Tech News on G4
Strider reboot is quirky fun
Mar 13, 2014
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
The gameplay, plot, and style of Capcom's rebooted Strider may scream "generic," but the game is a fun downloadable romp nonetheless. As long as you don't take it too seriously, this side-scroller proves to be a solid action title, despite a few hiccups along the way.
The original Strider was released in 1989, and following some home console ports and sequels, this is the first we've seen of the series in a long time, despite some rumoured false starts for a reboot in recent years.
The game is a collaboration between Capcom's Osaka studio and Double Helix Games, the latter of which rebooted Killer Instinct - another long-dormant series - in 2014 on the Xbox One.
Strider actually shares a lot with its predecessor on the NES, with the big difference being that the 2014 version is much faster. Players control Hiryu Strider, a cypher-wielding elite operative who slices and dices his way through countless enemies as he aims to ... well, the plot isn't terribly interesting or particularly fleshed out, to be perfectly honest. Rest assured you're one of the good guys and you must stop the vaguely Russian-sounding bad guys (timely!), and to do that, you have to earn upgrades and master several weapons as you criss-cross a large inter-connected map, with all your fighting culminating in a grandiose, gravity-defying final boss encounter.
Strider is planted firmly and unabashedly in the "Metroidvania" genre. For the uninitiated, these games place players in a large map that's full of numerous areas that are only accessible once certain upgrades have been acquired. Backtracking isn't optional - it's an absolute requirement, but a good Metroidvania game makes the backtracking fun.
While Strider controls wonderfully for the most part, the game doesn't make a compelling case for backtracking. Not only are many of the areas bland and generic, but there's a good chance you'll earn enough power-ups over the course of the main story to get you through the game without the need to revisit past areas.
Without the aforementioned solid controls, Strider would be dead on arrival, but it's a blast hacking through enemies as you progress through the game. Even basic henchmen are made more interesting throughout the course of the game, as later versions can only be defeated by using certain weapons.
You'll earn three new types of cyphers - explosive, freezing, and magnetic - and projectiles to match each. While you can easily defeat enemies early on using your basic cypher, the game quickly forces you to master switching between different weapons; failure to do so will end in many quick deaths.
And that's one of Strider's main problems - on the normal setting, the difficulty sometimes swings wildly from one minute to the next. The first few bosses require little more than some quick cypher hacks and the occasional jump or dodge to defeat. Later in the game, though, certain bosses are sure to pose huge problems for players who haven't been properly prepared for such a spike in difficulty.
There are also a few enemies that are just plain annoying to deal with in large groups. It's never fun to be knocked down by an acid attack or missile, or frozen by an ice bullet, but it's downright maddening to be stuck in a loop of being hit again and again with no way of escaping. These moments do happen in Strider, and while they're immensely frustrating, they're also thankfully rare.
It's worth noting that difficult or not, there are more than a few extremely well-designed boss battles, including one early in the game that has you climbing a flying mechanical dragon. It perfectly highlights the very essence of what has made the Strider series so enduring.
The game also has a way of being confusing for no other reason than to be confusing. There is, for instance, no explanation of how or when the game saves, and certain magic powers are given names like "Option-A" or "Option-B," instead of something much easier to remember on the fly, such as "Panther Attack" or "Shield." Even the game modes you choose from when beginning a new campaign are titled "Rank-B (Easy)," "Rank-A (Normal)," and "Special-A (Hard)." How about just sticking with "Easy," "Normal," and "Hard" next time?
Despite these issues, the campaign is an enjoyable and satisfying experience generally speaking, although it can get frustrating at times.
Beyond the single player journey, there are additional game modes that are pretty darn fun for the player who loves aiming for the top of worldwide leaderboard ranks. I particularly enjoyed Beacon Run, which tasks players with completing bite-sized chunks of the single player map in as short a time as possible.
It's just a shame that all the Beacon Run and horde-like Survival Mode levels can only be unlocked by scouring the map in single player. It's also strange that as of the writing of this review, it sometimes takes 24 hours or more for rankings to be uploaded to the leaderboard.
Strider is without a doubt a wonderful marrying of old-school challenge with new-school game mechanics. It has its share of quirks, but the final product is an enjoyable, if slightly bland, action platformer.
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