Strider
Box Shot
Strider
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Sega
Designer: Capcom
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1990
Reviewed by: Rade Kuruc

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 three.

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 Strider has.

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 score.

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!