Strider (2014) Review

[As Read on GIO.]

If you go back through Capcom’s gaming history, you will surely find several interesting characters that haven’t seen the light of day in a long while- despite us always seeing the same old Resident Evil and Dead Rising announcements everywhere. After all, those games are the cash cows for Capcom, and you can hardly blame them for wanting to create more of what they at least know to be successful. However, Strider is not a new character- having debuted in the late eighties-early nineties, yet this makeover is well-deserved and much appreciated in my mind. It’s good to see a classic game thrown into the next evolution of consoles and especially good to see it performing well and having many a new trick shoved up it’s ninja sleeve as well. And that’s exactly what Strider does.

The controls are easily the best part of the experience, as they offer a sturdy, firm foundation for the gameplay and environments to build upon. Not only do the animations look well in response to the controls, but the likely things happen when you do something such as sprinting or rolling- dust stirs up and you’ll hear the occasional realistic ninja grunt or two as well. The boss battles are almost always fun, fast-paced, and never lacking for entertainment. The character models are well-crafted, from Strider’s scarf to the mechanized villains which he must cut down to size. All in all, this is a pretty solid next generation title- albeit not the most ambitious there could’ve been. It is quite a solid offering.

Although Strider is a fighting game, it is also very much a platforming one. It combines the best of old-school mechanics with new, unheard of platforming traits and skills to grand success. These sequences serve as breaks in the action of fighting and add a little extra challenge- of a different sort, into the mix as well. Lasers, hammers, and many classic video game death traps make appearances during platforming areas, and the fact that Strider can traverse the world on floors, walls, and ceilings only makes things more entertaining. At some points, I even found myself comparing the platforming and sliding around to Super Meat Boy- on some smaller level. Thankfully, Capcom/Double Helix’s generosity in new gameplay extends to their generosity in death, as should you fail Strider respawns at the nearest checkpoint (located pretty well in most instances) and only loses a little health.

Think of Strider’s new world as something out of a Metroidvania themed game. Instead of being one particularly large two dimensional area however, there are several medium sized areas that you can warp to as you delve further into the game. Keep in mind, most environments are going to be here simply because of the large variety of places Strider visits in his journey and pursuit, so don’t rule any old Soviet-era lab or futuristic city or jungle fortress out quite yet… For a mostly two dimensional experience, the attention to detail in the environments and character models is impressive to say the least, and definitely rendered the best on next generation consoles and computers.

Large, open-air areas really feel immense and tight, close-quarters indoor areas really feel constricting as you travel the world and fight your foes. A curious and inquisitive warrior will find plenty of secret passages, treasures, and upgrades along the way, there are plenty of reasons to backtrack to areas once you’ve received more upgrades, and even the most exploration-savvy of us may miss a few things. The game never really gets that frustrating, honestly no matter how you play it- more gung-ho or more cautious. It’s a grand experience and just as successful a reboot as it is a new game in its own right. Surprisingly, the game also takes almost ten hours to complete- assuming you’ve done a little bit of searching for treasures and surprises as well.

As you progress, you’ll continually be unlocking newer and faster-paced abilities to furnish your repertoire with, getting better at using old, solid attacks, and learning new combinations of flurries, strikes, and parries as well. The d-pad switches your plasma sword from one type of attack to another- fire, ice, etcetera etcetera essentially. There are four major types of attacks, and each is important in the strategic flow of combat. For example, you may have to use an explosive fire attack to knock some armor off of an enemy before following up with a normal strike to the undefended flesh underneath. Every enemy is susceptible to a different method of attack, further adding to the strategy in combat, and to the fine level of detail in this particular project.

Learning how to swap out attack types on the go is really a necessity for surviving any length of time in this environment. As with any game however, there are of course a few places that could use a little bit of extra work. Namely, the story is pretty generic (which is forgivable in this genre usually), there is only one major save file for your games, and although you can travel about with ease, there isn’t literally a warp system (though it is not that hard to backtrack as aforementioned). The story boils down to (without spoiling it much) tracking down enemy bosses to kill, and eliminating as much of their enemy populace in specific areas as is possible.

There aren’t truly that many complaints about the trappings of this game, which can mostly be attributed to the well-handled controls and aesthetics. Thankfully, those complaints that do surface stem mainly from some extra, non-control and non-graphical or technical areas of the game- such as story, warps, etcetera. Now for the final verdict:

Concept: Bring back Capcom’s lesser-known ninja hero, who has been trapped in limbo for far too long and needs to get a good dose of both nostalgia and the lime-light for his return. Also, for pure enjoyment and exploration of the new capabilities of consoles.

Graphics: Between the animation work and the impressive level of environmental and character detail, the game handles perfectly, runs pretty smoothly, and certainly looks impressive for a two dimensional title.

Sound: As with most of Capcom’s titles, the voice work is way over the top and crazy at best, and the soundtracks include some catchy synth beat tracks and futuristic melodies to enjoy as you make the customary romp around the world defeating as many enemies as you possibly can.

Playability: Never will a new ability go to waste in this game- you’ll be utilizing each and every one of them without remorse by the end. The timing of learning and upgrading is perfectly spaced out so as not to be too quickly implemented or too slowly either. The controls handle perfectly and are incredibly responsive, leading to further enjoyment in the animation, gameplay, and upgrade departments.

Entertainment: Not only a solid reboot, but a solid new game in general. There isn’t really that much to complain about outside of a few minor grievances I’ve found within the game, and that most others have already harped on.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.25

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