Early in the life of the popular Sega Genesis, there were a few games
that were reprogrammed versions of recent Capcom arcade hits. Ghouls and
Ghosts, Forgotten Worlds and Strider were among those translated
(extremely well I might add) but Strider sticks out as the best of
The arcade game was a huge success, which warranted home translations.
The NES game completely deviated from the arcade with a more developed
story line and deeper, almost RPG-ish gameplay, but lacked the overall
grandeur of the arcade original. Not to say it was a bad game but I
felt that it lacked the magic of its big brother. The Sega Master System
version was more true to the original but lacked speed, good graphics and
control. The Sega Genesis version on the other hand, was a sight to behold.
Being the world's first 8-megabit cartridge, it had a lot to live up to,
but thankfully, not only did almost perfectly duplicate the look and
feel of the CPS-1 powered arcade original, it also became an endearing
classic in the process.
Taking place on Earth in the 21st century, Strider starts out in Kazaskar,
Russia, where Strider-Hiryu must foil the evil leader of the third moon's
plans to dominate the world. Strider Hiryu, the youngest person to ever
achieve the rank of A-class Strider has only one weapon, a nightstick
shaped sword called a cipher, a powerful extension capable of splitting
soldiers in two. Not only is this weapon powerful it's also very stylish,
unleashing a cool, crescent shaped, slash in front of Hiryu. Hiryu also
carries a mini-sickle, which is used to climb on walls and hang on
ceilings. Strider Hiryu's other moves consist of somersault jumps, and
heroic slides (kind of like MegaMan's). You can also find little drones that
hover around the screen and kill any enemies it comes across, along with a
robotic Siberian tiger that will pounce on baddies.
The story is not important though, as it is the gameplay that makes this
game. Never have I encountered level design this exquisite as I could play
this game over and over and still not be tired of it. For example, level
two (the finest level in the game) has you start out on snowy field
battling wolves, all of the sudden you encounter a giant Gorilla in the
next area. An easy but cool battle follows. After you defeat the gorilla
you are forced to climb upward, all the while avoiding little mechs.
After that you are welcomed by two, gigantic turbine-like circles, carrying
platforms as they rotate. Some platforms are lined with spikes while others
carry power-ups or guards. Maneuver your way up these obstacles and be
welcomes by a villain holding a large laser rifle. Defeat him and proceed
down a snowy mountain range, running for your life amidst lush scenery and
bombs exploding behind you. Needless to say this is the most memorable part
of the entire game. Finish the run, jump to a new platform, and prepare
yourself for a new environment. You are now in some power plant (a rather
strange one I might add) fending off man sized mechs with giant mouths
and an Ed-209 like profile. Proceed up the plants bizarre architecture and
jump up onto a small aerial float, and then another, and then another, all
while avoiding bombs on parachutes while desperately trying to stay on the
craft. The last craft brings you to an enormous airship, on which you must
defeat three luscious Asian, acrobatic ninja girls. Defeat them and all
you have to do is slice open the door of the cockpit and half the guard.
Throughout all of this the control remains tight and simple. Sorry about
the length, but I feel that that level had to be described.
Every level before and after two are excellent, by giving our hero
something new to do. Whether it's climbing on the back of dinosaur or
spinning around a giant power core, each level has its own personality and
unique layout. Never has a game taken advantage of its environment like
Bosses? Yes, Strider has a crew of excellent bosses but one of my favorites
is the level one boss. Since the first level is in Russia you encounter a
Russian boss (makes sense, right?). The boss turns out to be a political
leader standing before Hiryu and a board of his followers. All of the
sudden he and the twenty other board members transform into a giant
snake-type creature carrying, what else, but a sickle and a hammer
(just like the Russian Communist flag!!!!) You have to jump on the twisty
snake's back and repeatedly slash at its head until it crumbles just like
the Russian economy. Other interesting but weird bosses include the giant
gorilla, a genetic muscle freak, and the evil no-legged end boss. I must
add that a lot of the bosses are giant, multiple-sprite masterpieces
(for its time, anyway). You will have a blast tearing them down. My only
complaint is that you cannot take 'em out piece by piece (a-la Einhander).
Another high point is the excellent music. Not only does it range from
epic to ambient, but also changes along with your circumstances. There are
four pieces of music in level one alone. The only thing that hurts the
music is the sound chip of the Genesis (some of the instruments used
do not sound right sometimes). Even with that though, it is still among the
best music on the Genesis, right up there with Sonic and any Yuzo Koshiro
The graphics, although dated by today's standards, are still among the best
the old Genny has produced. Compare it to its arcade big brother on the
other hand, and you will be amazed at how close the translation was. The
only sacrifices were made in animation and certain large sprites.
The character design is also worthy of mention as Strider Hiryu looks
undeniably cool, dressed in blue and red with his slick weapon. All of the
bosses are a treat to look at and the 'drone' characters range from humorous
to intriguing. This kind of art design (read: Japanese) should be emulated
more by the American game designers of today, as I feel that a lot of the
American art for games sucks (not all of them though, just a certain
bunch of them who I feel are more into pretty 3-D graphics than art).
Strider is a game you will enjoy from beginning to end. It's great graphics
and nice gameplay need to be experienced by all of you classic gamers out
there. I cannot fully recommend this game enough. Get it.
What's Strider doing today you ask? Well after that horrible U.S. Gold
sequel, and a lackluster Super CD ROM game, Strider went away for a while
and nobody seemed to care anymore. All of a sudden though, web-sites
started popping up depicting Hiryu's life and times, and after that we
saw Strider-Hiryu return to video games in the recent Marvel vs. Capcom
fighter. And thankfully, brace yourself, Hiryu is coming back on a new
arcade game! All I know about it is that it is running off of a Playstation
compatible board, will have 2-D sprites on 3-D backgrounds (with the
possibility of large 3-D bosses) and have similar gameplay to the original.
It will be called Strider Hiryu 2 and there is a possibility of a
Playstation translation soon after release. It should be released soon as
video footage was shown at a recent Japanese arcade show. Long live Strider!