Review: Strider – The Greatest Video Game Ninja Makes a Triumphant Return

Unlike Hollywood remakes, video game remakes are things I always look forward to. Most games simply don’t age well in terms of graphics and gameplay and it’s always good to play a classic video game that has been revamped for the modern age.

One of the developers that has been getting remakes right is Capcom. Bionic Commando and Ducktales were superb re-imaginings. Why did they work so well? Because the teams behind those respective games took the elements that worked, fine-tuned them, and added in enough new elements to keep things fresh. It’s an approach that has been successful and Capcom have hit yet another home run by bringing back the greatest of all video game ninjas.

Strider is a character who hasn’t had his own time in the spotlight for quite a while. Although his popularity soared due to his inclusion in the Marvel vs Capcom series, he went many years without a proper title of his own. Thanks to the fine folks over at Double Helix Games, the technological ninja is back and most definitely better than ever. Strider is easily one of the best side scrolling action games that I’ve played in years.

Strider screen 01

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this game. Why? Because of how smoothly it controls. I was able to make Strider do what I wanted, when I wanted. About to get hit by stray bullets? Jump out of the way. In the middle of a combo and about to be hit? Jump over the bad guy and continue attacking while still in mid air. The controls were so seamless that it got to a point where it felt like I didn’t even have a controller in my hand and was directly controlling the character with my mind.

This is how I felt within the first few minutes and as I continued playing and I got more power ups, my options in combat and traversal opened up immensely. By the end of the game, I truly felt like the ultimate ninja. This is something that I’m sure the game was going for. My words do a disservice to how tight and precise the controls are in Strider. They’re nearly perfect.

Strider lets players fight in and explore a gigantic game world. Every area is interconnected and brimming with secrets. As you progress through the game, you’ll gain new abilities which not only aid you in combat but also help you reach previously inaccessible areas. We’ve all heard the term “MetroidVania” when describing games of this sort but it fits the bill perfectly here. Like those two classic games, Strider is brimming with things to discover.

Strider screen 02

That’s one of the things I loved about the game. Most typical hack and slash games get downright boring because they become an endless exercise in how many enemies you can kill. Because of its heavy emphasis on exploration, Strider never for one second became dull or tedious. Even when you have to backtrack to previously charted areas, there is always something new to find. Having the incentive to search every door, ceiling and suspicious floor panel elevates the game beyond a typical mindless slasher.

Speaking about combat, it is just as fulfilling as exploring the world. Strider begins the game with simple sword attacks but as he progresses, he gets access to many cool and deadly weapons. What’s fun about the Strider series is that its ninja’s special abilities are all technologically based which make things more interesting to me. The sci-fi slant makes Strider more “cool” than those other video game ninjas.

Strider gains elemental sword attacks, robotic animals that assist in combat and of course, the ability to traverse the world at a faster and more efficient rate. Every single ability serves a purpose and none feel tacked on. Certain enemies can only be defeated with specific elemental weapons so there is a bit of challenge when confronting a group made up of foes who each have a specific weakness to exploit.

Strider screen 03

I played the game on normal and found it to be easy for the most part. The game is more than generous when dolling out health so it was actually rare for me to actually be in a sticky situation. This doesn’t apply to the boss battles however. These encounters were some of the most challenging in the game. With that said, I found them to be the most gratifying since fighting bosses forced me to use every tool at my disposal. The bosses had specific patterns but some of the timing to dodge attacks had to be just right. Every boss battle was unique and entertaining.

The only negative thing I can say about the game is that I wasn’t a fan of the soundtrack. There were a few good pieces here and there but for the most part, it was just bland techno music that could be found in any other game. The old Strider games had very memorable and catchy music but most of the soundtrack to this game was totally forgettable. It’s a shame because the right soundtrack could have made this game even better than it already is.

I was looking forward to Strider but I had no idea that I would love it as much as I did. You know a game is good when you feel that you’ve played for about half an hour but in actuality, four hours have passed without you taking a break. The controls are what I enjoyed the most because of how responsive they were and how they made me feel like a master ninja. The game is also visually impressive. The way that it blended 2D and 3D during cutscenes and gameplay was masterfully handled.

Strider is easily one of the best games that I’ve played this year. This is a title that reminds me of why I got into video games in the first place: for the pure joy of PLAYING.  Strider is a fantastic game that I will keep playing and replaying for some time.

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