If you’re like me, your first introduction to the character of Strider might be from his inclusion in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. I remember seeing him, with his badass sword, and thinking “Wow, that guys awesome!”. Then I went back to see which games he was from, and found a weird history of games with the same name, games releasing on the Nintendo and the Arcade and the Genesis, and games printed on the wrong discs. Despite all this confusion, Strider 2 ended up being one of the very first games I recorded my own gameplay for. To this day it holds a special place in my heart, and I honestly feel it’s an entire series that seems to have been forgotten.
Let’s start with a history lesson. And let me warn you, it’s a bit of a doozy.
The original Strider released in the arcades in 1989. It’s fast paced ninja action wasn’t really like anything else in the arcades at the time, and I can only liken it to something like Sega’s Shadow Dancer/Shinobi series, but even that’s a bit of a stretch. An NES port also called Strider came out later that same year, and featured wildly different gameplay from the arcade original (which was common at the time: home consoles just couldn’t emulate the full arcade experience). In 1990, the Sega Genesis version also just called Strider brought home the arcade experience gamers wanted, and is in my opinion the definitive home version. 1990 also saw a direct sequel to the game called Strider II (or Strider Returns in North America), but this sequel wasn’t developed by Capcom and had really nothing to do with the series proper, despite being well received on its own. A Capcom sequel released in 1999 for the arcades as well as a Playstation version, also called Strider 2, which came bundled with a port of the original arcade game on a separate disc. However it is worth noting the Disc labeled Strider 2 actually contains the port of the original Strider, and the disc labeled Strider is the sequel. After another long hiatus, Capcom brought the series back in 2014 with a third game, also simply called Strider, for Xbox Live and Playstation Network. This version retains the series’ signature action platforming. For those keeping track, that is 6 video games, 4 simply called “Strider” and 2 called “Strider II”. Yeah…
Today we’re talking about Capcom’s PS1 game Strider 2. If you haven’t played the game or are looking up footage, you might be surprised at how fresh the game looks. It’s definitely a PS1 game, but wow those visuals hold up. The night time scenes, the lighting, and the smooth-yet-pixilated movement, it all oozes style. Looking back, they really captured that well in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, as I felt Strider in those games has a great sense of coolness and style about him (kind of like how Dante from Devil May Cry would go on to achieve in a similar fashion… huh). When playing back in 2010 when I first picked up the PS1 game, or when I’m looking at the game again now, it’s still got a great sense about it.
It wouldn’t be an action platformer without strong action sequences, and Strider 2 is nothing but high octane action at all times. You’ll slice through dozens of nobody enemies before encountering a boss with a hefty health bar, and this is where the game really starts to shine. Strider 2 features a bevy of wonderful bosses, including the early Emperor Dragon who you literally fight while riding on its back, or a heavy-weapons helicopter you somehow defeat with a blade. It’s awesome! Pure action at its finest. When I think of games that are “video game” games, they’re usually something so hyperbolically impossible, yet work effortlessly in the game itself. Strider 2 is exactly this.
My only major complaint with the game is that it is over all too soon. You can likely finish the game in around an hour if you have some skill with the blade. The game is solid through the entire playthrough, but once you get through the initial few levels you do kind of see the entirety of what the game has to offer. While the 2014 sequel addressed this with some additional gameplay options that arise in later stages, Strider 2 on the PS1 can get samey rather soon. It is important to keep in mind this is a port of an arcade game; long experiences weren’t the point. But it is worth noting, and is the only complaint I have.
Despite decent sales of the 2014 game, we haven’t seen or heard from Strider Hiryu in a decade. Despite occasional pop-ups in Capcom’s crossover series’, the character has been relegated to retro games and the nostalgia of older gamers. I think the time is right to bring this character back for a new generation to enjoy. The 2D action platformer could work incredibly well as a Hades-style action Roguelike. Or perhaps something small, like a Strider 3 featuring the same type of gameplay the series is known for, and over in another small chunk of time, would be worth the effort. Really I’ll take whatever I can get so long as they don’t just call it Strider.