Strider Review - A Pixelated View

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Jul
22

Strider Review

• Release Date: February 18, 2014
• Publisher: Capcom
• Developer: Double Helix Games
• Consoles: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
• Reviewed On: PS4

There was a simpler time when gamers would fight bosses just because they were in the way, art style impressed more than the graphics and gameplay was the deciding factor in whether a game was fun or not. Strider was no exception to this rule and it still isn’t even after the current reboot.

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Story

Strider follows Hiryu, but everyone just calls him Strider, in an alternate dystopian future.  He is the youngest recruit to complete the Strider training program and the apparently the only one capable of eliminating Grandmaster Meio in Kazakh City. Meio is your average ruler of Earth full of oppressiveness and vague motives. This objective clearly wasn’t at the top of the Strider organization, since they couldn’t even provide Hiryu with a little back-up.

As you probably already guessed, the story isn’t going to be the takeaway experience. The narrative has not stood the test of time. Strider is tasked with killing Meio because he is an evil dictator. Even Assassin’s Creed has better reasons to kill targets. However, considering how this is a retelling of the original Strider, it shouldn’t be held against the final verdict of the game. Holding a game from 1989 to today’s standards would be the equivalent of someone else holding you to your musical taste when you were seven. Still, people who prefer stories above all else may want to pass up Strider because the story is as two-dimensional as the gameplay (because it’s a sidescroller).

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Gameplay

Despite the old story, Strider’s gameplay shines. Combat is fast and fun, but never too easy. Strider can swing his Cypher—the name of his plasma sword—in every direction nearly as fast as the player can press the attack button in. At the beginning of the game, Strider can only dodge bullets, so the player must smart on how they approach a group of enemies. Forcing the player to be acrobatic in their strategy makes Strider feel like a futuristic ninja that will eviscerate every enemy in his path. Boss fights are just as enjoyable. Players can’t rush in mashing the attack button unless they’re willing to suffer for that poor decision. Attacks must be planned in accordance to the bosses’ patterns, while remaining illusive.

Most of the game consists of sidescrolling, hack-and-slash action, but Strider also has a fair amount of platforming. Players aren’t punished too harshly for missing a jump. Strider doesn’t take any fall damage, so the most damage he’ll take—which isn’t very much—is if he touches a hazard. The lack of consequences keep the pace quick, since you won’t have to reload at the nearest checkpoint. Strider can climb on most walls and ceilings, so some areas can be skipped entirely. Additionally, stages are vast and reward exploration with upgrades and unlockables. The structure of the levels resembles Metroid since different power-ups unlock different areas. Therefore, backtracking is also wise and made even easier when panther surfing (the unofficial term for fast-traveling) gets introduced.

Strider’s biggest flaw is actually the plethora of power-ups given after you defeat each boss. More often than not, they supersede the difficulty curve of the game. The initial thrill of jumping over and behind enemies just to make sure Strider doesn’t get shot up more than Tony Montana in Scarface ends when Strider gets the ability to reflect bullets (which is one of the first power-ups provided). Afterwards, the only strategy needed is to run up to a hoard of enemies swinging your blade like a madman until you hit them. This instance is repeated when kunai are unlocked because the ranged attacks become more practical and safe. There is still challenge to be had, but significantly less than at the beginning of the game.

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Look and Sound

Strider may not be the prettiest game, but the art style more than makes up for it. Since the game is zoomed out a majority of the time, small details are placed in the background. There are more than enough bland corridors, but there are just as many areas that have background action like a group of people huddled around a fire and beautiful skyscapes. The colorful attacks and characters combined with the variety of settings make the game visually appealing.

The music is based in nostalgia. It’s energetic to correspond with the gameplay and sounds like a modernized late-80s/early-90s game soundtrack—as it should. The voice-acting on the other hand is not as pleasant. The cheesy writing works with the horrible voices, but the result can be cringe-inducing. Not only that, but many lines are repeated throughout the game, especially during boss battles. It’s so bad that I’m giving Strider the meaningless title of “Worst Russian Accent I’ve Ever Heard” award.

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Verdict

I actually had no prior experience to the Strider series and found it quite fun. Strider is a non-stop thrill that both newcomers and die-hard fans can enjoy. It does have its flaws, but most of them are minor in comparison to the entire experience. It’s an action-packed rollercoaster that you won’t want to end (until someone speaks).

kcchadstanfield@sbcglobal.net'

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