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Strider (Arcade)
Strider (NES)

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Strider Returns
Strider 2

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Run Saber
Osman

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by Sotenga - 2004/2005

The late eighties may be called the golden age of the video game industry, rather than the era prior to the video game crash of '84. It was a great time for the rise of home consoles, but the ability to play games within the convenience of your own home detracted a bit from the venue that put video games on the map: The arcade. So, to stay alive, companies who lacked home consoles to call their own, such as Konami and Namco, worked hard to improve the quality of their arcade titles, and this would definitely show over the years. Capcom also strived to make their mark, thus leading to the birth of their CPS1 arcade system. Before they really hit it big with Street Fighter II, Capcom released some of the greatest action titles you could find on Earth, including, but not limited to, Forgotten Worlds, 1943, Ghouls N' Ghosts, Final Fight... And Strider. Sweet, glorious Strider.

The Strider series is set in the future, a time of the Striders, an elite group of counter-terrorists working to fight the evils of the world. The series chronicles the adventures of Hiryu, the greatest of all the Striders. Second to none, Hiryu traverses the land with his cipher, Falchion. Ciphers are the standard issue weapons for Striders, and they're damned cool weapons. They can best be described as the bastard child of a tonfa stick and a lightsaber. While Hiryu is extraordinarily skilled with his weapon and he's an extremely acrobatic individual, he faces a diverse cast of antagonists, ranging from mechanical gorillas to reanimated mastodons, which makes his job very harrowing.

Strider Hiryu was initially conceived as a multimedia project, with an arcade game, a NES game, and a manga published around the same time. While the arcade game has little to do with the manga, the storyline of the NES game ties in directly with it. (Strangely, the NES game was not released in Japan.) All appearances of Strider credit "Moto Kikaku" as the character designer. Moto Kikaku is not the name of a specific person, but rather a group of artists that share the copyright. While Hiryu wears a flowing red mask in the original artwork, it is never actually shown in the games - at least not until his appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom and Strider 2.

Strider (Arcade)


Strider / Strider Hiryu (ストライダー飛竜) - Arcade, Genesis, Master System, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, Amiga, X68000, PC Engine Arcade CD, PlayStation, Xbox, PlayStation 2, PSP, Mobile, Wii (1989)

American Arcade Flyer

Japanese Mega Drive Cover

American Genesis Cover

European Amiga Cover

Japanese Arcade Flyer

This is where the madness all began, and all it took was a badass hero, a completely evil villain, and a whole lot of greatness. In the distant future, a small European nation known as Kafazu is ravaged and obliterated by a mysterious army. This army then goes on to take out all of Europe and several other continents before their leader is revealed, an enigmatic figure known as Grandmaster Meio (who bears a suspicious resemblance to Emperor Palpatine). Hiryu, the youngest Strider to ever reach the A-Class rank, is called upon to perform the blunt task of reaching and terminating Meio. It's simple in theory, but when it comes to practice, it's not an easy thing to do.

Hiryu's voyage begins in Kafazu, the city where the chaos all began. He rides in on his glider, then jumps off as an alarm sounds, and suddenly the whole Kafazu army is after him. The action starts right away, with soldiers rushing the hero, but they're not that skilled. Hiryu, on the other hand, swings his cipher extremely fast. Players with itchy trigger fingers can cackle with glee as they move through the poor schmucks, slicing their torsos clean in half. Beyond Kafazu is the brutal icy hell of Siberia, the perilous airborne battleship Balrog, the savage fury of the Amazon jungle, and finally, Meio's main base of operations, the Third Moon.

Possibly the most impressive stage is the third one, the battleship Balrog. After tearing through a turret that provides an entry point for Hiryu, he has to navigate his way through many platforms revolving on conveyor belts, climb up a pair of moving walls before he gets squished, deal with an improbability of physics when the ship changes gravity, destroy the ship's core, (which is apparently responsible for switching the gravity) and then hightail it out onto an escape ship to not go down with the exploding Balrog. This was beyond impressive for 1989, and it still manages to hold up today.

The Amazon level is also extremely well done. It is filled with vines, which adhere to weird physics as they flip and jounce about, launching Hiryu all over the place. Then he gets to ride on dinosaurs. The finale, the Third Moon, combines elements and enemies from the previous four stages to make an excruciatingly difficult final challenge. If Hiryu can pass all that, he is granted an audience with Meio for the final battle.

Strider only has five levels, but considering that it was the late eighties, this was about the default amount of stages for arcade games. Anyway, despite the short amount of stages, each of them are considerably lengthy. What's even better about these stages are the extraordinarily impressive environments. For 1989, and for the CPS1 system, this game had a lot of visual appeal. Hiryu himself is nicely animated, as is every enemy sprite, all of which contain many frames of animation. Strider had some impressive environments for the time, and they really helped bring gamers into a whole new world. For example, Hiryu has to slide under spikes and climb a big spire before jumping down the other side in the first stage. It gets even better in Siberia, where he has to work his way around platforms on gigantic moving gears. After a battle with one of the mid-bosses, he has to run down a huge icy mountain, quickly gaining speed on his descent, and the player has to time the jump just right to avoid plunging off the bottom of the screen. In between the stages are cutscenes that mostly consist of Meio taunting Hiryu and the hero learning about Meio's evil plans. These cutscenes were supplied with actual voices, and the characters speak in different languages. Meio and his henchman, the bounty hunter Solo, speak English, Hiryu presumably Japanese, Meio's other henchman speaks Russian, and so on. These really help augment the impact and of Hiryu's quest.

From regular human soldiers, to ravenous wolves, to robots bearing a strong resemblance to Robocop's ED-209, to freaking Amazon women, the young Strider has a diverse cast to face off against. The bosses are nothing short of astonishing, and those that are new to the game could take many continues to finally beat it. Already the first boss, Urobolos, represents a big hurdle. In a room with enemy officers sitting down in chairs, the commander, who stands in front of his troops, gives a signal, jumps into the air, and one by one, each officer jumps right in and transforms into a section of the entire boss! The end result is a giant mechanical centipede with two arms in the front, armed with - seriously - a hammer and a sickle. This makes a concealed fact rather obvious: Like the Badds in Bionic Commando who were really supposed to be the Nazis, Kafazu is apparently a futuristic version of Russia, making Strider a Cold War-themed game in a sense. It seems ironic that the Berlin Wall was taken down the same year as this game was released. Anyway, Urobolos roves all about the room, shooting bullets from its mouth. Hiryu has to ride on its back and slash away at its head to defeat the beast.

Other bosses include Mecha Pon, the giant mechanical gorilla, the aforementioned bounty hunter Solo (who despite named after Han Solo seems inspired by Boba Fett) Hiryu has to fight before running down the icy mountain in Siberia, the Kuniang M.A. Team (a trio of Chinese female martial artists), the core of the battleship Balrog, Captain Beard, the owner of Balrog (and definitely weakest boss in this game), the huge mechanical T-Rex Lago (in contrast to Beard, the hardest boss of the game) - and they have to be faced all over again in the Third Moon before the last boss himself. While they can be difficult at first, experts who have practiced a lot on this game and who have extremely fast fingers can chop any boss down to size in a matter of seconds. The final battle against Meio is mainly one of attrition. When working fast to attack him and collecting the life power-ups lying around the arena at the right time, then the finale is actually somewhat of a letdown.

The controls are tight and easy to learn. Hiryu can scale any of the walls and ceilings he sees thanks to the assistance of a grappling hook. Holding the hook in one hand cuts down on his speed to swing Falchion, but man was not meant to both climb and fight on walls. At least he still can defend himself. Holding down while pressing the Jump button allows Hiryu to slide under any dangers that may befall him, and he can still use the Falchion, even in mid-slide. He can't change directions while jumping, but he can attack in midair, and he makes a nice somersault when jumping left or right. An interesting aspect of physics here is that he moves slowly up steep inclines, but speeds up when going down. He can also jump farther if he's moving fast.

Still, Strider cannot be mastered overnight. Despite the good controls, the enemy forces, combined with the fact that Hiryu can only take three hits before dying (with a cool death animation and an even cooler sound to accompany it) make the challenge of this game pretty high nonetheless. It's a pretty decent curve, with each level becoming increasingly difficult, and finally reaching a zenith of frustration around the middle of the Third Moon. Thankfully, Hiryu has some power-ups to help him along, such as the basic health recharges, and even one that adds an extra life bar, allowing him to take one more hit than normal. Other power-ups include an extension to his cipher, robot helpers that fire energy rings when he attacks, a mechanical panther that tears through most enemies in one attack, and of course, the good ol' bonus life.

The sound and the music of the game is also excellent. The Falchion makes a nice clean "SHING!" effect each time it slices through the air. The explosions sound a bit muddled, but there's other great effects, such as clanging steel, sirens and alarms, and the chatter of the Amazon women in stage four. The music is certainly an acquired taste, for those who come to appreciate the tunes, it's perfect. The music also changes constantly - the first stage has five different pieces of music alone. Some of the best are "Raid" (the first level main theme), "Mass of Cloud" (second level song, with the electric generators) and "Roaring" (the jungle theme), but it is all great. Sometimes it is atmospheric, whereas at other times it comes off as stunningly dramatic.

Strider is many things, but the best word to sum it all up would be "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The luscious graphics, the powerful sound, the fluid mechanics, the astounding enemies - just beautiful. Some may disagree with on this opinion, but Capcom's heyday really was in the late eighties, and all it needs to prove it to the unbelieving masses is to put Strider on a giant screen and get right to slashing Communist drones in half with the plasma sword. Gaming seriously does not get much better than this.

There are but minor discrepancies between the Japanese and America/European versions. The Japanese game is called Strider Hiryu, while it is shortened to just Strider for the rest of the world (although the kanji is still in the logo.) The Japanese versions also have voice samples of Hiryu yelling when he slashes his sword - for some reason, this is absent from all of the other versions.

Strider naturally saw several ports to the home systems (and several computers, although most of those versions are negligible). The best - and most popular - was the Genesis version, reprogrammed and published by Sega. While certain concessions had to be made - the color palette was slightly reduced, some background scrolling eliminated, all of the voices removed, and a solid black bar was put over the status bar - it otherwise looked and played exactly like the arcade. It has limited continues too, making this rather tough to beat, especially in the final stage. For people sick of 8-bit graphics on their NES, this was a big selling point for the Genesis, which promised to put the experience of the arcade in people's homes. The rare Sega Master System port obviously needed to be scaled down, and while it looks okay, it slows down horribly every time Hiryu slashes his sword, making it uncomfortable to play.

The PC Engine also saw a release of Strider Hiryu in Japan, ported by NEC Avenue. While the game required the Arcade Card - something of a misnomer, because games that used the card were never as good as their arcade counterparts - this version didn't turn out quite as well. The PC Engine just doesn't have the same high resolution of the Genesis, plus nearly all of the multi plane scrolling was removed. The game plays fine, however, and there are lots of little bonuses. Every level has a cutscene with different art and voices than the arcade version, plus boss characters give short speeches, complete with portraits, before the fight. All of the music has been remixed in redbook audio as well. The biggest addition is an entirely new level exclusive to the PC Engine. Stuck right after the first stage, Hiryu runs through the desert, fighting against antlions, sandworms and tanks - it shares the same exuberant creativity as the rest of the game, and helps padding out what is otherwise a very brief experience.

Strider was also ported to the PlayStation and included along with Strider 2 on a separate disc (although a printing error mislabeled the two). It's almost arcade perfect, but the music sounds a little off. Capcom included an "arranged" version that upgrades the synth beyond FM bleeps, but the choice of instruments is terrible and it sounds pretty bad.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Capcom

Publisher:

Capcom

Designer:

Kōichi Yotsui

Genre:

Action: Side-scrolling

Themes:

Cyberpunk
Free Climbing
Licensed
Ninjas


Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)

Strider (Arcade)


PC Engine Screenshots


Comparison Screenshots


Strider - NES, Game Boy Advance (1989)

American NES Cover

The NES version of Strider Hiryu was developed simultaneously with the more famous version, but it was a huge departure from the style of the arcade game. It's not a bad game at all though, quite the contrary. Strider was one of the many high-quality titles released for the NES amongst the tidal wave of great games made for it in the late eighties and the early nineties. It was releases like this that proved Capcom ruled both in the arcades and on consoles.

First off, the pure frenetic action of the arcade title will not be found here. What will be found is an action/adventure/RPG quest that actually has a developed plotline. Said plotline is set several years after the original Strider takes place, and Hiryu is still the greatest Strider of all time. At the Strider headquarters, the awesome looking Blue Dragon, he receives a rather disturbing message from Strider vice director Matic. Fellow Strider Kain has been captured by Kafazu forces, and Hiryu expects a rescue mission. Quite the contrary, he is instructed to find and kill Kain! Hiryu has to at least find him, and he does, but he does not kill his comrade. Instead, he extracts information out of him, and our hero learns of the mysterious "Zain" project. Whatever that is, it can't be good. When Hiryu learns that Zain is a superweapon to brainwash, hypnotize, and make Communist zombies out of the world's population, he knows he must stop the project and eliminate those responsible.

As enterprising a plot as that sounds, the translators really did not the best of jobs with transforming Japanese symbols into English characters when this game was shipped overseas. The speech is not as flagrantly screwy as the arcade shooter Battle Rangers (which has Engrish so bad that it almost seems like it was done on purpose), but it's still a bit confusing at times. To quote: "You'll be sent to your grave by me Mr. Kain." Yes, that is actually said in the American release, those exact words with the same lack of punctuation. Still, the plot isn't totally nonsensical.

The game starts with going to Kafazu through the means of the Blue Dragon's transportation system. After exploring the level and finding a couple of useful files, Hiryu has to go back to where he began and jump back up to the Blue Dragon. After analyzing the files at the base, he is able to travel all around the world to Egypt, Australia, Japan, China, Africa, and even Los Angeles. It all ends at the enemy leader's base, the Red Dragon, and Hiryu must eliminate him and his evil once and forever. Each stage is non-linear to an extent, and some of them even have to be returned to more than once to explore everything that can possibly found. It may get tedious when trekking through Kafazu for the third time, but it has to be done. By performing certain feats such as capturing enemy officers and destroying Zain machines, Hiryu gains levels, and with it, more energy and more special abilities, which can be selected by going into the Select menu and choosing which one to use, though an expert at this game can waltz through it without the use of these abilities.

The graphics are nothing special, but they do get the job done. They're colorful, and you can tell what most of the enemies are. There's no background parallax, but this game wasn't made in the nineties, so there's no reason to expect any graphical wonders. The character faces that pop up on the monitor at the Blue Dragon are quite detailed, and while they don't move, the Zain machines are huge and have a rather eerie appearance to them. Character animation is a bit stiff, though, and it does get a slight bit glitchy from time to time, but the graphics are indeed adequate for its time.

The music is awesome. Right when the game opens up, the loud background music playing somewhat sounds like muffled explosions are going off in the background. Kafazu's music gives the feeling of infiltrating a highly protected Russian base, which is what Hiryu has to do several times in the game. The train to Egypt has an extremely awesome tune that ends too quickly, but Egypt itself has music that sounds... well, Egyptian. China's BGM also feels like invading a secret base, Bond-style. The sound effects, on the other hand, are not that stellar. Most other sounds are drowned out by the slashing of Hiryu's cipher, which tends to get annoying from repeated use.

As developed and meticulous as everything is in this game, it just has this feeling of a lack of completion that is hard to shake while playing. It's not that the game isn't long enough, but the programmers must have had several naps when it came time to check for bugs, as things can become incredibly glitchy at times. One of the most notable problems involves jumping up walls, which is an incredible pain, due to the awkwardness of the wall physics. Wall jumps can be frustrating to perform, as Hiryu inexplicably plummets when he touches a wall in mid-jump, and the whole process of scaling a wall this way can be extraordinarily irritating. Like the arcade game, there are also several high jumps that require running down a slanted surface and gaining momentum, but the physics are so wonky that the experience is made unnecessarily annoying. It just seems like the poor NES couldn't handle the sloppy programming. But there are more issues, too. Enemies can suddenly appear out of nowhere without fanfare, Strider doesn't have any invincibility time when getting hit (resulting in many quick, unfortunate deaths), and character animation has a tendency to be stiff and jerky. It just feels like the game could have been much better with just a little more effort.

But as it stands, Strider is still an incredible action-adventure title, and was certainly one of the better games designed for the NES around the middle of its lifespan. While it's not everything fans of the arcade game expected to be, many could still find enjoyment in it regardless. It is highly recommend for Capcom fans and NES lovers alike. Besides, who doesn't love a game loaded with ridiculous Engrish? That's just the icing on the cake. Interestingly, this game was only released in the West and never saw a Japanese release, even though Capcom already had a box for it designed and ready.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Capcom

Publisher:

Capcom

Designer:

Masayoshi Kurokawa

Genre:

Action: Side-scrolling

Themes:

Cyberpunk
Free Climbing
Licensed
Ninjas


Strider (NES)

Strider (NES)

Strider (NES)

Strider (NES)

Strider (NES)


Additional Screenshots


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Strider (Arcade)
Strider (NES)

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Strider Returns
Strider 2

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Run Saber
Osman

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