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For numerous years, Capcom fans have requested for the return of one of their classic franchises, Strider. The original and it’s sequel were instant classics on the NES and Genesis respectively. We have seen Hiryu in past Capcom games such as the Marvel vs. Capcom series, but it has been over two decades since the last Strider game. Now thanks to a joint effort with Capcom and Double Helix Games, Strider has indeed returned on current-gen, next-gen consoles, and PC. Many were worried that Double Helix won’t be able to treat the classics justice in this re-imagining of the original game, but despite some flaws, the new Strider is a solid “Metroidvania” game that appeals fans that are nostalgic for the series and also those who like the genre.
Strider starts off right away with Hiryu hang-gliding to the outskirts of Kazakh City as he has to infiltrate the city to assassinate Grandmaster Meio. Pretty simple story and goal right? Along the way, Hiryu faces off against Meio’s minions and numerous troopers that get in his way to unlock upgrades and more moves to his repertoire. There is some dialogue between Hiryu and the various bosses, but the voice acting is not much in all of the cutscenes. Speaking of the cutscenes, most of them are unskippable, so if you die and start over from the last checkpoint before a boss battle, be prepared to see them again.
While Capcom and Double Helix were able to keep the classic Strider gameplay intact, I do wish the core combat and plans of attack were a little more deep. Sure, Hiryu has his signature cypher sword with multiple versions that have explosive, ice, and magnetic effects, but you’re going to be mashing the primary attack button and using the charge attack move a lot against the opposition. Usually, just running in front of enemies and mashing recklessly is the way to go especially on easy and normal difficulties, but you do have to be more careful on hard in terms of avoiding bullets and boss patterns. Even the boss battles are mostly easy for the majority of the game, but the last quarter of them will give you in a fight if you’re playing careless. With that said, Strider controls pretty well during combat and the platforming sections. For those wanting more challenge, hard is way to go from the start because the default normal difficulty is pretty easy to cruise through for the game’s five to six hours.
Other than Hiryu’s cypher attacks, he has his signature option attacks that use up energy to transverse from one big area to another and deal out more damage especially against groups of enemies. The eagle, orbs, and panther options are back as each of them has their uses against certain sets of enemies. Speaking of the opposition, the enemy variety is also lacking with regular soldiers that have machine guns, shields, spread fire, and missile launchers, turrets, drones, and sewer crabs. In addition, the mini-bosses are also mostly the same with robots that have claws, a grappling arm, and fire grenades. Hiryu also has kunai projectiles, but I personally didn’t use them that much other than unlocking specific doors. Once the hit meter is cranked up, he can enter a rage mode of sorts for a limited time as the action gets a bit blurry once on.
Strider gives you new objectives at a constant rate and guide you to the next area you’re supposed to go next, but it is still a “Metroidvania” game at heart. Of course, there will be many areas Hiryu has to backtrack to because he doesn’t have a certain upgrade or cypher type at a specific time. The game’s map does a good job of marking health/energy upgrades and health canisters to find, but you have to find the other collectables that range from concept art, challenges for the bonus modes, story/character intel, and unlockable costumes on your own. I personally find myself checking the map every minute or two because how much of a completionist I can be with these type of games. Once Hiryu has his option specials, he can fast travel to other big areas in case of backtracking for the 100% completion. As mentioned earlier, Strider on average will take five to six hours to beat and a bit longer if you want to 100% the game. Unfortunately there is no new game plus so your upgrades won’t transfer to a new game.
Besides the main game, two challenge modes called Beacon Run and Survival are unlockable. Beacon Run is your speedrun-type mode where Hiryu has to go from a point A to point B as fast as possible at specific areas. Speaking of speedruns, you can play Strider with a speedrun-like mentality since there is an achievement/trophy of beating the game in less than four hours. I can personally see this game be beaten in less than two hours in matter of a few months with potential skips and route optimization. Survival mode is pretty self-explanatory with Hiryu facing off against waves of enemies in various rooms of the main game. These modes are okay enough to keep replay value going for a bit since there are leaderboards for the fastest times.
While the new Strider looks great on all the platforms it is on, I do get a Shadow Complex-like vibe from the overall visual presentation. At many times throughout the game, I felt like I was playing Shadow Complex but as a ninja. What I have to knock on the visuals for this re-imagining is the lack of variety in the environments you explore. After leaving the city, the majority of the game takes place in a big military facility filled with underground sections. Despite that flaw, Strider rarely hitches framerate-wise. The soundtrack is mostly remixes of the classic Strider tunes and they live up to the originals while keeping the new game’s tone intact.
Capcom and Double Helix Games did a solid job with the new Strider. They were able to respect the originals in this re-imagining while being a good “Metroidvania” title. Of course it is not as good as the innovators of the genre, but it is good enough to fill the void like last year’s Guacamelee and Shadow Complex. Controlling Hiryu feels fine but I do wish the combat was a bit more deeper as you can mash recklessly against the opposition for the majority of the game. Sure, you can mix up his option specials with cypher attacks, but more moves that we seen in the Marvel vs. Capcom games would be great to add in. I guess keeping it faithful to the classics more importantly than including the flashy moves is good enough in the developers’ view. Other nitpicky flaws prevent Strider from being something special such as unskippable cutscenes, no new game plus, and lack of variety in the environments. If you’re a fan of the originals and itching for a new “Metroidvania” fix, the new Strider is still worth your attention and your $15 despite some drawbacks.