Wot I Think: Strider

By Rich Stanton on February 25th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Hands up folks, who wants to play a game that makes you feel awesome? That looks incredible? The game that has had my stomach doing somersaults, my right thumb hammering away for all it’s worth, and my brain pumping out adrenaline like Coca-Cola at a Justin Bieber concert? Strider is that game! Oh man Strider is that game. YES! If ‘it’ for you is 2D combat platformers that push every big red button at once, then Strider Is It!

Full disclosure: when I was a mere boy ninja, the excellent Mega Drive port of Strider was one of my favourite games. So it could be possible that this is all the nostalgia talking; I don’t think so. Strider HD is developer Double Helix’s take on Capcom’s 1989 arcade game, a 2D platformer all about cutting through hordes of enemies with acrobatic main man Strider Hiryu.

Strider is heavily inspired by the original; a lot of the same moves, an aesthetic inspired by what could once only be suggested, and tonnes of little nods for the golden oldies to enjoy. But this is a remake in the true sense, a ground-up engineering job to bring a great game cartwheeling and slicing into 2014 – and delivers, again and again, with flair and precision.

What marked out Strider back in the day was the flexibility of Strider Hiryu’s moveset, with different combinations of directions and buttons giving access to a wide range of offense. This new Hiryu feels instantly familiar, with the lazy arc of his cartwheel jump reproduced perfectly, and rat-a-tat button presses producing the same flurry of sword strikes.

Many of the enemies in Strider don’t even get a shot off. The game alternates between cavernous complex environments and smaller rooms, with the camera zoomed as appropriate, and certain connecting passages are there to simply sprint through while slashing, leaving some rather surprised guards in half behind you. There are whole levels that present nothing but brawl after brawl, and you sprint from one to the next with the enthusaism of a man possessed, determined – nay, convinced – that whatever lies ahead will soon lie in pieces.

This is a theme throughout Strider. It is a game that has lots of tough challenges in it, but first and foremost it wants the player to feel absolutely fantastic about playing as Strider. It wants you to demolish groups of foes with ease. It wants you to jump into any engagement whatsoever without a second thought, trusting in Strider’s incredible abilities and a constant mash of the attack button. It wants you to feel the power unleashed every time an attack cuts through a bunch of hapless foes and scatters their bodies. It wants you to feel like nothing less than the Grim Reaper in a natty red scarf.

I’m falling for the intentional fallacy, of course. But if that was the target this hits it over and over and over again. Very few games ever make the words ‘wow’ actually scroll across your mind, at the same time as you’re feeling a twist of excitement in the abdomen and grinning like a loon. If you don’t like chopping up bad guys in futuristic settings then, OK, this might not apply. But is it ever your loss.

How Strider Hiryu’s tools upgrade is the best illustration. There are two levels to his capabilities, the practical and rather boring one being that they act as the ‘keys’ to certain areas and enemies in time-honoured Metroidvania fashion. But the second is that they’re an escalation of offensive capabilities and, even more beautifully, the two purposes often combine.

One of the first upgrades you acquire is the charged attack; rather than lots of little sword swipes, hold the button for a second and release for a more powerful slice. This is essential for taking out enemy shields. But the charged slice is also much longer than a normal one, and will hit any enemy within the blade’s arc. You now have a choice in any given situation about whether to mash attack and slice through enemies with flurries, which remains perfectly viable, or to try and be constantly charging up and picking moments for release within the maelstrom. This choice is further complicated by the fact that getting hit will ruin the charge-up, and of course as the game progresses it becomes more important to be able to mix and match the two styles of offense.

This kind of flexibility runs throughout Strider’s core moveset, and once the game starts introducing tools like the dash-dodge and throwing knives – well, it’s too late by then. You’re already hopelessly in love. One of the last abilities you unlock is a panther, which after being triggered dashes forwards and through groups of enemies, becoming more powerful with each one it hits. When you enter a long room filled with enemies, unleash the beast, and sprint afterwards landing the finishing blow on stunned enemy after stunned enemy, it’s simply thrilling.

Obviously I’m getting a little excited here, and there are moments where Strider drops the ball. There’s an undergroundy-sewery section with armoured crab enemies that isn’t too impressive, topped off with ‘infected’ versions of the normal enemies being introduced, and some of the checkpoints are a little mean for modern sensibilities.

Strider’s also not the type of game that I’d personally replay, despite it being chock-full of unlockables and alternative paths for exploration once Hiryu is fully upgraded. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Replay value is a conditional thing, essential in some games but more or less irrelevant in others, and Strider delivers one absolutely fantastic first playthrough – with plenty of meat for those that really want to keep on slicing.

Both the audio and visual design does a great job of making this look and sound every inch 2014′s game, and of course it is, while either re-mixing elements of the original or – in some cases – just saying to hell with it and letting the original take over for a second. There’s an enemy in the underground and, while my memory may be a little hazy on this, the sound effects for one short sequence seem to be the originals reproduced exactly. It’s only a moment, easily missed, but it’s emblematic of the lovely touches throughout that mark this out as a real labour of love.

Strider’s not really the kind of game the cognoscenti get excited about. It won’t be winning any awards or the subject of a load of thinkpieces, and that’s because it’s nothing more than a simple design executed near-flawlessly. It’s limited in the same sense that a cat is limited by not being a dog. Strider is a great game and it gets me totally pumped; it looks incredible, sounds amazing, and is tonnes of fun. If I ruled the world this would be on billboards, and they would say very simply: STRIDER’S BACK.

YES!

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44 Comments »

  1. HothMonster says:

    So glad to hear this. I use to play the Sega Strider over and over again. When I saw the ad for this pop up on Steam I was praying it would be good.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I unfortunately had the Amiga version. Sad days indeed.

  2. tengblad says:

    So, I’ was planning on getting this game but I watched a video of someone playing it and I got totally turned off due to the incredibly stupid double-jump animation where Strider just sort of cartwheels across the screen. Might have to reconsider.

    • HothMonster says:

      HA, same animation from the Sega game. I was actually excited when I saw it was included.

    • Philomelle says:

      As the other person said, that’s intentional. Strider Hiryu had that humongous cartwheel for a jump since the original arcade games.

      Although the rabbit hole runs deeper than the cartwheel in this case. 2014 Strider’s model is an exact replica of his sprite from Strider 2 on PS1, with every single animation being perfectly reproduced. It’s something you would only notice if you compared the games side by side, but it’s a very nice touch.

      • tengblad says:

        Yeah, I suppose that’s my problem. I never played either the Sega game (I was a Nintendo kid) or the Atari one, so all those things that are callbacks and references the old game just strike me as odd and archaic. :)

        • Philomelle says:

          Oh, I agree. It is odd. The cartwheel looked hella weird in the original game, the sequels actually tone it down by a margin.

          Still, it’s a visual cue that stuck with the fans for so long that removing it would actually feel weirder to most of them. Strider without the cartwheel is like Mario not raising one hand into the air while jumping or a Donkey Kong game without barrels. Not necessary, but it feels weird when it’s not there.

    • Hyetal says:

      That’s just the single jump. The double jump is actually normal. Honestly, I think the cartwheel looks kind of cool. Not by itself, maybe, but when you can slice your enemies from above at insane speeds, all it really does is highlight how effortlessly you outmatch these grunts.

    • Shooop says:

      That’s actually the same animation from the game’s original arcade incarnation.

    • jaguar skills says:

      That’s like saying you don’t like Sonic because hedgehogs aren’t blue.

  3. Mittens89 says:

    What a great review. Really felt the passion and excitement you clearly have for this game shine through. Im sold! Loved the old Sega Strider, thanks for firstly putting this game on my radar, and secondly making me want to buy it without any doubts!

  4. AlwaysRight says:

    I did NOT get this from the demo, maybe it deserves a second chance, I did love the original (Atari ST).

    • DanMan says:

      Of what demo speaketh thou?

      • HothMonster says:

        Looks like there is a demo up for the PS4 on the playstation store. At least that is all I found while googling.

  5. Laurentius says:

    What about controls ? Can you play it on keyboard or you are stuck with “controller” ?

    • BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

      I’m pretty sure a keyboard works fine.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      Keyboard works just fine (though this is coming from someone who doesn’t even own a gamepad, I play things like Dark Souls and Guacamelee with keyboard and mouse), but it has a rather retarded thing where you need to edit some ini file if you want to customize the controls.

    • samplerInfo says:

      I would HIGHLY recommend a controller, although it is perfectly possible to play with keyboard. That said, getting a controller to work (until they patch it?) may unfortunately involve a bit of work depending on which one you use.

  6. jwoozy says:

    I was hoping you’d take a look at this game. Quite a pleasant surprise for something that had virtually no buzz made a by a developer people were rightly skeptical about.

  7. noodlecake says:

    From what I could gather from watching videos on youtube, the kickback from attacks looks non existent. The strikes just look like they have no effect other than lowerring health and then eventually starting a death animation. There’s no difference in the way a strike behaves between a hit and a miss, no slight frame slowdown or knockback. For a game of this style it seems like a weird design decision.

    • Philomelle says:

      It’s not weird, it’s simply the way Strider’s attack paradigm worked since the dawn of time. The slash is very fast, has no cooldown and can be performed out of any position, so the player can realistically attack as fast as their trigger finger allows (3-5 attacks per second shouldn’t be hard to pull off). The idea is to dish out a constant stream of damage regardless of what you’re doing.

      Kickback would only interfere with the series’ combat design.

      • noodlecake says:

        Normally I play these kinds of games for the satisfying feeling combat where everything feels like it has weight. I doubt I would enjoy this.

        • Wedge says:

          Did you see Aces Wild recently come out on Steam? That game looks like it’d be right up your alley if you want some impact to your combat.

        • Philomelle says:

          It sounds like you think Strider is a game from a completely different genre than it actually is. Strider is an exploratory platformer from the same school as Castlevenia and Mega Man. What you seem to be looking for is a 2D brawler.

          Might I recommend Dust: An Elysian Tail, Guacamalee!, Valdis Story: Abyssal City and the aforementioned Aces Wild? They should be more up your alley.

  8. Enkinan says:

    Played the hell out of the original years and years ago and figured any re-make would just blow it, so I gave this no chance. You may have just changed my mind.

  9. VirtualNinjas says:

    I beat the arcade game on two quarters once, and I have to say this remake is brilliant. What I love about it is how it refuses to budge on the core design sensibilities while at the same time expanding and elaborating on them. At times I was even reminded by the weird metroidvania NES Strider.

    People used to playing modern frustration or puzzle platformers will probably end up scratching their head after playing the demo, never realizing that you can attack as fast as you hit the button, or that the game rewards you for playing like a badass instead of a coward.

    That the game is so faithful to what is still one of the most fascinating gameworlds ever to appear in a game was a huge relief to me, and makes the game a joy just to explore.

  10. Suopis says:

    Beaten it. Loved it.

    Solid 6 hours. Finished at 68% complete.

    Very tight game, controls beautifully, music is awesome, artwork is really cool. Has some challenging bosses too. What more do you want?

  11. derbefrier says:

    Good now I can buy it. Loved this series back in the day

  12. pilouuuu says:

    Great! This is how you make a remake, sequel, reboot or whatever.

    Now, make a new version of Golden Axe and Altered Beast, please! Those games were incredibly charmy!

    • Jalan says:

      After the modern take on Altered Beast, I’m convinced that should there ever be an another that it will have to be done by a developer who doesn’t take it so seriously as far as the plot is concerned but at the same time is mindful not to let it hit the rampant level of cheesiness that the original has come to be adored for. Something similar to how Flying Wild Hog approached Shadow Warrior would suit it well.

      • Philomelle says:

        There were actually two modern takes. The PS2 one, which was a grimdark action game, and the GBA one, which was pretty much the original with updated graphics and some new transformations.

        I actually enjoyed both of them! The PS2 one could have used more work in its combat system, but its plot and atmosphere felt in the same vein as Resident Evil 4 – so bloody serious that it’s impossible to take it seriously.

        • Jalan says:

          The GBA game was a sequel. I don’t really consider it a modernized take on the original as a result. Maybe I’m just picking nits there, but so be it I suppose. The PS2 ‘Project Altered Beast’, with its edgy/gritty story, was just too much of a bad thing to be truly enjoyable.

  13. Znea says:

    Interest piqued in this one then, however I feel must make one query of the review or more specifically the screenshots. Why not all cartwheels?

  14. Steven Hutton says:

    I recommend this game it’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t run so good on my older PC but the new one at my work runs it flawlessly and it’s very shiny.

    Strider’s movement is very responsive and it all feels great.

  15. Shooop says:

    I had my eye on this one, good to hear it panned out.

    My only complaint is they didn’t include the communist serpent robot that Voltrons out of people in the first stage:

    • Philomelle says:

      The communist serpent robot is actually still there, it’s just more of a typical robot dragon now. Sadly, no longer voltroning out of people or sickle and hammering poor Hiryu.

      To make up for it, the developers set the entire game in Totally Not Evil Communist Moscow, complete with hilarious public service announcements (“Watch your neighbors! There will be an additional food lottery for those who report dissent among the populace.”), creepy architecture (the entrance to the subway is marked by a granite monument of people in rags carrying a subway train on their backs) and Russian graffiti on the walls.

  16. hungrycookpot says:

    Cats would universally be improved by being dogs. Just sayin.

  17. FullMetalMonkey says:

    Strider is very fun however it has some technical issues which a lot of people are having. The two.major ones at the moment are:

    Scaling/Resolution issues in Full Screen

    And

    Controller support. Both my Xbox 360 controllers don’t work with the game but my PS3 controllers do when emulating a 360 controller.

    Once those are fixed the game will be awesome to play.

    Also people please note the game requires a DX11 card and a 64bit operating system.

  18. Domopunk says:

    I love me some 2d action platformers. I’m quite excited to pick this up. Slightly off-topic, but after seeing the first two pictures in the article I really wanted every subsequent picture to feature Strider in the exact same mid-cartwheel position. I can’t be the only one…can I?

    Edit: Apparently I am not. Shame on me for missing Znea’s post.

  19. King Eternity says:

    I can’t believe you left out the most important piece of information: does his sword make the same electric *ZWING* noise with each attack?

  20. ThetaReactor says:

    I played the hell out of Bionic Commando: ReArmed and Shadow Complex, and this seems to fit the same hole. Yeah, Shadow Complex wasn’t an HD re-imagining of some older game, but it sure felt like it.

  21. LogicalDash says:

    If you don’t like chopping up bad guys in futuristic settings then, OK, this might not apply. But is it ever your loss.

    You apparently don’t feel you lose anything not replaying the game.

    What’s the difference?