Strider is one of those awesome classic characters that for some reason Capcom never got behind fully. After the gravity-defying ninja’s first arcade outing in 1989, there was only one sequel on PlayStation, and that was over a decade ago. With such drastic gaps between entries, its that much more important that the new Strider game is done right. I’m happy to report that Double Helix nailed all of the classic elements of the series while launching it into the modern era.
There is so much here for fans of the previous games. Strider controls fantastically and always looks like a total badass. He leans forward to sprint, kicking up dust in his wake. His attacks are simply a blur of death. In the rare event that he’s standing still, he settles on a cool pose with his plasma scarf trailing dynamically behind him. He takes on favorites like the Ouroboros, the triplet fighting sisters, the mecha-gorilla, and several new characters in a plentiful array of entertaining boss battles.
The world is split up into many large chunks instead one cohesive 2D Metroid map. Areas range from the futuristic Soviet metropolis of Kazakh City to a mad scientist lab to dark underground caves infested with insect-possessed troops. The depth and detail in these environments is impressive – especially the outdoor areas, which convey a massive scope to the world just off your path. Hidden passages and rewards offer plenty for the curious explorer, and color-coded doors taunt you to return with upgraded equipment.
New abilities are unlocked at an ideal pace throughout the six- to eight-hour completion time, pulling you forward with an enticing breadcrumb trail and allowing you to smoothly incorporate new moves into your repertoire. The Cypher, a plasma-based blade, switches easily between four different attributes at the tap of the d-pad. Strider’s scarf changes to orange to indicate explosive attacks, blue for freeze slices, and so on. The variety of armed guards, flying turrets, and venom spewing insects are all strong and vulnerable to different attack styles. It effectively keeps you on your toes, and by the end you are constantly swapping attacks to stay alive.
Tricky platforming sequences add variety and challenge. Since Strider can climb on the walls and ceiling, it takes a lot to trip him up. Buzzsaws, laser grids, and crushing pistons all result in our hero’s trademark phase-out death. Fortunately, he merely loses a small sliver of health and teleports to the closest safe platform. This generous respawn system combined with the tight controls means frustration is kept to a minimum. I never got hung up for long on one particular obstacle.
There are only a few spots that the ninja’s blade could use a little sharpening. Not that I was expecting The Last of Us, but the story isn’t all that great. You’re basically out to kill the last boss and all of his minions. There’s not much beneath Strider’s cold assassin heart. The game doesn’t have a traditional teleportation system, so it can be a pain to trudge all the way across the world when you’re trying to mop up the last round of collectibles before the last boss. Then, when you beat the game, you have to decide whether you want to save and lose your current game or not save and shoot back to the last checkpoint. There’s only one save file available, so you can’t duplicate it and have it both ways. Some might also feel that the normal difficulty is too easy, but a hard option exists if you’re looking for a more intense challenge right out of the gate.
In the grand scheme of things, these complaints are relatively minor. Strider is a great reboot for old-school arcade junkies and at the same time a fresh action experience for newcomers to the franchise.
If you’ve got the option, be sure to play Strider on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC. These platforms have a crisper resolution and a smoother framerate. If PS3 or 360 is your console of choice, it’s still a great experience as long as you don’t try to compare it side by side with the others.