As I slash three enemies in half, I double jump and fling a few throwing knives at another before releasing a spectral panther to eliminate the few remaining enemies that aren’t cut in half or dead. This is the hack-and-slash mayhem of Strider. Originally released in 1989 on the NES, Double Helix Games, who have worked closely with Capcom have now developed an updated Strider game to bring us into the 21st century with this being the fifth game in the Strider series.
Strider is a side scrolling, action platformer that really focuses on the phrase hack-and-slash. With a blistering pace set from the start, the protagonist Strider Hiryu, hand glides his way into the outskirts of Kazakh City. a futuristic city that is controlled by an evil dictator, Grandmaster Meio, who rules over his people with an iron-fist. Hiryu is tasked with eliminating Grandmaster Meio but first must navigate his way across a sprawling metropolis absolutely littered with an array of guards, turrets and fierce, robotic adversaries.
Hiryu has a range of abilities to make his way through swarms of enemy robots, that all feel slick and very intuitive when controlling him. Through using his cypher, an energy sword weapon, Hiryu can cut down swathes of enemies in an instant. There are four main variations of the Cypher that can be upgraded over time by finding Pickup Cradles scattered throughout the world; the Charged Cypher, which gives you the ability to charge up your energy sword for a more powerful attack. The Explosive Cypher, which gives Hiryu’s sword attacks an explosive element to his strikes. The Ultra-Cold Cypher, which will freeze enemies and finally the Magnetic Cypher which allows Hiryu to fire a wave of plasma at his enemies.
Hiryu also has other minor attacks, such as throwing knives and the use of ghostly animals and birds but these still being used extensively throughout the game, really don’t make Hiryu and his attacks varied enough. Battling the same enemies over and over again, with the constant mashing of the attack button and not really putting any thought into the game, made the overall experience a little stale. The unlockable upgrades really didn’t change much of that for me either. The only real moments of pure excitement came from the boss battles which are frantic and challenging. I would often find myself rubbing my forearm after mercilessly bashing the attack button as quickly as I could just to kill off the boss before they got in another one of their super powerful attacks in.
Exploring the different levels in detail not only leads to hidden powerups and new weapons, there is also different game modes that can be unlocked. Beacon Run, is a fast paced race style mode where players are tasked with reaching checkpoints set across each level with enemies littering the landscape, as quickly as possible. Then there is “Survival” which is a mode that the player has to battle against waves of enemies, that is pretty challenging and also good fun.
Overall Strider is a pretty average game. For me, in parts, it just gets too stale and repetitive. Combine this repetitive notion with backtracking through some levels is really just a bore. The constant mashing of the attack button, the same enemies over and over again, running through the same background environments that are all pretty dull, just leads to everything being a bit, “meh.” Nothing at all to scream home about, but what Strider lacks for in terms of gameplay, it certainly makes up with a fluid control system that makes Hiryu a real joy to control. The pretty intense boss battles that will have your thumb and forearm begging for mercy are also great fun. Fans of the previous games will enjoy it but newcomers, not so much.
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