Last updated on January 2nd, 2017
Capcom’s Strider is set in a technologically advanced dystopian future, under the iron-fisted rule of the enigmatic Grandmaster Meio. The player takes on the role of Strider Hiryu, a Super A ranked agent of the Strider organization, a group of futuristic ninjas, to fulfill his orders to infiltrate Kazakh City, the heart of Meio’s empire, and assassinate the evil Grandmaster himself.
Developed by: Capcom, Double Helix Games
Published by: Capcom
Release date: February 18th, 2014
Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on PS4)
Launch Price: 14.99 USD
The main draw of Strider is the gameplay, operating in the 2D metroidvania style, which if you’re not familiar is essentially a mix of action and platforming in a relatively opened map. As the game progresses you are confronted by impassable obstacles throughout the map that correspond with specific abilities and power-ups that will allow you access to these previously inaccessible areas.
The combat is smooth and fast-paced, enhanced by Hiryu’s ninja-like speed and agility, his talent for clinging to any surface, and eventually abilities to do things like double jump, air dash through enemies and obstacles, or change the element of your blade to things like ice or explosive damage. The enemy types are varied enough to keep the combat feeling fresh throughout the game, and coupled with your eventual mastery of Hiryu’s diverse abilities, you’re left truly feeling like the overpowered ninja, sleekly sliding under machine gun blasts to attack your enemies legs, or flipping and dodging through sniper fire to attack unwary enemies from behind. The area bosses are well designed and challenging, each requiring the use of Hiryu’s arsenal in different ways in order to succeed. Many are callbacks to memorable bosses from the original Strider arcade game, like the high-flying dragon Ouroboros, or Mecha Pon the giant robotic gorilla.
The platforming and exploration are equally as engaging. While core objectives are clearly marked on your map, the game rewards leaving the main path to find power-ups to things like your health and energy bars, shortcuts to different areas, collectables that unlock extra content, and the remains of fallen Striders who partook the same mission before Hiryu. These unlock both a short bio and their Strider uniforms. Usually leaving the beaten path presents the more difficult platforming sections, but the rewards for completing them are generally well worth it, and extend the game’s playing time enormously.
I found the difficulty in Strider to be just right, both in terms of platforming and combat. Both were challenging, more so towards the end of the game, but not so much so that you’ll be pulling your hair out repeating the same sections over and over. However if you happen to be looking for that kind of challenge, the difficulty settings can be changed, and hard mode is exactly that.
My only real beef with Strider is the control, and for my part it’s the only thing really keeping it from a score of 9 or even 10 out of 10. For the most part the controls work well. Switching Hiryu’s sword elements on the fly, or unleashing special attacks from his robotic familiars, even from the throws of an aerial combo, work well enough to flow smoothly and seamlessly. My issue, however, is with the movement control, which is done via the left analog stick. For a 2D game, especially one that requires the kind of precision that the action in Strider requires, the d-pad probably would have worked with more accuracy. Controlling Hiryu tends to be extremely responsive, and for that reason the analog stick can come off feeling a bit clumsy at times, especially when surrounded by groups of enemies, or during some of the trickier platforming sequences when unintentional button presses can mean the difference between living and dying. For me there were many times when the tide of battle was broken by say an attempt to slash forward at an enemy, instead stopping completely to pull off an accidental upward-slash above their heads or an inadvertent duck, taking a shotgun blast full in the face at close range as a result.
The complete lack of an option to change your control settings at all, something I’d imagine wouldn’t have been much of a stretch to include, hurts the overall experience of the game. Don’t by any means let that detract you from at least trying it out though, because like any other game, if you stick with it you will get used to it enough to accomplish the things you want to accomplish most of the time. Say 8 times out of 10.
Outside of what I’ve already covered in my intro, there’s actually not much to the game in this regard. You’re an assassin sent to kill the evil ruler of the world. Pretty much as simple as that. In all fairness the plot isn’t really the focus here, however there are some interesting bits scattered throughout the game; for example both the enemy and fallen Strider bios offer some brief but generally intriguing background info, and the interactions between Hiryu and his enemies are entertaining, if not a bit over the top in the voice acting department. Hiryu’s cold collected responses to the panicked threats made by Meio’s henchmen tend to be particularly enjoyable.
Graphics and Sound:
The graphics are relatively simplistic for a ps4/xbox1 era game, but they’re crisp and effective all the same, and look great for the type of game that Strider is. While Strider primarily operates on a 2D plane, the backgrounds are fully 3-dimensional and detailed. Each map area is distinct, from a flying airship to the Kazakh city sewers, and each is accompanied by backgrounds that are attractive and engaging, and the discrepancy between foreground and background is enough that one doesn’t generally distract you from focusing on the other, even when combat is at its most hectic. The character animations are just as smooth and decisive as the combat itself, from the destruction created by Hiryu’s plasma sword to his iconic flowing red scarf.
The sound design is well done and functional, in terms of both the effects and the music, but are nothing to write home to mom about. Machine gun blasts sound like machine gun blasts, and explosions sound like explosions. The sounds made by Hiryu’s plasma sword are satisfying in their accentuation of his slicing large metal enemies into pieces, and the cries of frightened enemies on seeing Hiryu running down a 45 degree angled surface into their ranks work nicely. While the quasi-techno soundtrack isn’t necessarily something I’d burn onto a CD to listen to at the gym, it’s not annoying either. Which is important considering the lengths of time that you’ll spend in some areas, with the same looping tracks repeating throughout. If nothing else they’re reminiscent of action games from older eras of gaming, like Ninja Gaiden or Megaman, and work well alongside the game’s quick pacing.
Replayability and Game Length:
Running I’d say somewhere between 8 and 12 hours of gameplay, depending on how much exploring and hunting for collectables you do, Strider is fairly brief, but realistically as long as it probably needed to be without becoming stale or feeling too short. Compared to other games of the genre it’s probably comparable to the giants like Super Metroid in terms of length, which was plenty for me to not be disappointed, despite the displeasure I’d usually feel at reading that any game is only 8 – 12 hours long. By the time I finished it I felt like I belonged at the end of the game, and wasn’t disappointed to see the credits roll when they did.
In terms of replayability Strider does offer a few different opportunities for replay. The main game itself is enjoyable enough to compel additional play-throughs, if for no other reason than hunting for some of the more hard to find collectables. The collectables not only unlock readable content, but some also unlock levels for Strider’s two challenge modes, Beacon Run and Survival. Beacon Run is a speed run mode, where you must hit checkpoints as fast as possible while negotiating obstacles to reach a finish line. Survival, on the other hand, pits you against waves of enemies in an enclosed area, where you again must both defeat enemies as quickly as possible while surviving the onslaught of their attacks in order to finish with the fastest time you can. Each mode spawns enemies and gives Hiryu abilities based on the point in the game where the stage takes place; in other words the stages unlocked by collectables gathered in Kazakh City, an early game area, will find Hiryu with relatively weak abilities and fighting early-game enemies, where stages taking place in later game areas will find him tackling more difficult enemies with more advanced abilities.