Gaming fans have always loved Strider Hiryu. It's not because he has the wittiest catchphrases or the illest fashion sense, but rather because he has one of the coolest arsenals in video game history. Does his return to the next-gen era warrant a standing ovation or a total dismissal?
California-based Double Helix Games already had a win in their column for revitalizing the Killer Instinct franchise for the Xbox One / next-gen console era. As they turned their attention to the classic NES Strider franchise, the company utilized the best things from side-scrolling games, which resulted in an enjoyable and enthusiastically energetic game.
This new Strider Hiryu steps into the action-packed reboot a quarter-century after the release of Capcom's arcade hit, and our hero doesn't waste any time getting the fracas started. For those who don't know the back story to Strider, the sword-wielding ninja with the long flowing scarf is tasked with the assignment to assassinate a mysterious dictator known as Grandmaster Meio. After a brief introduction cutscene, Hiryu rushes right into the action as he begins his mission by infiltrating the Grandmaster Meio's capital at the Kazakh Soviety Socialist Republic. Double Helix instantly nails all of Strider's classic motifs: the searing sword slash, the nimble acrobatics, the smooth signature slide and cartwheel moves are all there and wonderful to use in battle.
Despite the game's Metroid / Castlevania layer of exploration, the 2014 reboot of Strider does suffer from being slightly unbalanced with the level design. As the high-tech ninja, players are able to traverse the area to find hidden rooms, but the game's sub-objectives are far and few in-between the action. Throughout our six-hour play through, Strider does look beautiful, almost art-like in its conceptual areas and enemies. Much like the 8-bit original, the game suffers heavily from the annoying mini-bosses that seem unbeatable and the unstoppable (yes, even on retries) dialogue from big bosses. Whomever was behind writing the script for Strider did not give any of them anything impactful to say. The voice work come off as average at best.
Double Helix's attempts to stay true to the original does mean that most of the weaponry at Strider's disposal is very straightforward. A set of plasma types allows for his sword attack to deal out explosive, ice, magnetic, or standard damage on foes. A drawback is that the cold cypher attack is too powerful, as it completely freezes enemies for a full seven seconds. While running right at most enemies and bosses and mashing your attack button as quickly as possible is typically the only strategy you need to complete the Strider reboot, the game can feel a bit dull and repetitive after a few hours of gameplay. Truthfully, the first game for the NES was a classic, and even Strider 2 managed to exceed expectations. But when finally given a chance to play Strider for the next-gen, our thought is that this game surpasses the previous iterations. It is great, albeit, not an all-around perfect game.
Other drawbacks include the missions themselves. While speed and fluidity are the key currencies to Strider, players find themselves backtracking and fighting through the same areas multiple times. Add to the fact that the enemies regenerate as well, the game flounders in its attempt at creating an open world structure. To Strider and Double Helix's credit, the new upgrades and abilities work to keep the gameplay exciting and fun, yet our hope would be for a more fulfilling plot. Another issue is that while players see a lot of Kazakh City (a prison, laboratory, subway station, airship and more), the confusing map layout creates a blasé look that runs together after awhile. Double Helix could've improved these stages by creating a bit more diversity, as some of the original game's most clever stages (snow-covered mountains, jungles filled with robot dinosaurs) aren't even included for exploration in this new Strider title. Lastly, the inclusion of a New Game+ would have served as a great option to have after replaying the game through Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty settings.
All in all, Strider will last you around five-to-six hours — times that by two if you are a trophy hunter. Most of the extras included involve concept art, but there are a few nice inclusions like lore bits. There is also a survival mode and a race mode (where you speed dash through multiple beacons), which is more than most action games are offering nowadays. As reboots goes, Capcom and Double Helix have created one of the best ever. The latter company has truly come into its own, as they managed to capture what made the classics so much fun, while attempting to flesh out the story. Unfortunately, the voice acting and dialogue comes off as sack; too much of the game is spent indoors and there's too much fetch hunting, but Strider has new life infused into what we hope will be an ongoing series.
Don't believe us? Well, check out the trailer and see for yourself!