Strider 2014 Demo Impressions

news_capcom_announces_strider-14337Last year, I was able to preview a playable build of Strider at the New-York ComicCon, and it got me really excited. While the graphics had been upgraded to 3D models, the action still remained in the 2D-era. It controlled perfectly, every movement felt responsive and silky-smooth. In all, my brief playthrough left me feeling confident that the developers understood why this series had left such an impact on gamers that still thrives to this day. The real question was, could this promise hold out for an entire game? Only an hour into the full release so far and I can say that I think Double Helix is on the right path to bringing Strider back to glory. I can’t figure out why it took so long for a new Strider to hit the market amidst the resurgence of nostalgia properties, but it seems worth the wait.

The biggest issues I have whenever an older arcade game is adapted for the modern audiences is that the sensibilities of that generation gets lost. A prime example is the remake of Bionic Commando. If there is one influence that Grin’s update of Bionic Commando should have, it is the benchmark of what not to do. The irony here is that Grin was in the process of making a new Strider title before they went bankrupt. Thanks to that sudden turn of events, development fell to Double Helix of recent Killer Instinct fame.

Strider starts within seconds of pressing start. No melodramatic dialogue, no unnecessarily vague threats about a secret something-or-other from shadowy figures, no exposition at all. The start is Strider flying in on a robotic bird/hang-glider. He hits the ground running, and control is given instantly to the player. He doesn’t hold a hand to his ear, checking in with a female partner/senior officer/friend to see what’s going on. There’s nothing added from modern gaming in here. Strider lands and immediately starts fighting.

I’m shocked by this opening because I can’t remember the last time I was able to simply start a game and actually start the game. Tutorial levels, lengthy cut-scenes establishing the world and characters, none of that is to be found in the first minute or even the first hour of Strider. The pace never stops to try to explain why Strider is in this world or doing what he is doing. It is an arcade game, plain and simple. I’m sure there are gamers who would have wanted to see Strider become a character. I feel that if recent attempts to update these older franchise is any indication, however, it is best to focus on gameplay and leave Strider as simply a cool-looking cyber-ninja.

The demo I played back at NYCC is pretty much the same one that is available on XBLA and PSN. It contains the first section of the game before leading into the main map where it wears the ‘Metroidvania’ style on its sleeve. The first part is more straight-forward and does an excellent job familiarizing players with the basics of play. By the time the demo ends, it has reminded modern gamers just how much the industry has lost the ability to design good boss battles.

The new Strider wants to provide old arcade-style of entertainment. Considering this remake was at one point being developed by a Grin, this is the right choice. Bionic Commando is the template of all the mistakes a studio can do when remaking a classic game. Everything that was fun about the original game was lost in a sea of poor narrative and design choices, and it makes me question if the studio understood what players wanted from that title. Strider does not have that problem. While there is no sense of the reasoning, there is never a question of why Strider was so popular when it first came out. Double Helix has wonderfully captured the pure fun of the original game by worrying less about its story and taking it back to basics.

Eric Godfrey • Staff Writer

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