Videogames are an empowering media. Some games, like Metroid and the more recent entries in the Castlevania series start you off with an overpowered character and quickly strip their power away, only to give them back to guy, bit by bit as you explore a huge map. Borrowing heavily from these is Strider, Capcom’s newest revival of a classic franchise on current gen consoles and the PC.
Unlike the aforementioned games, though, Strider starts out giving you control of a badass, and he only gets stronger and more fun to control the further you get into the game. For the uninitiated, Strider takes place in a pseudo Soviet futuristic city as you control Strider Hiryu, the youngest and brightest member of a long running group of ninjas. There’s not much of a story besides that and to our benefit, the game doesn’t force any lame excuses for cutting things up besides the little of what has already been mentioned: ninjas are the bee’s knees.
Hiryu is armed with a cool looking sword and has access to a handful of gadgets that are ripped straight out of the original arcade and NES ports of Strider from back in the day. Speaking of inspiration, elements from both versions of the game serve a part in this new entry – not only is it a relentless action game like the arcade version, there are also adventure and exploration elements that were part of the original Nintendo port, now tied into the style of power up and discovery that’s associated with the Metroid series.
Tying the exploration and tightly fitted combat sections are some very satisfying boss fights that at first glance seem cheap and a bit unfair since Hiryu is relatively fragile for the powerhouse that he is. Still, with observation, it’s quite possible to pick up on the boss fight’s tells and patterns, which makes them challenging in a non brain dead sort of way. Some of these fights fill the screen with colorful nonsense to dodge and avoid, while others are more technical, while others will demand a more aggressive approach that will have you throwing everything you got at them.
Speaking of getting things, it’s worth mentioning that Strider has a lot of fun secrets to uncover by collecting hidden items. Fun costumes and Capcom cameos are just about everywhere in this game, and really reward you for exploring every corner of maps and being OCD about uncovering every area of the game. Aside from these bonuses, you can bump up Hiryu’s arsenal with power ups that really come in handy and go beyond simply adding more numbers to counters.
And regardless of the difficulty you decide to play on, you’ll need all the advantage you can get. Strider might get overpowered throughout the game, but enemies are no pushovers either. Even the lowliest of grunts can get the drop of you once they are in groups, and early game cheap run-and-gun tactics prove fatal towards the end of the game. Thankfully, running about and finding savegame rooms is easy since they’re very well placed and don’t even need you to stop in order to save a checkpoint.
It’s easy to throw out adjectives like ‘beautiful’ and ‘stylish’ at games these days with all the power consoles and computers can output now, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that Strider is really cool to look at. From the colorful design to just about every enemy and environment you jump across to the neat destruction effects that come with each cut of Hiryu’s sword, it’s clear that a lot of care went into getting the look of this game right, down to the same funny running animation from the original arcade version.
Strider does an incredible job as a reinvention of a franchise, and much like Bionic Commando Rearmed, it manages to surpass the original version in just about every conceivable way. It’s stylish, controls incredibly well and is whole lot of fun. Capcom sure nailed it with this one. Don’t miss out on it, it’s badass.