Why, yes, I would like to play Strider…
…unless Zach Morris, age 45, has anything to say about it.
DEVELOPER: Capcom (port by Sega)
RELEASE DATE: 09/29/90 – (JP), 11/90 – (US), 05/91 – (EU)
Since its arcade release in 1989, Strider‘s cult status has reached near-Earthbound levels. Champions of the game declare that it’s one of the best action titles ever made, with each level being an overwhelming tour-de-force of ridiculousness. Detractors claim that the game’s relentless pace makes for an overly hard, unfair experience. Both groups are right, to an extent. I’ve never played an action game that was so intent on pummeling me with its creativity. That said, there are no places to rest in Strider and the last two stages are absolute hell until you memorize the enemy placement.
The hero waits impatiently in the shadows.
Ultimately, though, Strider‘s too crazy to not appreciate. Like Revenge of Shinobi before it, it delights in surprising the player with one outlandish set piece after another. In the breadth of a single stage, you’ll fight off packs of Siberian wolves, destroy a ten-foot tall mechanical gorilla, clamber down a mine-riddled mountain, avoid electric transformers that fill the screen with deadly lightning, jump from helicopter to helicopter while avoiding falling bombs, and take on a deadly Chinese martial arts trio.
Stop this gorilla, I want to get off!
In 2048 A.D., a European nation known as Kazafu (which looks suspiciously like the U.S.S.R.) is toppled by an unknown army. Soon, the entirety of Europe is leveled, along with North and South America by this mysterious force. The cretin behind the destruction? Grand Master Meio, who resembles Emperor Palpatine’s cousin, twice removed. Only Hiryu of the Strider forces can stop Meio on his Third Moon Base, and bring peace to Earth once more.
And by ‘peace,’ I mean ‘complete and utter destruction.’
Like the aforementioned Siberia stage, each of Strider‘s four other stages is a triumph of relentless, absurd action. In Kufazu, you slice-and-dice a bodybuilder, dart across the Kremlin-esque rooftops, and eliminate the entire corrupt Kufazu government after they morph into a metallic flying centipede. Within the recesses of the Ballog Battleship, the Anti-Gravity boss removes your ability to stand upright and spins you recklessly around it. In the Amazon, you swing on sagging, bouncy vines, subdue the Amazon women, and leap from dinosaur to dinosaur. And on the Third Moon base, you fight the levitating Grand Master Meio from high atop his skeletal watchtower.
Strider Minelli stars in “Gravity A-Go-Go: An Interstellar Love Story!”
These stages would be impossible to complete if Strider Hiryu wasn’t one of the most elegant heroes in gaming history. He can grease slide along any surface, cartwheel through the air, and grapple onto ceilings and walls, all while slicing enemies in quick succession with his plasma sword. Such an agile creature might seem difficult to control, but his actions are incredibly intuitive. Strider’s one weakness? A single hit tumbles him backwards like a ragdoll, where he could, depending on the level, fall to his death.
I predict a fair and impartial trial!
Strider doesn’t just rely on his swanky ninja ensemble and nimble moves to get by. Canisters containing items are everywhere, sometimes on the ground, sometimes dropped by flying enemies. The items run the gamut from worthless (nobody cares about bonus points, Capcom) to necessary, like a stronger sword attack, invincibility, and extra life bars.
If you can’t control that bulge on your face, how can you expect to control the world?
The canisters can also contain three robot helpers, all of which are useful to varying degrees. The Dipodal saucers are the most common, cute little creatures that go out of their way to attack enemies. You can have up to two of them, and once you enlist their help, one of your life bar blocks will turn red. The Terapodal Robo-panther is as cool as his name suggests, and appears only when two of the blocks in your life bar have turned red. He unfortunately only hunts by your side for a limited time, and after he’s gone, your Dipodal buddies will return. The Hawk Robot circles above you and destroys anything it touches, though it also disappears after a short while.
The Robo-panther slinks effortlessly towards the stars.
Strider is, without a doubt, one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the Genesis thus far. Strider’s enormous, gorgeously rendered sprite and fluid animations exceed even that of Michael Jackson’s in Moonwalker. The detailed stage designs and backgrounds immerse you into each stage’s unique world. While not all bosses and enemies look and move as beautifully as the main character, their thoughtful, creative design is tailored to each stage and only enhances your journey.
“You know I normally eat leaves, but this one time, I munched a stego’s head by accident. True story!”
Capcom deserves praise for creating Strider for their now legendary CPS1 arcade system, but Sega should be equally commended for reprogramming the game for the Genesis. Outside of a reduced color palette and a touch of slowdown, the port is considered the finest of Strider‘s many home conversions. Given Capcom’s high standard of quality for console titles, they probably could have assembled a decent port. At the time of Strider‘s release, however, the company had yet to develop any games for the Mega Drive (Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was also handled by Sega). Perhaps it was for the best that Sega took the reins.
“Ladies please, there’s no need to clone yourselves.”
Not all is well in Strider’s house of blood and metal. Each stage has certain areas where you will be hit. The Anti-Gravity boss, for example, will throw you against the ground, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Given Strider’s small life bar – three bars at the least, five at the most – cheap shots aren’t exactly appreciated. On the opposite end of the complaining spectrum, while Strider‘s challenge will probably set you back at first, once you get a feel for the character’s movements and the stage layouts, it’s easy to fly through the game. Unless you just like showing off how much of a badass you are to your friends, Strider carries little replay value.
This situation can piss right off.
Strider‘s failings are nothing compared to what it does well. Games just didn’t come more epic and intense in 1990. Surprisingly, it still looks and plays like a dream nearly three decades later. All respect to the recent Strider reboot and Strider II from the late PS1-era, but nothing compares to the original’s kinetic beauty. If you grew up during the 80s and 90s, no excuses. Strider is a must-play treasure.
“It’s cool, guys, I’m here. Now let’s kick some butt – the Strider way!”
DEVELOPER: Capcom (port by Sega)
RELEASE DATE: 11/91 – (EU)
I’m not surprised that Sega brought Strider to the Master System, but I am surprised that it’s not the worst game I’ve ever played. Compared to previous arcade-to-Master System ports like Forgotten Worlds and Golden Axe – both of which looked and ran like garbage, despite their downgraded existence – Strider is playable, if not the least of the Sega ports.
It’s dark and hell is hot.
Rather than attempt to recreate Strider in full, Sega wisely took into account the Master System’s limitations. The stages are shortened and on-screen enemies have been considerably reduced, to the point where the levels almost feel empty (most of the bosses are still present). Any background details have been omitted in favor of a black or blue screen that represents the time of day. Strider can still climb walls, hang from platforms, and somersault through the air, but his sliding move has been removed. His life bar too was removed in favor of a number that shows how many times he can be hit.
“Is this the end for our sultry hero?”
If Master System Strider is remembered for anything, it’s for the serious slowdown and the easy difficulty. Strider can’t walk, leap, or attack without looking like he’s starring in some John Woo-directed slow-motion scene, sans doves. Perhaps because of the choppy movements, Sega toned down the difficulty. If you’re careful, you can clear the game in fifteen minutes, and that’s with Sega disposing of continues.
If you loved the arcade Strider, saving up for a Mega Drive and the 16-bit port would’ve been the way to go in 1991. Still, kudos to Sega for bringing a neutered version of Strider to the Master System’s surprisingly large fanbase. You can’t say they don’t care.