“Strider” is not Strider Hiryus’ first time in action, but a reboot of Capcom’s 1989 arcade game. The original was known for a lot of flashy moves, which the reboot has in abundance, bringing its lightning-fast action to the PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360 as a downloadable game. At its best, “Strider” is a smooth action-packed game with some excellent side-scrolling gameplay that rivals some of the best action platformers. It’s unfortunate that it is held back by bad pacing and poor level design.
All of the action in “Strider” takes place on a 2D playing field, so its basic mechanic is moving right and left. Essentially, you must get from one end of a level to the other, while you jump around as you fight a bunch of robots that are shooting at you. You gain new power-ups as you progress, which allow you to jump higher, as well as powerful attacks that allow you to take down some bigger enemies. The game is relatively difficult; the enemies have different ways of creating different obstacles. Some of these enemies may be difficult to beat at first, but after a while you can learn their patterns and weaknesses.
As for style, there is plenty of it here. The city you are exploring is reminiscent of “Tron,” with lots of different neon lights that flash before you while you race through the level. Strider is the quintessential cool guy: He is a mysterious ninja, clad in cool purple and wields a neon-red blade. All of his attacks look very over the top, and while not all of the moves do a lot of damage, just watching the neon blade moving through the air during lightning-fast combat is pleasing. When Strider is running around, he runs with his blade out — so even his running looks like something out of “The Matrix.”
Now, the question that needs to be asked is: How much substance is there? This is where Strider falls flat on his face. Everything looks good, but becomes extremely repetitive very quickly — gameplay is just a bunch of slashing with very little strategy. The variation in enemies is lacking, too; the robots all look the same (with a few exceptions), and can only be distinguished by their different guns. Some have shotguns, pistols and the most annoying ones have snipers.
All of that could have been forgiven if the level design was imaginative — unfortunately, it is not. Once you play the first level, you have pretty much seen every level. The level design is very confusing and forces you to rely on the map excessively to figure out where to go next. A lot of times I found myself lost because the levels lack any natural progression, and I would reach a wall only to find that I had missed an obscure exit. There are even times when it is difficult to tell the difference between the background and foreground. In a game all about jumping around from one spot to another, this is a real problem.
Given its lack of creativity, you may be surprised when you reach the boss stages. How does flying around a giant robotic dragon as turrets try to shoot you down sound? This type of imagination and fun would have been appreciated in the rest of the game, and as a result, the elaborate boss fights are some of the most exciting parts of “Strider.”
This game should only take about six hours to complete if you are just trying to get to the end, which is not bad considering that it will only set you back $15. Plus, there is a lot to collect throughout the game, so if you are a completionist there is plenty to do after your first playthrough.
“Strider” really could have been something special. The ninja looks cooler than ever, the boss fights truly are large and the combat is very fast. It just lacks some substance. It is not a bad game by any means, nor is it great. It is just good, and for only $15, good could actually be a bargain.
Rating: 3.5 stars