Strider Hiryu was one of Capcom’s many mascots back in the early nineties, making his way from the arcade to home consoles like the NES and Mega Drive. But not having his own game since Strider 2 in 1999 and only making sporadic appearances in the Marvel vs. Capcom series has seen Strider fade from most gamer’s memories. Enter Double Helix, hot off their Killer Instinct reboot, who are now attempting to revive Strider in a brand new game entitled… Strider. Can they recapture the old glory of the series? Let’s blow the dust off and find out.
The biggest change to the Strider formula here isn’t the eighth generation graphics or the new powerups and attacks, but the switch to the Metroidvania way of doing things. For those who aren’t aware, this approach to platform gaming (coined by the Metroid series and poularised by the Castlevania series) involves navigating a large map and revisiting old areas once equipped with the right weapon to open the doors or fight the enemies. It’s a simple yet addictive formula and has been seen in many modern games from Shadow Complex to Arkham Asylum.
Strider benefits greatly from this minor shift in genre, as I feel a simple hack and slash platformer may not have held my interest for as long. The map is big enough (and looks great zoomed out) and contains all the varied locales we’ve come to expect. The game certainly doesn’t push the visual limits of the Xbox One by any means, but it is pretty with some environments standing out more than others (like the black market).Our plucky hero spent his early adventures toppling dictatorships in the not too distant future and there’s no change here. The game opens in classic Strider fashion as Hiryu, riding his eagle glider descendss into Kazakh, the evil city de jour. Hiryu’s hipster scarf is now made of red energy, and looks very cool.
Strider doesn’t have much of a story to tell; the barebones narrative is strung together with cut scenes reminiscent of japanese anime. The lackluster story doesn’t bother me all that much, a game such as this doesn’t need to retell 1984, but there is a distinct lack of personality present. This was a problem that Double Helix’s Killer Instinct shared; characters were present but didn’t leave a lasting impression. Sure, when a game takes a more stylistic approach, like ‘Splosion Man, it does run the risk of turning some people off. More importantly though, it also garners more respect by standing out. Given the fact that both Strider and KI are other people’s properties, this approach is completely understandable, but here’s hoping Double Helix are given to chance to take more of a risk next time… and that they take it.
Striders are futuristic ninjas, and this game does a good job of making you feel like one. Hiryu is fast, much faster than he was back in 1989, and can traverse walls and ceilings as easily as the ground. Cutting through enemies, obstacles and bullets can be achieved without stopping to take a breath. Later on, kunai (throwing knives) and special attacks are added to your arsenal as you progress, each addition making the game more and more enjoyable as you feel more powered up. The mechanics are tight for the most part, however climbing can be especially fiddly at times. Activating special skills, or Options, is also tricky to pull out in the heat of combat. These are nitpicks though, and Strider’s strength is definitely it’s gameplay.
With an old-school game like this, it’s such a missed opportunity to not have an incredible old-school soundtrack. You know the ones, those 8 and 16-bit tunes that fired us up and gave us the energy and drive to beat those bosses that were bigger than the screen. Strider has no memorable music to speak of, which is a great shame, as firing up Strider II on the Mega Drive is exactly what I want hear from this type of game.
On the subject of bosses, Strider gets a big tick in that regard. Bosses are huge, challenging (but not frustratingly so) and so much fun to fight. Bosses and characters reappear throughout the game, more powered up than the last time you encountered them. This also helps to thread the story together, what little there is of it. There are stylistic nods to the original games, with the eagle and panther being re-imagined as projectile weapons and transport around the map. Collectibles, such as art work can even be found strewn across the map in the form of the vintage Pow icon.
If you’ve never played a Metroidvania game before (although you probably have without realising it), Strider is a great place to start. Metroidvanias are games you can properly sink into. You can switch your brain off and let the game completely wash around you. It’s almost impossible to get lost and you know from the first minute what you’re in for, but that’s ok. There’s something so moreish about heading off to find the ice weapon to open to ice doors and break the enemies with ice shields. Sometimes, it’s the most familiar things the give us the most joy.
Strider sticks to the Metroidvania formula to the letter… possibly even to it’s detriment. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table and if you played Shadow Complex on the 360 Strider will feel very familiar very quickly. Enemies, specifically the large robotic ones look like distant cousins. Some of the weapons even feel arbitrary and don’t seem to have a purpose beyond opening locked doors. With a little more thought these weapons could’ve had more of a bespoke use in battle or, dare I say it, a part to play in the story. It would seem, like the rest of the game, that more personality is needed. This said, there are some cool platforming sections and boss moments (as well as some cool uses of 2.5D) that I won’t spoil here. More originality would have been nice, though.
*Note that this review was conducted via an Xbox One download code given to us by Microsoft
- + Great Metroidvania game
- + Epic bosses
- + Strider’s back!
- - Nothing new
- - Barebones Story
- - Fiddly Controls