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'Strider' returns in future ninja style

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Strider (Xbox One)

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It’s been almost 25 years since the original Strider hit arcades with a futuristic ninja hacking and slashing his way through the oppressive Kazakh City. Capcom and Double Helix Games revisit the series with an updated take on the classic side-scrolling platformer that injects more than a little Metroidvania style gameplay into the PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC title.

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Strider opens with the signature laugh of the main villain – Grandmaster Meio – followed by Strider Hiryu dropping into Kazakh City via a hawk-shaped hang glider like a boss. Equipped with only his Cypher blade, his moves are limited to begin with but enough to dispatch the basic robotic enemies but there’s more abilities and attacks to find within every nook and cranny of the map starting with the simple charged Cypher attack all the way to the robo-panther and other drone options.

Yes, in true Metroid and Castlevania style, the map is completely open to you so long as appropriate ability has been discovered to pass. Double Helix also liberally sprinkled mini-bosses throughout as well ranging from lower level mecha-bosses with differing attacks to the more dangerous Four Wind mercenaries to larger mecha-bosses that challenge Hiryu both with attacks and level limitations as well. There is, of course, a pattern to all of these boss’s attacks but it is the timing of getting in the counter-attacks that is the challenge.

Aside from the character movement and responsiveness, the design of the levels is key to the success of any good platformer and Strider’s varying design keeps things fresh while challenging the player as well. The levels are largely open with plenty of verticality to take advantage of Hiryu’s leaping and climbling ability but turn more claustrophobic during some encounters to heighten the difficulty.

Those worried about the length shouldn’t be as Strider sports ten levels to fight through and explore. The game gets progressively more and more difficult with each level though both in terms of adversaries and the puzzle-like levels. The game also packs Beacon Run and Survival Mode Challenges. Once unlocked, the Beacon Run tests player’s ability to perform a speed run through consecutive checkpoints while cutting through enemies and dodging obstacles. Meanwhile, the Survival Mode puts combat skills to the test with wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies.

While it’s been years since I’ve touched the original arcade version or its NES port, this re-imagining of Strider is a welcome treat. I was originally apprehensive about the title’s return and whether the gameplay could live up to my nostalgia fueled memories. However, Double Helix Games and Capcom’s Osaka studio exceeded expectations by delivering a sharp, fluid and balanced platformer.

Title: Strider
Platform(s): PS4, PS3 (PSN). Xbox One, Xbox 360 (Xbox Live), PC (Steam)
Developer: Double Helix Games, Capcom Osaka Studio
Publisher: Capcom
Price: $14.99
Release Date: Feb. 18, 2014 (PS3, PS3), Feb. 19, 2014 (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)

A review code for the Xbox One was provided by Capcom for the purposes of this review.

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