“Schwing!” The sound of Hiryu's sword slash is one of the most iconic sound effects from the 16-bit era, and with the recent release of Strider it seemed like a good time to look back at the classic Capcom action title. Strider originally released on Capcom's CPS-1, the same arcade board that Street Fighter II  launched on. It has been ported to many systems, including the Virtual Console, but for the sake of this Retrolog I will be looking at the Genesis version.

Strider was one of Capcom's biggest hits before the release of their flagship fighting title, Street Fighter II. At the time of its release, Capcom did not have many hits under its belt and in a way Strider was the start of their dominance after Mega Man 2 and Bionic Commando solidified them as a developer to watch. Strider was Capcom's answer to SEGA's Shinobi franchise and gave them their own character action game. Hiryu is a more interesting character than Joe Musashi and this was an important aspect of the game's broad appeal in a time when the Japanese craze was at the height of its powers in the west. After all, Hiryu deftly resembled a futuristic ninja straight out of an anime. Hiryu himself is very well animated and this allows the fluidity of his skills to really blossom on-screen.

Like ShinobiStrider is a side-scrolling action game, but it places more emphasis on platforming with a very flexible and acrobatic character. Hiryu can pull off a lot of slick moves like a sliding attack, can scale walls, and a cartwheel jump that never stops looking cool. Due to Hiryu's move-set, Strider has plenty of complex gameplay scenarios, such as riding a dinosaur while fighting off pterodactyls and an insane boss fight against a metal dragon which I completely adore. Hiryu's primary weapon is his plasma sword that looks so cool that you'll be pulling it out just for fun. He can also pick up temporary upgrades, such as one that increases the attack range of his sword. In addition, Hiryu is able to summon robotic animals to fight for him, one of which is a saber-toothed tiger.

When it comes to video games, an easy way to win me over is with variety, and Strider has that in spades! There are only five levels, but over the course of the game you travel to a Communist city, an Amazonian jungle, an airship, and two more that I will not spoil for you. The enemies you fight get very creative like the previously mentioned metal dragon and a metal gorilla, and both of those appear in the first two levels. There are plenty of mini-bosses sprinkled throughout the game, and each encounter feels fresh because of the superb level design.

Strider features very good presentation and is another one of these 2D games that still looks good today. Each of the levels has its own distinct soundtrack, and tracks run the gamut from baroque, rock, classical, and many more. Strider was famous for the diversity of its music and having an all-female cast of composers, and the music is very, very good even with the Genesis' sub-par sound chip. The tunes are almost perfectly in sync with the action on screen, which adds a cinematic element to the gameplay that was uncommon in that era. In terms of graphics, Strider shines just as brightly as any other game from both a technical and artistic standpoint. The detail added to all the unique environments in the game is astounding and every aspect of the pixel art is unique. Strider is one of the best examples of a perfect combination of different elements coming together to form an utterly brilliant and cohesive whole.

A lot of these classic side-scrolling action games served as precursors to huge franchises like Devil May Cry and God of War and none carry the same level of influence as Strider. Strider was a very progressive game in several aspects, particularly in the music and variety of the whole package. The best version of the game is still the arcade release, but the Genesis port will suffice.

Strider is another timeless classic from the late 80's/early 90's. I recommend this game to anyone and the fact that it is not a difficult game (relatively speaking) makes it more inviting than something like Ninja Gaiden.

Platform: SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive
Release: 1990 (JPN)
Publisher: Capcom/SEGA

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