Strider Review: Twenty-five years has done Hiryu good
This may show my age, but I played the hell out of the original Nintendo version of Strider back in 1989. I have fond memories crescent slashing my way through compounds and pyramids to slide through tubes and kill strange alien like computer things. Sure, I missed the Sega Genesis version with the hilarious acrobatic jumping and poor frame rate, but maybe I'll get to that someday. It’s about damn time they rebooted this series, though.
Double Helix Games and Capcom’s Osaka studio have done just that. On February 18th, Strider came out on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. Hiryu is back in some side-scrolling and platforming action. I’d consider this game in the Metroidvania-light category. While there is clearly some gear gating going on, the ‘gates’ are always introduced in the level you need to start using them in. As soon as you beat a boss and get a new upgrade, you’re going to want to go back and bust through those gates. This is where you’ll find the majority of secret items and hidden goodies.
Right off the bat, there isn’t any sort of tutorial or other means of hand holding. The gameplay itself is all the tutorial you’ll need. With limited buttons and abilities from the start, you’ll learn everything you’ll ever need to know as you go. Don’t confuse limited controls with simplicity though. Controlling Hiryu feels great, responsive, and fluid. The directional pad gives you variety in which direction your swipes go giving you massive variety on attacks and range. Jumping, wall-climbing, ceiling-climbing, and sliding are simple and effective for dodging or closing gaps. Strider has come a long way since knee high marching he used to do back in the late '80s.
Since the game is an arcadeish, side-scrolling, platformer, hack and slasher – having solid controls is the most important aspect of the game. Since Strider nails this so beautifully, the gameplay is a blast. Traversing through Kazakh City on the hunt to assassinate Grandmaster Meio is a pleasure. There is more than just crescent slashing everything in your path. Hiryu learns techniques such as harder/longer crescent slashes, reflecting projectiles, tossing knives, and firing a goddamned eagle at foes. Different foes will be susceptible to different attacks forcing you to mix it up as you go. In all honestly though, this is a where much of the fun comes from.
The graphics and backdrops are both simple and effective. They are minimalistic, doing only what they need to. Through colorization and lighting, Strider has a certain charm in the way it tells players where to go, how to defeat certain foes, and where there could be a possible secret. As you unlock cyphers, you can even obtain hints via Hiryu’s scarf changinf color (hint: use the cold cypher). Hiryu himself looks absolutely amazing. The soundtrack plays tribute to the original games with themes and variations and you should definitely keep your ears open while playing.
As far as challenge goes, there's a powerful juxtaposition between being mindless and being difficult. On normal difficulty, certain bosses will take a bit of learning, but sometimes become normal enemies once you defeat them. As you learn new tricks, so do your foes. Often new moves mean you’ll be forced to use them just to defeat the average riff raff. You can’t just zone out of the massive slaughter. If you don't execute the right attacks, you'll take damage quickly. Dying will send you back to your last check point, and no one wants that.
Once you finish the game, you’re going to want to explore the challenges modes. Through survival and beacon runs, you’ll be able to test your skills in arcade advancement and time trial type modes to compete with other players through leaderboards. Survival involves combat skills and beacon mode tests your agility and platforming skills. Normally I wouldn’t be a fan of these types of modes, but the control for Hiryu is so damn fluid, that I strongly suggest you give it a whirl.
All in all, if you’re a fan of the Strider franchise or just are looking for a fun to play action-platformer, I strongly suggest picking up the new Strider. It’s out on so many different consoles, so there's no excuse not to give it a try. At 4-6 hours of gameplay your first run, plus all the challenge modes, the $14.99 price tag is very reasonable. The game can definitely feel repetitive but you can always mix up your play style, and there's plenty of room for variety. Did I mention the controls are great?