Also On: PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Double Helix
I was pretty excited when a new Strider game was first announced, and having now played and completed the game on PS4, I’m happy to say that most of my expectations were met. It’s not spot on when compared to previous, beloved entries in the series, and adopts the popular “Metroidvania” style of gameplay, but keeps a pretty heavy emphasis on action. You’ll still jump, double jump, and slash your way through lots and lots of cyborgs, robotic gorillas, dragons, and other tech-enhanced villains. The general look and feel of the game is such that Strider fans should feel pretty much at home with what Double Helix has produced.
The story side of things means little with this new Strider. You’re in a futuristic city lorded over by a religious zealot that has a whole host of henchmen at his disposal. You’ll run across rooftops, through underground processing plants, climb walls, gather weapon upgrades, unlock previously blocked passages, and engage in a number of boss fights. Essentially you’re a bad-ass, red scarf wearing ninja that can cut through a dozen or more enemies in a matter of seconds. You’ll feel pretty powerful and in command most of the time, but if you find things too easy on Normal you can ratchet up the difficulty for a more traditional Strider experience.
The world map is pretty large, featuring a number of open ended areas with multiple pathways to explore, and hidden items to uncover. Strider’s basic equipment, his blade and kunai, can be upgrade throughout the game. Each upgrade contains some sort of property, generally elemental, and usually useful against new enemies encountered shortly after locating the upgrade. Various doors will remain locked until you find the appropriate upgrade to unlock them, and they’re helpfully color-coded by an easily accessible map you can bring up at any time.
While my end-game time was short, finishing at around 6 hours on my initial playthrough, Strider doesn’t keep track of retries, so I’m guessing I clocked in around the 8 to 10 hour mark. It was a heftier adventure than I was expecting for a digital download, non-retail title. It’s also a great looking game, despite the occasional drab art design in a couple sections of the map. My only real visual complaint stems from the enemy design, which tends to be repetitive with palette swaps throughout. The same goes for the unlockable costumes you can uncover, which are again palette swaps instead of individualized designs. It’s also worth noting that the game runs at a rock-solid 60 frames per second on PS4, and I’m under the impression the same can be said for the Xbox One version.
Despite delivering on the fun action elements you’d expect to see in a game called Strider, and an expansive world to explore, there’s definitely room for improvement. Some complaints I have are fairly minor, like the large text dialogue overlays that pop up while running around the world. There’s no way to turn these off, they take up a considerable amount of screen space, and can make it very difficult to see until they go away. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you’ll be instantly annoyed by it.
Another complaint stems from the map and world traversal. The map you can view is generally well-detailed, highlighting color-coded doors and power-ups you haven’t obtained yet. But what could be better explained are pathways that lead to new areas, and labeling them as such. There were a few points where I found myself frustrated as I attempted to backtrack in order to find missing upgrades, and had difficulty actually pinpointing where I needed to go. This is exacerbated by poorly executed quick travel solutions, further complicated by layered map sections that can be difficult to read.
And while Strider is littered with collectibles to obtain, very few of them feel like they’re worth the effort. The power-ups that actually effect gameplay are surprisingly scarce, but there are a ton of other icons to gather that unlock old collectible standbys like concept art. I’d rather have seen more gameplay enhancing items, especially when they tie into the overall game completion percentage. To Strider’s credit, some collectibles will unlock additional stages for modes outside of the campaign, which is certainly a better carrot on a stick than concept art.
I definitely think Strider is worth checking out, whether you’re a fan of the original or not. It’s certainly far enough removed from the games that came before it that you can enjoy this without any real working knowledge of NES, Arcade, or Genesis entries. But at the same time it’s not exactly a traditional Strider experience, which I’m sure will drive away some of the purists out there. However, Strider provides a suitable attempt at marrying modern “Metroidvania” designs to the franchise, and is really a lot of fun to play through for the 8 hours or so you’ll get out of it. I’d certainly like to see a second, improved entry somewhere down the road, and hopefully Capcom can make that happen.