Strider PC Review
Strider is a series that has managed to elude me until now. I knew of the character, thanks to his appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but I had never played any of the games he featured in. Strider has been dormant for quite a while in Capcom’s licence storeroom, since the last title was released way back in 2000 for Sony’s PlayStation. Capcom felt it was time to bring the high-tech ninja back to star in his own game, and offered to let Double Helix get their grubby fingers on the licence. In a pre-Killer Instinct time, I would be worried, especially after seeing what they did to the Front Mission series, but it seems Double Helix has finally discovered themselves, because Strider is another solid download only game that brings the series into modern gaming.
There’s not much of a plot in this Strider reboot, with the story echoing what happens in first Strider game. This means that Strider Hiryu has been sent into some Russian inspired location to put an end to the reigning ruler, one Grandmaster Meio, and his crazy plot to remove all the imperfect human beings. It’s excessively ludicrous, but it’s used as a means to get Strider to hang glide into the city and start kicking arse and taking names, so that’s fine by me.
The game immediately places you in the action, and the sense of speed that comes with controlling Strider is incredibly fluid and fast. The developers say that he moves at eight times the speed of the original game. While I can’t accurately prove if that is the case, there’s no doubt that this game moves are hyper speed. What makes this high-speed action enjoyable is that it’s really easy to play as Strider; it just feels awesome being this blue ninja who is freaking fast at taking down soldiers with quick swipes of his plasma-generating blade, Cypher, which seems to represent a slash for every button tap I pressed. I assure you, there’s lots of pressing X and slashing foes in this game. He also has the ability to jump in amusing cartwheel fashion and can hike virtually any surfaces reachable to him, thanks to his climbing hook.
Double Helix has seen it fit to evolve Strider from the roots of simple platforming and turn the game into a “metroidvania.” There’s still plenty of platforming and hiking, but now it comes with the openness that a side-scrolling adventure includes. It contains all the trademarks of the well-established sub-genre, such as unlocking additional weapons and finding upgrades, but also includes content that isn’t helpful to the gameplay, like finding concept art and enemy files tuck away in every little corner of the world.
The pacing of Strider is excellent, with a new ability or power-up (the typical extra health block or energy block always featured in “metroidvania” games) often within the reach of each of one another before you finish watching an episode of your favourite anime. It’s this constant feeling of discovery of new items that keeps Strider interesting from beginning to end, which will roughly last between four to six hours, depending on how deep you go into finding every last hidden secret from the game’s nine main sections that make up the complete city.
While Strider can fend off starting enemies with his quick blade swipes with ease, as the game progresses further the enemies begin to get harder and require new ways to beat them. That’s where finding all the new power ups help Strider overcome these obstacles by extending his killing repertoire. By the time the game is over, you’ll have three special abilities, called options, that involve using a block of the energy metre to summon either a hawk that swoops down to deal damage, casts a couple of Dipodal Saucers that shoot energy balls out with each slash, and lastly, be able to summon an energy jaguar that will run around the ground dealing damage to any enemies it touches.
New moves aren’t limited to energy usage, as Strider will gain three plasma coloured attacks that are based on elements. The standard red blade can reflect bullets back at enemies, the orange blade sets ablaze anything it touches, while blue plasma freezes enemies, and purple slashes at a slower rate, but throws out boomerangs that spin around automatically, then return back to Strider. These colours are coded to lock doors, requiring the acquisition of them to unlock whatever lies behind said door. Enemies do also like to get in the way of Strider by using colour coded shields that are smashed open by the right colour, or that, in some instances, will require a charge swipe to crack through their armour.
If there was one issue with the frenzied combat, it’s that I often found myself mindlessly hacking through most enemies. This is due to the game being incredible easy on the normal setting. This could have been deliberately done to allow newcomers to the genre to enjoy the game on the standard setting – there’s so much free health scattered around to pick up – but then that makes no sense to why the last few bosses suddenly get a rise in difficulty, but the rest of the enemies don’t. It’s this inconsistency that makes it feel like Strider suddenly drove a high-performance car straight into a brick wall at maximum speed. They’re not impossible hard, but it’s obvious to see where the jump in difficulty starts when you suddenly actually start dying. And when you do, it’s often.
The environment isn’t all that varied in design. I mentioned something similar with my recent review of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, in which I stated that game didn’t feel like its world was as organically connected as say Metroid Prime. While this isn’t exactly the case with Strider, it does have a problem with the environments being too similar, to the point they blend together as one. What they have crafted does look fantastic, with the awesome mixture of light-cel shading art to display a striking and unique visual style, but the backgrounds are plain looking interiors that are heavily focused on industrial themes. It’s rare to find yourself truly amazed at some of the environment designs, but you do sometimes find yourself getting excited at what you do in them, such as spinning around a few anti-gravity globes that gives off a sense that it is some sort of demo for a 2D Super Mario Galaxy, or jumping across platforms high in the sky when assaulting the air ship. It’s also never confusing to find where you need to go, thanks to a very helpful map and arrow that clearly points exactly where you need to travel.
The return of Strider is a rather good take on the series, evolving from traditional platforming to bring a deeper infusion of gameplay. It’s not an exceptional title that should be on everyone’s to-buy list, but should be looked at as a game that offers a user friendly take on the “metroidvania” formula, while offering some incredibly fast-paced ninja action. Signs of greatness lie hidden in Strider that could grow if Capcom decide to offer someone the chance to evolve the reboot. For now, if you don’t mind a world that’s full of rather bland environments, feeling contradictory to the game’s intense, blistering action, then jumping into the ninja boots of Strider is sure to supply a fun afternoon or two.