider include the ability to climb (almost) any wall and ceiling in (almost) any environment, these techniques soon become essential to surviving combat encounters with the mechanical soldiers, rocket-shooting robotic beasts, hard-shelled acid-spitting beetles and laser-shooting drones that will do their utmost to keep you from progressing.

Navigation and jumping puzzles, too, will rely on your ability to leap from the floor to a moving vertical platform down to a moving horizontal platform, before using your dash skill to travel over the length of a deadly laser to find a gap to drop through… it may sound complicated, but Strider introduces these skills (and more difficult moments) at a good pace, which means you’ll be ready for them when you get there (and feel great completing these challenges).

What’s the Same?

The side-scrolling nature of Strider will be instantly familiar to fans of the action platformer, while a bit of light backtracking is mostly reminiscent of classic Metroid and Castlevania games. In most cases in Strider, though, the feeling of infinite regression fortunately only just manages to creep in before you’re introduced to a new ability or area to freshen up navigation and combat again.

You’ll Enjoy Strider If You Liked…

… Super Metroid

… Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

… the feeling of slicing through enemies in Ninja Gaiden (except with a fraction of the difficulty)



What I Liked

- 5.) I enjoy exploring expansive environments to look for secrets, so seeing how far I had to go until I reached the next objective (with a handy distance reminder) let me go in the complete opposite direction to look around and then get back on track again immediately.

- 4.) On PlayStation 4, Strider plays very smoothly and responsively meaning sword swipes, precise double-jumps, Kunai throws, dashes and charged attacks all executed the split-second I needed them, while incredibly detailed background areas stretched out into the distance to give a sense of a much larger world beyond the plane I was running along.

- 3.) Most of the main bosses (and a few level protectors) were fun to fight against, each possessing a larger-than-life quality to make them at least a little endearing, while some bosses actually are larger-than-life, including a flying mechanical dragon that was just one of the first bosses I faced along my journey.

- 2.) All of the additional abilities I learned throughout Strider made significant changes to combat, and by the end, I had amassed an excellent set of new tools with which to deal out destruction, like a soaring eagle comprising damaging energy (still my favourite), a rampaging panther (also made up of energy) and the Kunai (throwing stars, or shuriken) for ranged attacks.

- 1.) The ability to swiftly run and slice my way through enemies without stopping was introduced right from the beginning of Strider, but the exhilarating feeling of this simple action continued throughout, reinforced with additional skills along the way to give me ultimate control over Hiryu and combat encounters.

Favourite Moment

Perhaps because they were the most different from the rest of the game (and because I wished they had been used more), the areas of Strider that made use of anti-gravity (or stronger gravity on different surfaces) were really fun to play through and made jumping from floating gravity orbs and around rooms (while still fighting) an enjoyable test of my platforming skills.



What I Didn’t Like

- 5.) It may be a very minor complaint, but I would have liked the camera to move just a little further when I was panning around while in-game – it often felt as though I was making leaps of faith down into unknown parts of the level without knowledge of the dangers to come.

- 4.) Strider’s character voice acting, while not devoid of personality, does push the boundaries of what I consider to be ‘charm’ into the realms of ‘unbearable.’

- 3.) I often found the game to be just on the verge of becoming repetitive before new enemies, abilities and areas were introduced, which had an affect on my decision to continue with a play session or take an extended break in the face of ‘more of the same.’

- 2.) The story of Strider plays out very unevenly, with the first cut-scenes and talking characters only being introduced well into the game, and the first time that Strider Hiryu actually talks is probably only an hour and a half in, leaving motivations and plot to be discovered rather late.

- 1.) Controls can sometimes be a little finicky, with a few instances where Hiryu didn’t connect with a climbable wall or ceiling when I thought he should have, while mobility off of a wall or ceiling at times feels limited – I personally would have liked a dedicated drop or cancel button instead of pressing down and jump to detach.

Least Favourite Moments

While feeling stuck to a wall or ceiling when trying to fend off melee and ranged attacks was frustrating at times, there are areas of Strider in which you’ll need to fight off waves of enemies in a series of ‘test programmes’ being run by the facility, which ultimately seemed as though they had been included to pad out the game’s length.


Strider Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Once you’re done with the core six-hour campaign (give or take depending on your affinity for secrets and exploration), you’ll be able to challenge your skills in special challenge modes to either survive against waves of enemies, or run through a level as quickly as possible, with your achievements posted to a global leaderboard.

There are also loads of secrets to find to improve your health and energy bars, but you’ll also unlock new costumes for Strider (each with special abilities), as well as concept art and additional intelligence on enemies and areas.

The Bottom Line

Strider is a smartly re-imagined return of a fan-favourite series, with responsive controls, an expansive world and slick visuals to bring it solidly into the modern era of gaming.


Strider was reviewed on PlayStation 4


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