What the hell is a Strider!?
When I was in the 10th grade – you know, before color and electricity – everyday
after school my friends and I would schlep over to the local ice cream/candy/arcade
shop known as Fudge Alley. We would exchange pleasantries, indulge in a fine
iced cream, compare notes on the female anatomy and play so much damn Strider
that Frank, Fudge Alley owner and protector, would have to instill the threat
of calling our parents and informing them of our whereabouts. This would’ve
been bad, seeing as each of our parents thought we were studying at one of the
other friend’s house. Oh, duplicitous youth.
Anyway, Strider was the only arcade game in existence that I could
beat with a single quarter. So I had to test my mettle against the (hopefully)
updated version, Strider 2 by Capcom. As it turns out, I’m not the young
whippersnapper I used to be. But I’ll be damned if my wrist and finger ligaments
aren’t as spry and loose as they were 10 years ago. Come on Strider 2,
I can take ya!
Contrary to popular belief (popular belief meaning, um, me), a Strider is
not a participant in a walk-a-thon. Far from it, in fact. A Strider is a member
of a covert elite mercenary organization with strong ties to the ninjas. These
well-trained agents specialize in the art of collecting information, subterfuge
and assassination. Wow! That means Ronald Reagan was a Strider. Neat!
Most recently, the organization of Striders was destroyed and it is rumored
that another Strider had a hand in its demise. Finding the truth behind this
and defeating Grandmaster, the global tyrant that has been the proverbial thorn
in our heroes’ backside since the first Strider, are your primary concerns. Sounds easy enough.
Strider 2 ships with 2 discs, one for Strider 2 and the other
for Strider 1. Two games for the price of one!
Before I dive right into the review, let me tell you how Capcom flubbed a few
things up first. As it turns out, Strider 2 is yet another game that
will not play on any Playstation that has been “modified.” So if you have a
mod-chip installed in your system, forget about it. If you happen to be one
of the lucky 10 people who doesn’t have a modified PSX, then you can play Strider
2. The peculiar part is that there is no block on the Strider 1 disc.
Confused? So was I.
To further add to the confusion, the disc marked Strider 2 is actually
Strider 1. Couple this with the modified PSX block and you have the making
for 15 minutes of sheer aggravation and contempt for the blockheads who put
the package together. And yes, I said blockhead, Charlie Brown.
After finally getting the darn thing to play (luckily, we have an unmolested
PSX sitting in the corner), I found that both games are quite enjoyable… relatively
speaking. Remember, we’re talking about 10-year-old gameplay mechanics.
2 is your basic old-school side scrolling platformer (ala Ghouls &
Ghosts or Shinobi). Armed with a nice hook to scale and climb nearly
any surface and the Cypher (your main weapon, a light sword with a ‘plasma’
edge), you must run, jump and flip out of harm’s way while dispatching hordes
of enemy henchmen.
Points, sword power-ups and extra lives are littered throughout each level.
None of these things are needed, though. From the start you are blessed with
unlimited continues, and I have yet to see an enemy anywhere in the game that
doesn’t succumb to some simple old-fashioned, straight-forward brutality. Just
stand your ground and rapidly press that Square button. Much too easy…
The enemy’s artificial intelligence is non-existent. It’s more like Authentic
Stupidity than AI. Enemies attack in patterns, which I guess is the way it should
be if Capcom is going for that true old-school experience. It just kind of sucks
when you know exactly what your enemy is going to do the second time you play
the game. That’s old school. That’s nostalgic. And that’s lame.
Graphically, the game looks a lot better than its predecessor. However, there
is a completely unnecessary and failed attempt to successfully meld 2D characters
with half-assed 3D backgrounds. It’s really silly.
Your character has been refined with a cleaner, more stylized design, although
your Cypher this time around is less than impressive. In the first Strider,
you could collect power-ups that allowed you to have a much longer range with
your sword. This time the power-ups just increase damage. Too bad, because the
former was pretty cool.
The list of unfortunate absences goes on, as the little robot probe-like friends
that would orbit your character are M.I.A. Also missing is your character’s
loyal dog that would follow him around and aid in the slaughter of Grandmaster’s
charges. These omissions are probably due to Strider 2‘s lack of formidable
opposition. You just don’t need the extra help.
All griping aside, I still find myself playing for a while every time I turn
the darn thing on. The sound is forgettable (which I nearly did), the graphics
are sub-par, yet the gameplay is simple…and I like it.
The truth is that both Strider 1 and 2 are good no-brainer veg-out
games. Of course, the thing could have come out when the Playstation first launched
and I would have given it the same grade. Oh well.