“Assassinate Grand Master Meio”. As Strider Hiryu descends into Kazakh City this is the only objective given. No backstory, just go kill some guy. And to do so will require cutting your way through an army of soldiers in this surprisingly fun reboot.
Borrowing elements from various games in the Strider series, for the more modern amongst you the easiest comparison would be with Shadow Complex. You’re given a point which you’re supposed to reach, but other than you’re free to explore this 2D world. Of course, there are limits to your exploration as certain areas will be off limits until you acquire the specific weapon or ability.
The combat can be, at times, simplistic. A lot of the enemies (especially early in the game) can be dispatched by just hammering attack until they fall down, especially as health is fairly in abundance. Defeating enemies recovers health, as do the health pick-ups that are frequently found. Checkpoints are also fairly common, so if you do happen to die then you’re not sent back too far. Later enemies do require a little more skill, with shields and giant mechs appearing, it’s really only the bosses that require the most skill. They all have their own attack patterns, but like so many boss fights that require pinpoint jumping, it’s easier to learn the pattern than actually combatting it. Later bosses in particular can be challenging, and with each death, there’s always the “one more go” mentality.
There’s also some challenge with the platforming sections, but falling to your death only knocks off minimal health so it’s not exactly punishing you for failure. That aside, these sections can still be tough and the addition of a dash manoeuvre later in the game brings with it the more interesting platform sections.
Graphically it doesn’t look too bad, for a last gen game. This could very well be a straight port to the PS4, which is disappointing. There’s certainly nothing here that will make your draw drop and the cut scenes (which are few and far between) are really quite poor. Of course though you don’t play a Strider game expecting an in-depth story, but a little more effort in making this look and feel next gen wouldn’t go amiss. Despite being a 2D game there are ways of making it look wonderful (hello Resogun), which are sadly lacking here. Part of this could be the opening. Right from the off you’re parachuted into Kazakh City before taking on a giant mechanical, flying snake. It looks really good, but from here there’s not much variety in environments. You jump across rooftops, go through the sewers and travel around some pretty identical laboratories. The bosses also don’t really top that opening fight, the vast majority of them being fights against other ninjas next to a pretty plain backdrop.
As Strider comes complete with a trophy that says “Complete the game in under 4 hours” then you should realise that Strider is not a long game. That trophy in particular is hard to get mind, and for your first playthrough you can easily add on another hour or two to that time as you search for all the hidden upgrades and concept art. Not mention the boss battle difficulty spikes that can occur. It may feel like you’re blasting through the game before you come across a boss fight that knocks you straight back to Earth.
Criticisms aside, it’s hard not to recommend Strider for those craving another Shadow Complex-like adventure. It’s a highly enjoyable remake that with a bit more polish and interesting combat could’ve been something even more special.