TGS: Can Double Helix Make the First Good Strider Sequel?

Weirdly, the answer might be "yes." We go hands-on with Strider Hiryu's new adventure.

Preview by Jeremy Parish, .

Let's begin by establishing a few basic facts.

First, Strider was amazing. I mean Capcom's original arcade game from 1989, of course. The weird NES game brought some good ideas to the table, but they never quite gelled. And most of the home ports were pretty bad. But the arcade game? Brilliant.

Secondly, there's never been a great Strider sequel. Tiertex's Journey Into Darkness was only interesting in that it helped establish a trend of disappointing sequels with "Into Darkness" in their subtitle. Strider 2 suffered from technical limitations and the general lack of a market for arcade-style action games that existed in 2000. Even Strider designer Yotsui Koichi's own attempts to follow up on the series -- Cannon Dancer and Moon Diver -- didn't quite hit the mark.

Finally, Double Helix does not have a good track record as a development studio. In fact, they've yet to crack the boundary between "mediocre" and "good" with a single title on Metacritic.

These, of course, are all known quantities. And yet, as a fan of Strider, I really want Double Helix's Strider sequel (or is it a reboot?) Strider Hiryu to be good. I love the arcade game, and I wish the NES game had lived up to its potential. Double Helix's project looks to combine the two, meaning it could (in an ideal universe where wishes come true) turn out to be the first truly great follow-up to a nearly 25-year-old arcade game.

So, when I stumbled onto a Strider demo kiosk at Capcom's Tokyo Game Show booth moments after the show opened, I decided to kick off this year's event by going hands-on with the game. And despite a poor first impression, it turned out to be... pretty good, actually.

Let's talk about that first impression, though. I approached Strider Hiryu like I have every previous game in the series: Aggressively but methodically, taking my time and striking down enemies one by one. This, as it turns out, is the incorrect approach. Strider Hiryu moves a lot faster than the older games, and you need to play it almost like a futuristic murder-flavored Sonic the Hedgehog. (No, I don't mean Shadow the Hedgehog.) Protagonist Hiryu runs at breakneck speed, taking out enemy soldiers who lie in wait for him. If you don't strike them down the second you see them, they'll have a chance to take aim and gun you down. So, the only solution is to keep moving.

That doesn't necessarily mean you should just run and slash, though that works pretty well. Hiryu begins the game -- or at least the TGS demo -- with the ability to perform a double jump, a wall cling, an overhand ceiling walk, a rising slash attack, and a diving strike. So right from the outset, you can pretty much wreak merry hell on your foes.

Unlike the arcade Strider (and more in keeping with the NES game), Strider Hiryu's levels aren't entirely linear. There's a definite sequence to progression, but areas have multiple paths and a number of rooms containing new skills are tucked away. In a matter of 10 minutes, I'd added a sliding kick attack, a 50% life upgrade, the ability to reflect bullets, and a charged slash attack to Hiryu's repertoire.

"Wow," you might say, "Hiryu sounds like a whirling swirling machine of death." And that is correct. So, the game compensates by throwing tough enemies at you straight away. Right around the time you gain the charged attack, you face off against one of villain Meio's elite guards, a boss who warps around the room, slashes you with a massive sickle, and occasionally leaps into the air to perform a ground-pounding attack that sends off a massive energy wave along the ground. It's a tough encounter, forcing you to stay on your toes and use your entire bag of tricks to avoid going down quickly -- Strider may be deadly, but he's alarmingly fragile.

Should you manage to defeat the elite guard, a short while later you encounter one as a standard foe. And then two at the same time, who have the terrifying ability to juggle poor Hiryu like a rag doll.

So, Strider Hiryu gives you an impressive bag of tricks, but it demands pretty high-level play right off the bat. It's light on explanations and simply tosses you into the deep end for a sink-or-swim experience. Although the screen can become somewhat ridiculous with the sheer amount of flashy light nonsense happening every time Hiryu performs any action whatsoever, I never found it disorienting or felt I was at a significant disadvantage. My only control frustration came in the battle against the two guards at once, which takes place in a confined area -- Hiryu kept sticking to the ceiling as I tried to maneuver. But otherwise, the action feels quite solid.

Really, the question I have is just how the game could possibly continue its breakneck pace; if this adventure is meant to last more than an hour or so, Hiryu's either going to run out of power-ups to collect or else become so encumbered with skills he'll be practically impossible to control. I'm also not convinced the supposed "Metroidvania" elements have any significance or if they've just been tacked on for the sake of a bullet point.

But hey, it's a Strider sequel by Double Helix, and it actually seems pretty solid. I'm willing to chalk this one up as a minor victory already.

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Comments 8

  • Avatar for sean697 #1 sean697 4 years ago
    Good preview. Although nothing you've said has really convinced me that this is going to be a good Strider game. One of the issues for me is the ever expanding move set skills. I also could at some point see that making it overly complicated. The originals strength was a fairly simple and and straight forward attack system. I know modern games feel the need to be more complex as games have evolved since 1989. But hopefully the complexity does not detract from the "fun" factor. I know games like Super Metroid fined tuned the line between complex move sets and playability. Can this game or development team do that as well. I'm not convinced yet.

    Also I hate to nit pick but your opening statement mentions the shortcomings of the NES version specifically, then goes on to say most home ports were pretty bad. Why no mention of the excellent Genesis port? It looks and plays for all intents and purposes the same as the arcade game. I mean it can hardly be called a failure since it was EGM's 1990 game of the year. A game of the year winner to me at least deserves some positive mention and can hardly be considered to lumped in with mostly bad home ports. Why bother mentioning the not so good NES port without mentioning the fantastic Genesis port?
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  • Avatar for metalangel #2 metalangel 4 years ago
    I left my attack boots in China.
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  • Avatar for jeremycarrier12 #3 jeremycarrier12 4 years ago
    I always appalled at the constant disrespect Parish pays to Strider 2. I don't think any action game controls as well as that one does, and it's segmented set-piece driven encounters is perfect for S-Rank runs. The original feels sluggish and antique in comparison.

    This game, I saw Strider running head first into a bunch of bullets with little regard because he could always get his health back. Crummy modern game design on an old school Japanese arcade franchise. Meh.
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  • Avatar for AxiomVerge #4 AxiomVerge 4 years ago
    Cool! I'm hoping this one is good. I remember thinking the Genesis version was never meaty enough; maybe the exploration/upgrade aspect of this will fix that.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #5 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    wish it was on wii u
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  • Avatar for Shadowfire #6 Shadowfire 4 years ago
    @jeremycarrier12 Strider 2 really was quite good.
    And down with the haters. I loved NES Strider.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #7 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    Genesis Strider was good! It was kind of alone in that regard, though. The other ports, especially for PC, were poor. I specifically mentioned the NES game because it was in fact a completely different work, not a port.

    As for Strider 2, it's well-meaning enough, and I loved it at the time, but in hindsight it doesn't hold up well at all. It was a victim of its time. I would love to see it revisited with the freedom afforded by current tech and distribution.

    Anyway, my concerns about the power-up distribution turned out to be unfounded. Turns out this demo represents a hodgepodge of game parts rather than the actual introductory progression. And the ability to just storm in and soak up damage disappears as soon as the enemies you face go beyond brainless mooks. It gets tough fast... well, the hodgepodge demo does, anyway.
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  • Avatar for alexb #8 alexb 4 years ago
    After Silent Hill: Homecoming and Front Mission Evolved, I'm still gunshy. Let's see how it shakes out when it's done.Edited September 2013 by alexb
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