The fans asked for it and Capcom listened: Strider, the action hack-'n-slash, acrobatic arcade classic is back. Developers Double Helix Games and Capcom Osaka studio have brought the 1989 retro classic to the PlayStation 4, and made it better then ever than we remember.
As with the original game, you play the role of Strider Hiryu, an elite assassin whose mission is to travel to Kazakh City and eliminate Grandmaster Meio. To be perfectly honest, story-wise, there isn't lot of depth here. The narrative is over the top and clichéd, filed with awful Cold War Russian accents, and generic plot twists that don't leave much to the imagination. Could they have done better? Sure, but honestly, none of that really matters. Whatever Strider might lack in story, it more then makes up for with fun.
The action starts the moment Strider's feet hit the ground and comes fast fluid. Strider is easy to control, allowing you to hit the ground running, and mow through enemies like they're nothing. Don't get me wrong though -- Strider is not a walk in the park. While early levels make for fast-paced action, later levels require a lot more skill and quicker reflexes. The controls are flawless, and feel completely natural once you get the hang of them.
You start the game with the bare minimum: basic attack, strong/knock up attack and jump. As the game progresses a variety of skills and weapons become available to you, but at the heart of Strider's arsenal is his main weapon, Cypher. Cypher is a multifunctional plasma sword capable of taking on other elements. For example, in later levels Cypher takes on ice properties, making it so your attacks freeze enemies. Frozen enemies can then be used to climb on to reach higher ledges, or just to use as a shield from enemy fire. Cypher acts also a key, where changing properties allows it to unlock new areas to explore. After acquiring upgrades Cypher can also be use defensively. Early on you are able to use it as a sort of light saber, reflecting enemy shots back at them, even in mid air.
The combat in Strider is a joy from start to finish. Jumping into a pack of enemies and just unleashing hell, and pulling off some exciting acrobatic maneuvers, is highly satisfying. While early combat can be easily passed with button mashing, it only remains effective for a short while. Enemies quickly start to become harder, with each new area offering its own variety of soldiers, each with their own attack. While in one area enemies might shoot heat-seeking missiles, a different section will utilize freeze rays. This does a great job of defining each section of the game, forcing you to make full use of Strider's skill set.
The true test of Strider's skills, and where the game really shines, is the boss battles. Scattered through out every section are a large number of bosses and mini-bosses, waiting to be slain. Boss battles are simply epic, and very well designed. Ranging from mini boss battles, that later become normal enemies, to flying through the city, platforming on the back of an armored dragon, trying to bring the damn thing down. Section bosses are a lot more deadly and at times return with new powers and new friends. Timing, and watching for patterns is the key to victory with bosses -- a throw back to arcade days. While unforgiving, I never felt like the task was impossible.
Strider's large-scale levels make for great platforming, and really this is the heart of the game. Double Helix seems to have taken the best parts of the platforming games we love and put them in to one package. There are clear inspiration from games like Shadow Complex, God of War and maybe even Super Metroid (SNES). Whatever the the inspiration, the implementation is perfect, resulting in Strider setting the bar high for platforming games in 2014.
-The Final Word-
Whatever minor flaws Strider might have are very well hidden amongst exciting gameplay, great platforming, and epic boss battles.