Capcom is a studio well known for being an arcade superpower, Street Fighter 2 being the illustrious name that catapulted them into the limelight. However, in 1989, it was best known for Strider, a hack ’n’ slash platformer that still retains a cult status that other efforts subsequently struggled to recapture in sequels ever since. Double Helix games and Capcom Osaka aim to change that in their latest effort on last and current generation consoles and PC. What we are left with is a fun, thrilling and delightfully fast-paced action-adventure and platformer, albeit with a number of oversights than cannot be ignored.
We immediately gather that gameplay is central to Strider, but is initially hands off and allows the player to learn the ropes themselves. What starts off as a predictable selection of jumps and light and heavy attacks, becomes deeper and deeper as the game wears on, as a highly deep combat system emerges.
We are drip-fed a varied array of attacks and moves often upon each successful defeated boss and are helpful to deal with the complimentary, but ever engaging mix of enemy types. Alongside the cannon fodder, there are their shielded cybernetic counterparts, snipers, flying robots and immense bio-mechanical bosses.
All require a creative blend of the attacks and skills you adopt on your way through the game, as well as a particular concentration, especially when the challenge gets sterner. In this sense, the game shows off its NES ingredients with difficulty spikes and frustrating checkpointing that will delight some of the old-school, but others may be drawn back to the handily offered easy mode.
The result of all this is a thrillingly chaotic and fast-paced experience (but a little button mashy). However, the game is disappointingly let down by unwieldy, imprecise controls that can often misunderstand your intentions. This is as annoying in an intense round of crowd-control as when interacting and traversing the environment, consequently bringing you out of an experience that should be great, but ultimately falls short.
Nevertheless, you’ll inevitably derive as much enjoyment from exploring the richly designed and sweeping locations, eking every last secret out of them. Navigation is entertaining and interactive with the grappling hook, you can use it to find secret areas and access all corners of what you can see on screen. Fans of Metroidvania-esque games will feel an instant nostalgia hit, but unfortunately the settings can get a little too repetitive.
The cartoony, comic styling is charming, but the dystopian, Soviet-flavoured factories and complexes get old fast. Not as fast as the narrative or mission objectives that rarely extend beyond ‘go here’ and ‘escape to this’, nor the feeble attempts at comedy. Moreover, cutscenes are cheesy and forgettable with far less care taken with graphical quality than in the pleasingly good-looking gameplay. On the other hand, Strider prizes gameplay far above story, but it nevertheless becomes a mere obstacle to your slashing.
Strider then, is a fun, but acquired taste, that unfortunately lets itself down in key areas. The combat system, range of enemy types and locales are deep and prevent things from getting stale, but the imprecise controls break the immersion to an extent. The cult-orientated old-school will feel right at home here, viewing the difficulty and NES-style tropes welcoming and fair, but those after a simpler, story-focused experience may have to look elsewhere.
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