Strider — Does it hold up?
Last year, Square Enix and developer feelplus released Moon Diver, a spiritual successor to Strider, the classic hack-and-slash arcade title that would go on to feature multiple ports, including a successful Sega Genesis iteration. I never played Strider, but I did slice my way through Moon Diver. That game, while certainly nowhere close to perfect or even great, was a fun, mindless romp through futuristic environments. I had heard so much about Strider, though, that I always wanted to experience what was considered a revered classic.
A short while back, Strider was finally released on the Wii Virtual Console. I was very intrigued by the game's addition to the old school library of digital hits, so I downloaded it without hesitation, expecting an enjoyable retro adventure. And where Moon Diver was a bit tedious due to the insane amount of mandatory level grinding, I was hoping Strider would be a much more simple yet captivating action game that would provide me with an awesome dose of hacking and slashing.
Now, before you start flinging proverbial poo at me for not liking such a beloved title, you need to understand that the name of this feature is does it hold up?, not if you loved it back in the day, you need to love it now. I didn't have to play Strider during its heyday to understand its greatness — I'm merely revisiting a classic to see if it withstands the test of time. And as much as it pains me to say it — because I really wanted to like Strider — this iconic Genesis game does not hold up.
But where do we begin? Okay, let's discuss the gameplay. Strider is slow and uninteresting. Yes, it may have been one hell of an addictive hack-and-slash back in the day, but it is just too sluggish these days. Your character can't run, walking uphill is a taxing affair, and combat is mind-numbingly repetitive. There are some power-ups that add a bit of flavor to what is an otherwise stale game, but they don't add much.
Additionally, Strider suffers from a lot of the problematic contrivances that plagued a lot of bad retro games. It's already hard to navigate around the levels due to the ridiculously slow movement, but when touching an enemy tosses your character around, well, like the proverbial piles of poo that I assume any fan of the game is tossing at me right now, it's not a pretty sight, and it's more an exercise in frustration than any meaningful experience, really.
But Strider is also an exercise in boredom. The game never really picks up, and I simply could not enjoy it due to how monotonous it was. As a huge fan of retro games, I absolutely hate sh*tting all over the classics, but Strider has simply not withstood the test of time. When it launched, it was a game that allowed console owners to enjoy what was originally an awesome arcade experience. These days, it's a title that will be looked back at with nostalgic appreciation by those who loved it, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good game.
Like the gameplay, the visual presentation in Strider falls flat. I won't go on some tirade about how this is the worst game I've ever seen, because it's not. I will, however, say that the graphical style isn't all that nice to look at these days. The music is probably the best aspect of Strider, and I can't even sing its praises all that much, to be quite honest. There are a few catchy tunes, and the theme that plays when you clear a stage is great, but most of the sound design in Strider is too over-the-top or too weird.
Ultimately, Strider is a game for fans of its original release. The Virtual Console version is a direct port of the Genesis port, which is to say it features all of the quirks of the original such as sprite flicker when too many baddies are onscreen and split second pauses in the action to load up the next area or boss character. It's upsetting that a game I was actually really stoked to play was such a huge letdown. Moon Diver isn't amazing, but it's more fun than Strider, and it's a lot easier to recommend. Nostalgia doesn't save this classic from feeling archaic.
The verdict: The Sega Genesis version of Strider does not hold up. If you were a fan of the game's original release, you may find some nostalgic enjoyment here. Otherwise, stay away and let this cherished hack-and-slash title remain awesome through word of mouth.