One can’t bring up the past without forgetting all the wack sh*t. Oh, you didn’t know? That’s how nostalgia works across the board, especially in video games.
Memories of the Strider games lie on positive side of things by a contingent of older gamers. Fans often revisit the arcade version’s ill intro, the NES’s wildly different design and the games’ steep difficulty. Double Helix’s quickly becoming a master remixer what with Killer Instinct’s revival on Xbox One. Their latest work on Strider (PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360) proves their clout: enabling the to slide past “one-hit wonder” status with ease.
Strider‘s story matters as much as it did in the late ’80s. There’s no need to mind the plot outside of a few purposefully corny cutscenes. Heads just need to know it’s ON once Hiryu touches down from his hand glider.
Know Your Roots
Strider could host a style-over-substance combo system, boring level design and weak opposition. Gamers have seen this recipe for action games so many times already so the assumptions seem about right. Well Strider isn’t about the bullsh*t, folks. The game’s cognizant of its beginnings, understands its 2014 and finds a medium between being mostly fair without sacrificing its learning curve.
“Metrovania” becomes the convenient buzzword describing Strider‘s level layout. Yet, to be fair, the game’s design bears resemblance to the NES version. Back-tracking comes with the territory but so does exploration, lovely upgrades and a huge playground with tight controls at your fingertips.
Players may feel arrogant in the early going, eating bullets while indiscriminately cutting fools down. Then, when the game ramps up soon afterwards, gamers learn hard lessons in how to approach fights. Dodging via jumping and sliding quickly become just as necessary as swinging that cipher since Hiryu can’t block. There’s no regenerating life although health from slain foes and items lie about. At the same time there’s not enough to make up for poor fighting: especially when players move far from recharge stations.
Cut The Crap
Strider‘s pace dictates quick reactions and feels great once you get the mechanics down. A state of neckbeard zen takes over once you master Cipher switching, Options and evading all while taking out a screen’s worth of enemies. The controller gets a good workout but mindless button mashing leads to death. Then, when enough consecutive hits nets Bezerk mode, a beautiful symphony of charged ciphers befalls anyone on the wrong end of your wrath.
Said touches make Strider‘s style of play gratifying while understanding the series’ foundation. The franchise’s name carries expectations of swiftly pushing through waves of enemies rather than stringing hits on one character repeatedly just because it looks cool. The tradition remains intact plus its mechanics work and prove Double Helix made the right call in keeping things in 2-D.
Oh, and the soundtrack here is jammin’. Strider fans WILL get a kick out of all the remix tracks from the series’ Nintendo and Arcade/Genesis outings. They’re mixed a tad too low but a quick visit to the audio settings remedies the oversight.
Strider performs best on PS4, Xbox One and an equivalent PC. The higher framerate on the aforementioned platforms presents a more fluid experience. Animations, colors and particle effects really pop in HD as well. PS3’s and Xbox 360’s versions, while playable, look pedestrian by comparison.
Strider‘s short on flaws but a couple design choices don’t make sense. It’s world is pretty big but getting from one point to another isn’t as easy as using a hub. Players must travel on foot to get to anywhere: save for a few teleports. Meanwhile, NES’s Strider let players beam to any area they already discovered.
The lacking travel system comes across as a sideways means to extend Strider‘s runtime. Enemies repopulate stupidly fast as well which can simply getting from A to B harder than necessary. Never mind there’s really no excuse for a nearly 30-year-old game to have better fast travel options than a brand new one.
Later bosses’ patterns carry their old-world ways with a few cheap tactics to take large chunks of life. They’re all beatable if you’ve developed a tolerance for split-second timing in games. However, if you’re the type to rage, you better get your woosah routine ready for the struggle ahead.
Platforming gets a little creative when Hiryu has to scale walls, ceilings and encounter gravity-defying segments. Then again the jumping puzzles never reach the same highs as the fights. Additionally, the catapult upgrade enables quadruple-jumps and ice kunai freeze airborne enemies into temporary platforms to jump from. The game’s level design rarely calls for them which comes across as unfortunate. Strider misses an opportunity to really push gamers outside of combat here. The oversight’s nowhere near game-breaking, though.
“I Got You!”
Strider‘s one of the best exhibitions of a comeback done right. What’s even greater is players don’t have to be acquainted with the series at all. They can just hop in and get in on the fun because, fan service aside, it’s a good game at its core. A $15 price tag for an 8-10 hour run on normal with no new game+ sounds like a tall order. Yet, honestly, the ride’s too fun to pass up for anyone craving a challenge.