Strider 2 (PlayStation) review
"It saddens me to say this, but the 2D platformers genre is dying. Everyone remembers playing Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, and numerous other fine titles. But now all those games have evolved into 3D scavenger hunts. The fun of perfectly executing a challenging jump has been replaced by hunting for an endless amount of items or battling awkward camera angles just to land the easiest of jumps. Strider 2 is an attempt to recapture the former days of 2D excellence, but ca..."
It saddens me to say this, but the 2D platformers genre is dying. Everyone remembers playing Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, and numerous other fine titles. But now all those games have evolved into 3D scavenger hunts. The fun of perfectly executing a challenging jump has been replaced by hunting for an endless amount of items or battling awkward camera angles just to land the easiest of jumps. Strider 2 is an attempt to recapture the former days of 2D excellence, but can it entertain 3D fanatics who have forgotten the Golden Age of Platformers?
You assume the role of Hiryu, a member of the secret Strider organization out to rid the world of an evil dictator known as the Grandmaster. Most of the plot has to be gathered from the instruction manual since the game does not really tell you what’s going on. Like an excellent summer movie, Strider 2 does not need a plot to be considered enjoyable. Best of all, the Strider organization is closely related to ninjas. We all know ninjas are cool and totally sweet, but does the ninja action deliver? I reply with a resounding yes!
Controlling Hiryu is a breeze: exactly as it should be in a 2D platformer. He moves nimbly and deftly, while still remaining responsive. Being a ninja and all, Hiryu definitely has some impressive moves at his disposal. For starters, Hiryu is armed with Cypher, a sword that can cut through almost anything and can also shoot out energy when charged up. Our agile friend also possesses the elusive “double jump,” which makes the platforming elements a more fun. He can also perform all sorts of flips and slides and scale any wall. There is something particularly satisfying about doing a double to get behind an enemy, then immediately slashing him to death. I guess it is true what they say about Americans being violent…
When one thinks of a ninja, the word “stealth” comes to mind. This definitely is not the case with Strider 2. The levels are all action, with an occasional jump or two to make. Each level is simply brimming with excitement. For example, one level has you scaling the walls of a stone fortress in the mountains. As you make your way through the fortress and the endless horde of bad guys, you end up fighting a knight in a joust. The only problem is you don’t have a lance and must rely on your quick ninja skills to defeat the foe. Just when you think things are safe after winning the battle, you get in a high-speed escape from a machine and eventually end up in another engaging boss battle. If this wasn’t enough for you, there are still the levels with no gravity, ravaging penguins and anime-style robots.
There is a helping of non-linearity to be had when you start playing. You can choose from one of three different levels right from the beginning. All three levels eventually have to be beaten, but not having to play through each one in the same order is great.
The adrenaline rush ends quickly though. There are only six different stages, and each one can be beaten in less than eight minutes. The first time I beat the game it only took 35 minutes, but that is partly due to the unlimited continues you are given and lack of challenge. Some gamers may be offended by this “travesty”, but due to my laziness I didn’t mind at all. I guess it is true what they say about Americans being lazy…
But don’t worry about that the game only takes 35 minutes to beat; there is a fair amount of replay value. You are ranked at the end of each level based on the time it took to complete the stage, how many points you got and how much damage you took. Playing to get a higher rank gets boring after a while, but it is still good fun for a while. In addition to that there is a secret character to unlock. You will at least get 3 or 4 playthroughs before you get sick of the game. Even so, I yearned for nearly twice as many levels than I actually received. The length is disappointing (something I’m used to hearing), but the rankings make it more bearable.
Also included in the game is the original Strider. First of all, I’m going to be honest with all of you, I never even heard of the game before Strider 2 came out, so I’m not going to pretend that I’m the expert on it. Strider was released in the arcades way back in 1989. From what I’ve read in other reviews the game is considered quite a classic, but I really didn’t find it to be all that great.
There are a few reasons I must complain. While the controls are similar to its sequel, they are nowhere near as responsive. Comparing the controls to Strider 2’s may seem unfair, but it is frustrating when you do not make a jump due to unresponsive controls.
If you grew accustomed to the sequel’s easiness, then you will be in a world of hurt when you start playing Strider. There are still unlimited continues, but dying is greatly easier. For example, you lose a life whenever you miss a jump. In Strider 2 you only lost 1 health bar. Overall, the levels are much more challenging and unforgiving.
Graphically, Strider 2 combines the best of both worlds. All the environments and mechanical enemies are polygonal, while Hiryu and the rest of the enemies are hand drawn. In a few games, namely Xenogears, the clashing of sprites and polygons isn’t exactly pretty, but this is definitely not the case with Strider 2. The explosions and characters contrast nicely with the gorgeous backgrounds. The only downside is there is a quite a lot of slowdown during boss battles, which ruins your timing and makes things more complicated than they should be.
In the sound department, this game is unremarkable, but never “bad.” The music that accompanies the action usually does exactly what it should do; keep the adrenaline flowing. In fact, the sound of explosions and weapons clanking usually drones out the music. Strider’s Japanese war cries are a nice touch, but in the end none of the tunes of sound effects are particularly memorable.
Strider 2 was exactly the kind of throw back to the golden age of platform games that I needed. While it is rather short, it is still worth checking out. I didn’t enjoy Strider nearly as much. Not because it is outdated, but because the controls were so unresponsive. But considering it comes in the package for free, I shouldn’t really complain. If you enjoy 2D platformers at all I demand that you give Hiryu and his Strider 2 a chance, just be cautious of the disappointing length.
Community review by djskittles (March 12, 2004)
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