Strider has become one of Capcom’s unsung heroes from the arcade and the early console years, putting players in the role of Strider Hiryu as they sliced their way through what seemed to be Soviet Russia in an attempt to save the world from a mysterious being known only as ‘the Grandmaster’. It would become an action adventure title for the NES in North America forcing fans to wait for it to be ported from its arcade roots to the Genesis later, and then Strider Hiryu seemingly dropped off of the map. But he’d return in an arcade sequel that would find its way to PS1 and as a fanservice extra, Capcom would also include an even more polished arcade port of the original to celebrate Hiryu’s return.
Review by Reggie Carolipio
Strider 2 slashed its way to the PS1.
You Cannot Defeat Our Lord!
Strider 2 was released for the PS1 with the bonus of having the original Strider included as a second CD in the package. For fans of the franchise, it was great to see both arcade ports in the same package. There was also a quirk with the packaging, as the second CD was marked as “Strider 2″ when it reality it was the bonus disc containing the original Strider.
The game pits the seemingly immortal Strider Hiryu once more against his old nemesis, the Grandmaster, who has apparently taken control of the world. The Striders, a secret group of powerful fighters renowned for their singular use of a plasma blade that they call a “cipher” to dispatch anyone who stands in their way, are nearly destroyed when the Grandmaster takes control. Although this is never made clear in the game, this is the impression that the cut scenes leave the player. Strider Hiryu is the last of these ‘guardian’ assassins and he’ll travel the corners of the world and beyond to complete his mission to bring down the Grandmaster. Fans of the franchise may feel that this is a spiritual update to the first Strider, which featured much of the same storyline. During the course of strider 2‘s limited narrative, the events of the first one aren’t even mentioned and one or two stages offer up updated versions of those that were in the original.
The sequel makes use of the previous PS generation’s fixation on 3D by creating a side scrolling action title that blends 2D action with 3D graphics. The backgrounds and many of the obstacles that stand in your way are 3D objects, while the hero and his enemies tend to be mostly well animated 2D sprites which can tend to create a sort of jarring effect to the presentation. This is also the same for many of the special effects that you’ll see in the game, and the cuts in between each mission are well drawn 2D comic style marquees showing text dialog between them. The music isn’t bad, and many of the sound effects in the game (with the exception of Hiryu’s footsteps which sound like they’re right next to your ear) help to bring the action filled atmosphere of this slash ‘em up to life. There’s also more voice acting in the game on the part of the bosses, although its all in Japanese which still adds its own unique flavor.
The game is filled with a lot of action and remarkable set pieces. Capcom’s artists once again demonstrate their ability to dream up some of the most whacked out enemies that you’ll ever see in a video game. Soldiers with hockey sticks that skate around to try and kill you, dragon faced helicopter gun pods, super powered mutant scientists, and a cybernetic mammoth are only some of the foes that Strider Hiryu will face on his quest for vengeance.
The controls are easy to pick up as you’ll quickly find yourself jumping across floating cars, clinging on walls and ceilings, sliding across floors, and slashing your way through hordes of enemies in no time. In comparison to the original Strider, the controls feel tightened up and Hiryu’s moves are easy to execute. He also has a new trick that allows him to shoot homing arcs of plasma from his blade as a boosted attack for a time, something that will definitely help him against the huge number of mini-bosses that litter the missions.
You can also adjust the experience by raising the difficulty or in tweaking the health settings to provide a better or easier challenge. There are also a variety of bonuses to be found throughout the game’s stages, ranging from point bonuses to health bonuses that can extend Hiryu’s life meter. There’s also no end to the number of continues that are available for you to use which can make the game all too easy…and too short.
Ten Seconds and Counting
The game is divided up into separate missions, the first three of which you can select the order of how you want to go about saving the world. Only after you complete these first few missions, however, will the last missions open up and allow you to take the fight to the Grandmaster. Many of these missions are also divided up into smaller, bite sized stages that can take only minutes to get through. Coupled with infinite continues, the game can easily be as short as an hour of dedicated play which can be surprising, but it does offer the challenge of improving your score following each mission. For hard core action addicts, improving your score at the end of each stage of the game may be the true meat of the experience and in that regard, Strider 2 provides quite a bit of brutal challenge as it tries to crush those dreams. Gamers are rated based on how quickly they get through a stage, enemies killed, and how many times they may have died to generate a grade that ranges from “E”, which is the worst, to “S”…which is even better than an “A”. A game that may only take an hour or so to complete can easily provide several hours more of entertainment this way.
However, for many gamers, this might not even be enough and while it tries to lay on the nostalgia with an updated 2D action experience, Capcom doesn’t quite take complete advantage of the opportunity. This is best demonstrated in comparing it to Konami’s brilliant update to their Castelvania series for the PS1, Symphony of the Night, which blends 2D gameplay along with using 3D effects. This, in addition to a variety of gameplay enhancements that seamlessly brought together action, adventure, and even a few RPG elements, has managed to create one of the best chapters in that franchise. Instead of daring to do something a little different as Capcom had done with some of their arcade properties during the early console years, they have instead played it safe and brought over a straight port. For hardcore fans, that’s not a bad thing. But for many others, it may simply not be enough. Capcom’s action adventure take on Strider for the NES was a lot of fun and I had hoped to have seen a proper sequel to that version of the legend for the PS1.
Strider 2 has quite a bit of simple, mindless action to offer especially to fans of the Strider franchise, but its not for everyone especially when so many other titles out there provide many of the same thrills with deeper gameplay. It’s pure, nostalgic, slash ‘em action can easily be played for an hour or so and then quickly shelved, unless you happen to be the kind of player that wants to achieve the ultimate “S” ranking in every mission that it will throw at you. With the original Strider included, this is the kind of fanservice that longtime Capcom and Strider fans looking for some simple slash ‘em up action may still want to complement their collections with, although some may still wish that Capcom had decided to be as daring as they had been in their early console years to help revitalize the series.
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