If you aren’t aware, the STRIDER series has existed since 1989 and is based on a manga of the same name from 1988. It originally debuted in the arcade but has since then spawned two disconnected sequels and a remake. The PS4 remake from 2014 is everything you could ever want in a reboot of a retro side-scrolling platformer. I believe that it is the game that the original developers wanted to make, but couldn’t due to technical limitations of the time. It is not a perfect game, but it is damn near a perfect 2D side-scroller.
Compared to most modern games, STRIDER will almost certainly not impress you visually. It’s at the level of Ubisoft’s B-list games like Child of Light or Valiant Hearts. That is to say that it looks really good for what it is, but because of what it is it can’t compete with something like Fallout 4. Compared to the original STRIDER, the remake is literally the difference between old arcade MAMEs and the PS4. The first thing you will notice is that the game is very detailed and has a lot of gameplay irrelevant objects that help create the game’s dystopian atmosphere. Falling snow, cracks and crevices in buildings, armor details, and propaganda posters are just some common examples that you will notice early on. The graphics are crisp. While the gameplay is 2D, the graphics are comprised of 3D objects. In fact the only really 2D things in the game are the menus and dialog boxes, which also look really nice.
The menus are comprised of sleek, italicized, block text with a number of moving lights and background elements. The text is in white over an opaque gray, making it very easy to read without taking you too far out of the game’s atmosphere. Even when you’re in the main menu, you never really feel like you’ve left the game. And because of the way the PS4 works, you don’t really ever have to. The HUD looks simple, but contains quite a bit of information. You have an HP bar, energy bar, special meter, second special meter, special tactics options, and your total potential HP. Like the HUD, the map looks very simple, but actually provides a ton of information including your distance in meters to the next objective.
Really nice, but simple cutscenes. They’re done in the same graphics as the gameplay, but take a more 3D approach to the angles used. They’re very melodramatic. The characters are glossed over, but the things that happen try to be epic. It’s definitely entertaining seeing modern level graphics used to tell a Metal Slug level plot.
This game looks and is very fast paced. Your default movement is a run. All your attacks can be executed from a running position. Even your jump is an extravagant side flip that continues the momentum. When you attack basic enemies you can keep running right through them as you slice them in half and their torsos fly through the air. It’s so satisfying. The only time you’re not moving quickly is when you’re climbing surfaces and even then you aren’t moving that slowly unless you choose to. It looks and runs great. No lag. No frame rate issues. Just pure unadulterated ninja tactics. But the game still pays homage to the old school. Mini-bosses turn red when they’re near death. Random looking, completely out of place, floating collectibles. And of course dialog boxes appearing at the bottom of the screen with a picture of the person who’s talking even when they aren’t nearby. I give the graphics top marks for being really visually pleasing while still remaining true to the original work and style.
The gameplay is without a doubt STRIDER’s best feature. It’s everything you want in a retro side-scroller without the hassle of pixelated graphics, lag, and quad directional movement. What you are capable of doing is very limited. You jump, move, slide, slash horizontal, slash vertical, charge slash, and throw small projectiles which can be aimed. But you can do it with the level of control that a modern AAA game, which this is not, affords you. Bad jumping isn’t an issue. And even if it was, you can climb just about any surface in the game so falling isn’t a huge deal unless it’s off of a giant armored dragon. You can also backtrack so even if you do miss a jump, it’s not a problem. I love how fast the gameplay moves. Only when you fight higher level enemies, like armored soldiers, do you have to break a stride. You can even charge and use your charged horizontal slash while moving. Honestly the mechanics are classic arcade gameplay, but it’s been fixed for a modern audience as in it’s actually good now and not just what we were stuck with back in the day.
There are lots of upgrades and optional collectibles in this game. All important upgrades are obtained by defeating a new enemy type. Upon defeating them you get an upgrade which can then be used to defeat that new enemy type much quicker than the first time you defeated it. This is necessary because after that first one the new enemy tends to show up a lot more often. Classic mechanic. Optional upgrades must be discovered. These consist mostly of HP and energy increases. You can also find collectibles which unlock concept art. The game also contains a number of proper boss fights against other martial artists, giant mechanized beasts, and other retro-gaming clichés. All in all I felt the gameplay was very balanced except for a few boss/mini-boss fights. The very first one being the worst in my opinion. One thing I really didn’t like was the fact that your life bar displays your life and your total potential life at all times which constantly misleads you into thinking you have more HP than you actually do. At first this will most likely lead you to making ballsy decisions that will end in death. But to be fair I only died 2 times in about two straight hours of play on normal and one of those was the aforementioned first mini-boss fight. Again great gameplay overall.
I was totally fine, but not impressed with the sound. I liked the fact that you have separate volume control bars for music, effects, and dialog. The effects are pretty standard but apparent. Everything has a sound. Jumping, slashing, killing, climbing, collecting, and so on. It’s very much a console game and not just a small PC indie title. The music is fine. Not great, but not bad. You won’t be impressed by the soundtrack, but you will also not feel like it’s lacking. It’s just sort of there. The dialog is well done as far as sound is concerned. Every single word in the game is both subtitled and spoken out loud both during gameplay and in cutscenes. I really appreciated that. The voice acting is whatever. Because most of the time the talking is done in JRPG style where the character has things to say, but isn’t presented as talking directly to you but more in a random speech bubble under the screen, you never feel like conversations are happening, but more declarations. During cutscenes however, characters do talk to each other in full mouth moving 3D. The voice acting here seems much better. Sound gets a good score, but not a great score.
The writing is super cliché. I’ll go as far as saying it’s an intentional homage to arcade writing where they had to tell a story but didn’t have the time or in that era technology to really tell a proper story without using huge blocks of text. The background is given in text in the tutorial menu. It’s your classic dystopian future where a fascist dictator is ruling some country that you, a secret ninja agent, must infiltrate in order to stop him. Turns out he is using some sort of supernatural legend to try and unlock a mystical power in an attempt to take over the entire world. But that’s not gonna happen when you’re on the job. Your character, Hiryu, is never really fleshed out on a personal level. There are scenes where he talks to other characters, but more often than not he’s talked at not to. His background as a member of the STRIDER special ops program is talked about in minute detail, but his personal life is never discussed. The other characters aren’t really developed either but at least you get to see them drop some dialog and their actions help define them as well. You’re not playing for the story, but the presence of a story makes you happy. It’s like Metal Slug. The Nazis are really aliens, which is interesting, but at the end of the day you’re just trying to get to the end of the game. If you’re looking for Metal Gear level storytelling and plot development you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you just want a game that’s fun to play where the developers at least tried to have an acceptable plot then you won’t be disappointed.
As far as replay value is concerned it’s like any classic game. If you care about scores, achievements/trophies, and getting all the collectibles then you’ll want to play it again. But if you’re just playing it to beat it then I don’t really see there being any reason to replay it. There are 31 trophies, some of which include beat the game in under a certain amount of time, but I didn’t personally feel the need/desire to chase after most of them. The base game is worth 5 – 8 hours plus collecting if you want to. I’d say the current PS4 price of $15/£12 is a pinch high, but $10/£7 would definitely be acceptable. You can actually get the game on any platform except Nintendo so wait for the Steam sale if you can run it on PC. I’m of course assuming it runs as well on the PC as it does on PS4.
I love playing STRIDER. I will certainly put in at least a few more hours. The gameplay isn’t so sweet that it’s addictive, but it definitely calls you back. Solid sound, excellent graphics for what it is, fair writing. It’s a good game. Wait for a flash sale and get it for $10 or less, but certainly play it.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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