Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns
Box Shot
Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: U.S. Gold
Designer: Tiertex
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1992
Reviewed by: Rob Strangman

Strider Hiryu - one of the greatest heroes of gaming ever. Since his first appearance in 1988 in arcades - the original Strider is considered to be one of the greatest arcade games ever made - the legend behind him has grown. He has since appeared on the NES, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, PC Engine, and most recently in the arcade and Dreamcast games Marvel Vs. Capcom and Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, the Playstation version of Marvel Vs. Capcom, and best of all, a fantastic new arcade and Playstation adventure game - Strider 2.

However, back in 1992, Capcom had licensed out the Strider name and characters to U.S. Gold. Working with the programming house Tiertex, they created Journey From Darkness: Strider Returns (somehow mislabeled Strider II on both the cart and the title screen).

There have been a lot of great games that have had great sequels.

This is not one of them.

Journey From Darkness: Strider Returns falls rights in with a lot of other infamous sequels - Blaster Master 2 (Genesis), Contra: Legacy Of War (PSX) and C: The Contra Adventure (PSX), just to name a few. All of these are held in extremely low regard by most serious gamers.

According to the story, Grand Master Meio has returned and kidnapped Lexia - "not the car, the babe!"... *groan*. For some reason, according to the instructions, you're not playing as Hiryu in SR - you're playing as Strider Hinjo... huh? Where did this guy come from? He looks just like Hiryu, with a different colored jumpsuit. Anyway, name changes aside, you have to defeat Meio and get Lexia back.

On first inspection, it seems that the designers ripped a few characters and pictures out of the original Genesis game, changed the color of Hiryu's outfit, and dropped everything into a mediocre European-made Amiga game - which, after playing the game for a while, seems to be exactly what they did. The title screen alone hints at the game's computer heritage... it looks terrible. Having never been a fan of Amiga games - or European designed games in general - SR was already off to a bad start.

SR has five stages, just like the original - however, these stages seem a lot less imaginative, full of generic European designed Amiga-style robots and soldiers. Also, the name of every stage is printed out in huge, neon letters that look like they were taken out of a children's storybook. The stages are The Forbidden Forest (1), Castle Metropolis (2), Hive Level (3), The Alien Depths (4), and The Master's Prison Ship (5).

The game has decent control - all of Hiryu's moves from the arcade are intact, although Hinjo (why?) could move a little faster. For some reason Hinjo (again, why?) can also fling throwing stars now, but he can't fire them fast enough to take out a few of the faster moving enemies. You also have a choice between Hinjo's original Cipher and a new Sweep Sword. IMO, the original Cipher seems to work a lot better.

Most of the little extras from the original game are gone. The Hawk Robot and the Teropodal Robo-Panther are missing, and the Drone that you get is now a small black sphere. You can still power-up your Cipher - one of the good things about the game is that when you die, you keep your powerup. If you happen to pick up another power-up while you have a powered-up Cipher, you'll receive seven throwing stars.

Of course, there are also reserve energy tanks for filling your life bar back up, as well as a seperate energy bar, which you can fill up by picking up oil-can like icons. These give you defensive orbs that protect you when you're fighting the stage boss.

The bosses are a fairly unimpressive bunch - the best one in the game is Solo, the bounty hunter from the original Strider, who's the first level boss - and believe me, cool as he was in Strider, he's nothing here. The rest of the bosses are pretty standard issue (read: generic), and rather boring.

The graphics? They're nothing to write home about, that's for sure. The backgrounds are muddy and nondescript, the enemies and other characters are, like I said earlier, generic European designed Amiga-style characters - the most impressive looking thing on the screen is Hinjo. The bad part about that is that they changed the outfit colors from red and blue to silver and green, which doesn't look very good - it looks like Hinjo's ready to go the local disco than fight evil.

All of the power-up icons from the original have been changed as well - they're all generic looking power-ups (for example, instead of the sword icon from the original, there's now a little black box that says "Power Up").

The music is passable, but the sound effects are terrible. SR also attempts to use voice samples, which comes out completely laughable, thanks to the Genesis sound chip. Hinjo and Grand Master Meio sound like chipmunks half the time!

The difficulty is set fairly high - the hit detection is almost nonexistant, and it's very easy to die. On top of that you only get 5 continues... and those can go pretty quick.

To add insult to injury, the opening story in the instruction book looks like it was written by 40 year old men trying to sound "cool", or like something from the old "Video Power" TV show that starred that obnoxious guy "Johnny Arcade". Check it out - here it is, quoted directly:

"This guy is like a bad habit, he just won't go away. Now this Evil Master dude and his legions of nimrods are poised above the planet in a space station, ready to make the planet one big black hole. Not only that, those blasted automadions (space slang for funky robot type guys) have captured Lexia (Not the car, the babe!) and are holding her prisoner aboard their space station.

Don't it just make your blood boil? Doesn't it make your skin crawl? Does it make your face turn red with anger? Is there steam coming out of your ears? Hold on, get a grip! We've been in this kind of fix before. Okay, okay, you're right, probably not this bad. But hey, this is a video game. There's always a good guy around somewhere. Get with the program!

It just so happens, that on the island of Moralos (you remember the secret base of the famous Striders) there is just the guy you're looking for. The most pumped up Strider of them all, Hinjo, is just waiting to punch these guy's lights out. Go ahead, grab that control pad and give it a shot, sound like a piece of cake... Wrong! This baby's not your every day space walk in the park! Strider's back and the fun is about to begin. Rumble on, Strider Dude!"

Okay - "funky robot type guys"? "Not the car, the babe!"? "Rumble on, Strider Dude!"? This extrememly well-written story (note: heavy sarcasm) is insulting, to say the least.

In the end, Journey From Darkness: Strider Returns turns out to be a lame attempt to cash in on a popular character. Not surprisingly, Strider went underground for a few years, until Hiryu resurfaced in Marvel Vs. Capcom.

Unless you're a diehard Strider fan, steer clear of this one (even if you are a diehard Strider fan, I still recommend that you steer clear of it). After all, Strider 2 has been released for the PlayStation (very, VERY highly recommended, as you get the new Strider 2, which is fantastic, and the original Strider arcade game, which is a great deal) - and if you still want more Strider, go out and track down a copy of Run Saber on the Super NES before you get this. Run Saber may not be a Strider game, but it's closer to what Strider really is than Strider Returns is...