It’s been nearly 15 years now since A-Rank Ninja Strider Hiryu had his own, proper adventure on a video game console or arcade. Sure, he’s had guest star appearances here and there, and is a selectable fighter in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series (if you count that), but it’s been a very long time since we last saw him battle the malicious Grandmaster and his evil robotic forces.
Developed by Double Helix Games / Published by Capcom
Available on the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Reviewed on the PC.
Now he’s finally back once again, thanks to the likes of Capcom and Double Helix Studios, developers of the new Killer Instinct and FPS flop Battleship. Is one of gaming’s classic ninjas in safe hands and back for his finest mission yet, or should cyber ninja Hiryu have stayed in retirement?
In this all-new Strider, players are sent to Kazakh City, a repressed, totalitarian city that is run by a sadistic, military leader known as the Grandmaster. The mission is to assassinate the mysterious dictator, though in order to get to him, Strider Hiryu must first make his way through the Grandmaster’s legion of soldiers, machines and mercenaries first.
If you come to this game expecting a deep storyline full of character development, then you’ll be wrong. The Strider series has never been about plot, but about quick, action-packed sequences featuring a badass ninja that wields an energy sword and can cling and climb any surface. The same can be said about this latest entry. That being said, since this is a reboot of the original game, the storyline is much more developed, giving Strider and his enemies a bit of personality with some light dialogue. Hiryu is still the cool and calculating assassin that we all know and love, but now his enemies are slimy or boastful individuals with a penchant for talking too much, even when they get their butts handed to them. Still, getting to revisit Strider’s first adventure is an entertaining experience.
The biggest surprise here, however, is the gameplay. Unlike previous titles in the series where players have to complete levels in order to progress until the final boss encounter, this Strider is a “Metroidvania” game, which in case you don’t know, is an action/adventure game with a heavy concentration on exploration (akin to the games that name the genre). Instead of Hiryu moving left to right and killing foes non-stop, here players are encouraged to explore a large world full of multiple areas, many secrets, and a whole lot of action. It’s still a sidescroller, but it’s a much deeper, varied experience than before.
The object of the game is to infiltrate the city and kill the grandmaster. To do so, Hiryu is equipped with a plasma sword called Cypher, as well as two climbing sickles. The sword can cut through enemies like butter, and the sickles allow Hiryu to attach himself to almost any surface, allowing players to traverse the large environment – one with many different routes – however they’d like. Action is faster this time around, so moving around and slicing up enemies is fast, furious, and very enjoyable.
Now, not every pathway is available to Strider from the start, since many of the game’s routes are blocked by either locked doors, contraptions, or other obstacles that can impede his progress, which means you won’t be killing the Grandmaster anytime soon. As you might have guessed, this is where the Metrovania element comes in and changes things up. In order for Hiryu to gain access to these places, he first has to acquire a number of additional upgrades that will allow him to progress.
If you follow the main mission and head to where the overhead map tells you to go, then you’ll eventually run into a boss that you must defeat in order to score the upgrade. Bosses vary in size and strategy, but they always have an attack pattern that can be learned and exploited. They are never too hard, but they can easily tear you up if you aren’t paying attention. Once defeated, they usually grant Strider a new powerup, which will allow you to continue on.
Upgrades range from new abilities, such as a double jump, charge attack and short range teleportation, to new weapons, such as kunais, different elemental properties for Cypher, and the Options. The Options, which you might remember if you’d played an older Strider game or the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, are robots that help Strider both offensively and in practical ways. Option A is a satellite that either protects Hiryu from missile fire and shoots bullets at enemies, or can unlock doors and paths. Option B is a robotic panther that attacks foes, but can help Hiryu fast travel. Finally, Option C is a hawk that can damage enemies, but can also carry the ninja to higher places. Additionally, there are also minor upgrades, such as increases in health, energy, and more.
While killing enemies left and right and preforming acrobatic acts is pretty entertaining by itself, the Metroidvania style of gameplay really makes this game an awesome experience. Getting the chance to revisit old areas with a souped-up Strider is excellent, and the amount of hidden upgrades really makes it worthwhile to go explore. There’s also a bunch of collectables, such as enemy intel, story info, art, and costumes, which reward players that love to search every piece of map for these types of things, and additional game modes that have players speed running or fighting off waves of enemies.
After everything’s said and done, Strider Hiryu’s newest mission is an excellent return to form, successfully blending the classic arcade feel with the exploration elements of the Metroidvania genre. While you won’t learn much about the classic ninja and his motivations, you will have fun taking down his enemies in style.