The Original Cyber Assassin: Strider Reboot Review
*The PS3 version was used to review Strider*
Capcom has a ton of forgotten characters locked away in their gaming vault. Captain Commando, Arthur from Ghosts 'N Goblins, Samanosuke from Onimusha and way too many others to count on two hands. Thanks to the efforts of Capcom and developer Double Helix Games, one of those forgotten characters can finally see the light of day. Cyber Assassin Strider Hiryu glides onto multiplatforms as a reboot to the Strider games of old. Titled simply as Strider, this digital only release is seeing much praise from publication sites in addition to consumer appeal. As someone who only got to play the original Strider on the NES, I have to say I'm liking Strider more than I thought I would. A nicely done blend of retro mechanics with modern aesthetics.
Much like the older Strider games, this new rendition sticks to the roots but just looks ten times better and faster than its predecessor. Just what exactly makes Strider so enjoyable in the first place? From the moment Strider Hiryu glides to the battlefield and players take control of him, you come to realize how simple it is to really control the Special-A class ninja. The control scheme is well-placed and a good thing too since the button layouts cannot be changed. Movement feels on point for the platforming requirements and also when needing to dodging enemy fire/attacks. Strider is among some of the few games I've played where the feel of the game is near perfection. On top of the versatile maneuvering skills, Strider Hiryu has a bevy of weapons and upgrades at his disposal as progress is made in the game.
Everything about this game is an honest throwback to 2D side scrollers of old and as I explored Kazakh City, I felt like Double Helix took some pointers from the legendary game series Metroid and Castlevania. Exploration is a big part of Strider because the more you explore, the more upgrades that can be found. Believe me, you'll want to find as many of these upgrades as possible because the game is quite hard. This revelation dawned on me about an hour in and I've seen my fair share of "Mission Failure" screens. It's not the cheap kind of hard where enemies take forever to die and deal out massive amounts of damage. No, this is more of the old school hard where multiple enemies attack at once, covering the screen with projectiles that Hiryu must dodge constantly. Watching enemy movements is often key to avoiding damage since certain animations come before the attack. I'm so used to games being easy compared to years ago that Strider took me by complete surprise with it's difficulty. It may not be Dark Souls but the game still requires a moderate amount of concentration.
In terms of gameplay, it's a simple as they come. Strider Hiryu must run, climb, dash and slash his way through hordes of mechanical enemies to reach his goal: assassinating Grandmaster Meio. Fast paced and demanding, players have a couple different ways of dispatching enemies. There's the standard slash, which can be aimed straight ahead, tilted upwards or downwards and straight down. Enemies can also be launched into the air to be finished off with a slash or downward stab. Eventually, Hiryu gains new powers for his Cypher and Options, which help progress the flow of the game. Cypher is the type of sword Hiryu specializes in and it is giving powers like Reflect, Explosive and Ice. Each upgrade does as its respected name suggests. Equipping the Reflect upgrade means Hiryu can bounce enemy bullets back by slashing them. In addition to getting elemental effects for his weapon, new moves become unlocked like the charged up slash that causes 2X damage/range and can cause shielded foes to drop their shields. Doing this, leaves them open to assault.
Options are more like gadgets for Hiryu and they come in handy more than once in his journey. Each one has a specific use where it is most effective. Option B, otherwise knows as Phantom Panther, is much better at handling grounded enemies over the Eagle Option. There are so many upgrades and abilities waiting to be found that it would be dragging for me to mention them all. By taking advantage of Strider Hiryu's Cypher and his Options, players will no doubt be in for a challenge but at least be well-equipped for it. Double Helix did a fine job of pacing and making sure the game always felt like it was moving forward; never backwards. Even when I had to backtrack to reach previously inaccessible spots, Strider was being propelled ahead through constant upgrades and challenges.
Once the main game is completed, players can test their skills with two challenge modes. Beacon Run has players sprinting to reach checkpoints as fast as they can while engaging enemy forces. Survival acts just like the name suggests; Strider Hiryu must fight off waves of enemies until the inevitable defeat. For those that want to boast their skills to the world, these challenge modes are ranked and can be uploaded to the Strider leaderboards. As for myself, I'm not the best at performing Beacon Runs but I handle myself much better with Survival. I've always been better at fighting than doing speed runs anyway.
I would like to point out that while these screenshots look wonderful, Strider looks way better in motion. Even on my PS3, the visuals popped out at me and the colors are vibrant to the point of a "Wow" moment. The game looks even better on the next-gen consoles in my opinion. In truth, it took me awhile to nail down cons for Strider. They eluded me at first but after much consideration and deliberation, I finally hit my marks. At some point in the game, Strider Hiryu gains access to a ice upgrade for his Cypher. The ice elemental upgrade made fighting enemies far too easy because they would freeze solid after one or two slashes. To balance the OP upgrade, I would switch to other Cypher upgrades to re-introduce the challenging foes. Lastly, for a game that looks as good as Strider does, the backgrounds aren't as alluring as I would have liked. Backgrounds feel void of any life and don't carry any "Wow" factors. I remember slicing enemies in what reminded me of a subway station filled with people in the background. These people didn't even so much as budge as I tore my way past enemies. The issues I just mentioned are minor at best but issues nonetheless.
+ Great pacing
+Strider is a beauty in motion
+ Control scheme allows for optimum use of the Special A Class Ninja
+ Moderately high replay value
-Backdrops are boring and uninviting
-That ice elemental upgrade is too OP
Strider may not revolutionize the game industry, however, it does show that through hard work, oldies can be reshaped and highly regarded. Does this mean we may see other old classics revitalized to fit our modern day? Will Strider get a much craved sequel? Only time will tell but I'm glad I spent the time to find out about Strider. I highly recommend the game to those who like Shadow Complex, Metroid and Castlevania. Even if you aren't big on those titles, try out the demo; you may just be surprised to find you like Strider Hiryu's comeback.