Disposed Hero's Blog

Posted on May 22nd 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, Capcom, Nintendo, NES, Action, Platformer, Metroidvania, RPG

Thanks in no small part to the ongoing RFGeneration 2019 NES Challenge, I have been working through dozens of NES games that I have never played before. While I have logged most of these toward the site challenge, I have also been going back and playing some of the titles that were claimed and completed by others just to satisfy my own curiosity. One such title is Strider, which was a completely random pick and one that I was fairly unfamiliar with. Upon starting it, it didn't take long for me to become engrossed, and I now consider it to be one of my favorite titles for the system.

Strider was developed and published by Capcom and released in July 1989 in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Developed in tandem with the arcade version, the NES version is based on a manga that was developed in collaboration by manga studio Moto Kikaku. While the Japanese Famicom version was eventually canceled, the NES version was still localized and released in North America shortly after the arcade release.

Set in the year 2048 in a dystopian future, a secret organization of ninjas known as Striders operate throughout the galaxy. The main character, Strider Hiryu, is called by his superior, Vice Director Matic, to assassinate his fellow operative Kain who has been captured by hostile forces. Hiryu rescues Kain instead of killing him, and in the process he discovers a conspiracy in the making. Being directly based on the aforementioned manga, Strider's story has a bit more meat to it than your typical NES action game, and although it is fairly predictable, it is entertaining for what it is. Also expect the usual wonky translation which was common for Japanese developed NES games.

While many are likely more familiar with the more straightforward sidescrolling action of the arcade version along with the other home console ports from the era, the NES version is actually unique to the others in that it is more of an action-adventure game with some RPG and Metroidvania elements thrown in. There are several main areas to explore in the game, and you will often hit a dead end which will require you to explore another area until you find the necessary key or item needed to progress. Areas are generally nonlinear and fairly open, but they are not so sprawling that they become confusing. Backtracking through areas is made a bit less tedious thanks to pneumatic tubes that can quickly transport you to various sections of the map.

On the surface, Strider plays similarly to other action platformers on the NES. Hiryu can run and jump through the environment and slash at enemies in his path, and everything works well for the most part (more on the quirks later). While there are no actual experience points in the game, Hiryu will gain levels at certain key points that will increase his maximum HP and EP (used for casting spells), as well as learn a new spell. Spells include typical things such as projectile attacks, as well as health restoration, a temporary high-jump ability, and a handy warp spell for quickly leaving areas. While fairly basic, I found the RPG elements in the game to be an enjoyable addition that helps give it much more depth than other comparable games.

My biggest criticism of the game lies with its jumping mechanics which feel a bit off and make certain platforming sections more difficult and frustrating than they should be. There is also the wall-jumping mechanic which is required in a couple of areas to progress, and this is a poorly implemented mechanic that is much more difficult and frustrating to pull off than it should be. At the very least, it is a far cry from the wall-jumping mechanics that have been better implemented in other games such as Batman for the NES and Super Metroid. The game also has momentum physics when traveling on a downward slope that will make you jump farther, and this can also be a bit awkward to pull off successfully. I didn't have too much trouble with any of these mechanics other than the wall jump, and fortunately that is only required a couple of times.

Strider is a fairly average looking game for the hardware with nothing standing out as particularly good or bad, although the 8-bit graphics are certainly a step down when compared to the likes of the arcade and Genesis versions. The soundtrack composed by Harumi Fujita is great and one of the highlights of the game, as is typical of Capcom games from the era.

While it's clear that Strider needed a bit more time in development to iron out its rough spots, I found it to be a surprisingly good time overall and would recommend it to those looking for something a bit deeper than a straightforward action title. It may not be for everybody due to the adventure elements, but fans of Metroid and the like should find it enjoyable. Cartridges are still quite inexpensive for this game, and it is well worth the price of admission.

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Good review! I remember playing this at a friend's house, and not understanding what I was supposed to do, because it wasn't a linear action game. I also remember the jumps being an issue, and some kind of knock-back, with the issue of little (or no) recovery time between taking damage. Not sure if I'm recalling that correctly, but it did put me off the game at that time. Having enjoyed Bionic Commando, and now having played and liked a number of Metroid-style games, this might be one I should look into again.
Played this one a lot as a kid, since my friend owned it and we swapped games constantly. I remember really liking the concept, but that the execution was a bit rough. Definitely a game worth owning though.

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