Strider Review: Back and Better Than Ever

by David Sanchez February 26, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

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Strider was a pretty big deal when it first hit arcades and, ultimately, the NES and Genesis. While other versions of the game were also released, these particular editions are the ones most commonly remembered. Strider was subsequently followed up by two sequels (Strider Returns and Strider 2) and a spiritual successor (Moon Diver). But the series’ legacy has always rested on that first game. Now, though, that’s definitely up for debate, as the latest incarnation of the series, simply titled Strider, is arguably the best installment thus far.

Like its predecessors, Strider takes place in a dystopian future. The land is run by a corrupt, militant government force, and freedom is but a mere legend. As the titular Strider Hiryu, you must take down these oppressive forces and rain down justice upon the corrupt dictatorship. The actual storytelling in Stider isn’t exactly deep, but this is an old-fashioned arcade hack-and-slash game. It doesn’t really thrive on or even require a riveting story.

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True to the genre, the majority of the action in Strider is straight-up hacking and slashing. You encounter enemy after enemy, most armed with guns, and you rampage right through them, chopping them in half and moving on to a new set of victims. A lot of the time, you’re tasked with eliminating lowly grunts and flying drones. They’ll probably inflict some amount of damage on you, but defeating them grants you a bit of health. Combat in Strider is fairly empowering, making you feel like a badass as you slice those fools up.

Bosses are a different deal, but only slightly so. They’re a lot tougher and more powerful, but they can be bested if you recognize their attack patterns. If you’re overzealous, chances are you’ll face defeat, but if you take your time to memorize exactly what triggers their different attacks, you can get through them without a hitch. I played Strider on the Normal difficulty setting and didn’t have too much of a hard time, but there was still a slight challenge occasionally.

Another thing that keeps the game highly entertaining throughout is the wonderful mix of platforming. You’re not just cutting dudes in half (though there’s plenty of that). Throughout the majority of Strider, you’re also engaging in old school platforming, wall-climbing, and acrobatics. Guiding Strider up tall buildings, sneaking around dark corridors, and using vents to discover different routes all keep things fresh and offer a bit of respite when you’ve been enthralled in combat for long stretches of time.

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As you progress, you obtain new moves that help you get past specific obstacles. If a path is impassable, you’ll eventually collect a new move that lets you proceed later on. This sense of progression coupled with the game’s useful map, which always guides you in the right direction, makes Strider a free-flowing, organic experience. You’ll never get stuck because you don’t know where to go; and when you learn a new move, new routes open up, some of which are essential to the campaign, and others which reward you with unlockable concept art, health upgrades, and so on.

A few minor setbacks keep Strider from being an absolutely flawless game. For starters, there’s not too much variety as far as enemies are concerned. Additionally, even though you learn new moves, the gameplay itself remains largely the same throughout. Then there’s the length of Strider. You can get through the main mode in three to five hours, which is criminally short when you consider how much fun this game is to play.

In addition to the story mode, Strider also features some extra arcade modes. Beacon Run is a fast-paced, time-based mode that tasks you with clearing stages as quickly as possible. There’s also Survival Mode, which pits you against progressively tougher baddies and provides quite the formidable challenge for players who want to really test their hack-and-slash mettle. Some players may not care for these bonus modes, which means the game will feel even shorter to them.

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I can’t possibly talk about Strider without mentioning how excellent the game’s control is. Every little thing you do is fluid and precise, and controlling Strider is wonderfully responsive. This is one of those games with incredibly tight controls that could easily be spoken of alongside titles like Super Mario Bros. and Super Meat Boy. That may sound like hyperbole at its finest (or cheap namedropping — you decide), but Strider really does offer some of the best controls found in a 2D action game.

Battling evil throughout Kazakh City is quite the spectacle due in part to the futuristic look of the environments. Graphically, Strider isn’t exactly a technical powerhouse, and it’s not all that varied, but its tone is appropriately dystopian and beautifully cyberpunk in style. It’s hard not to enjoy the sights despite the fact that this is indeed a bleak futuristic setting. The game’s soundtrack also works well, and if you played past Strider games, you’ll recognize some remixed tunes and soak up the nostalgia. The voice acting could be better, but even then, it’s not very prominent anyway.

If you played and loved the Strider games of old, this revival is most definitely worthy of your time. You’ll have a blast and see the series evolve into a much more modern and seamless experience. If you missed out on the hype of the classic series, there’s really no time like the present to jump right in. Strider isn’t simply a love letter to series aficionados and action game enthusiasts; it’s a grandiose adventure filled with great moments, nonstop action, and unbridled badassery. Strider is back, and I dare say it’s better than ever.

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