Strider 2
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Capcom (ARC)
    • Use (PS1)
  • Publishers:
    • Capcom (ARC/PS1)
    • UK Virgin (PS1)
  • Released:
    ARC
    • 12/13/1999
    PS1
    • JP 02/24/2000
    • US 07/29/2000
    • UK 12/15/2000
Score: 90%

This review was published on 07/11/2017.

Strider 2, known in Japan as Strider Hiryu 2, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Capcom. The game was initially released for arcades on December 13, 1999, but was later ported to the Sony PlayStation. The PlayStation version originally came out in Japan on February 24, 2000, North America on July 29, 2000, and Europe on December 15, 2000. Capcom published the game in most territories, but Virgin Interactive published the PlayStation port in Europe. The Strider series began in 1989 in the arcades, though the first game was mostly associated with the Sega Genesis, as it was most popular on that platform. In 1990, Capcom licensed U.S. Gold to create a sequel to the original Strider, which was developed by Tiertex. This sequel was titled Strider Returns: A Journey from Darkness in North America, but it was known as Strider II everywhere else. Apparently displeased with the subpar quality of Strider Returns, Capcom later developed its own Strider sequel. In addition to being a completely different game, Strider 2 erases Strider Returns from the canon of the series. That's a good thing, because Capcom's version of Strider 2 is substantially better.

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Since the events in Strider Returns aren't canon, you can jump into this game right after playing the original Strider with no problems. The Strider games take place in a fictional future in which a group of futuristic ninjas known as the Striders exist. In case you haven't played the original, the story was about how a highly skilled Strider named Hiryu took down a villain that went by the title of Grand Master. Strider 2 is set 2119 years later, where the Grand Master has somehow come back to life to terrorize the world once again. The legendary Strider from the past, Hiryu, also somehow returns to do battle with the Grand Master for a second time. Basically, the plot is more or less a retread of the first game. However, the story in this game is conveyed in beautiful still images. The Japanese version also has full blown voice acting during these scenes, but sadly, that was nixed for all versions released outside of Japan.

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3-D was already the norm when this game came out, but despite that, Strider 2 still opted to go with a side-scrolling perspective in honor of the original. However, while the game play is firmly 2-D, most of the graphics themselves are 3-D. The environments are all comprised of 3-D polygons, whereas the characters and enemies mostly consist of 2-D sprites. This visual style wasn't particularly uncommon during the PlayStation era, generally finding its way into games that stuck to traditional side-scrolling action in the face of the popularity of 3-D gaming. Unfortunately, games that mix 2-D and 3-D graphics like this never look quite right, and Strider 2 is no better in that regard. The polygons look primitive in comparison to the well drawn sprites. These two visual styles clash in a sharp contrast that is likely to be distracting to anyone. It would have been much better if the whole game was done with 2-D graphics, like Capcom's very own Mega Man X4, which also saw release on the PlayStation a few years earlier. If there's anything wrong with Strider 2, this is it. The music is still good, though.

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You take control of Hiryu as he attempts to take control of the situation. Like the first game, he can walk, duck, jump, do a baseball slide across the ground, and swing his Cypher, a deadly sword-like weapon that can slice through just about anything. Also like the first game, Hiryu's weapon can be swung almost as fast as you can press the button, resulting in some fairly rapid attacks. Of course, he can also still attack while jumping, crouching, or climbing. Speaking of, Hiryu's ability to climb just about any surface returns from the original Strider. Chief among those surfaces are walls and ceilings, and he's even able to climb sloping surfaces. The controls are as smooth as a stick of butter and as precise as a surgeon, bettering the controls of the original Strider by a good margin. That's not to say that the original Strider controlled poorly; this game just controls better.

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While Hiryu's abilities are mostly the same as they were in the first game, he does have a couple of new moves. The biggest addition to Hiryu's capabilities is the ability to perform a double jump. This is obviously extremely useful, and it also makes sense. He is a ninja, after all. It's also now possible for Hiryu to dash by double tapping forward. This is important to remember, because unlike the first game, he can't attack while walking in Strider 2, but can while dashing. Dashing also enables Hiryu to jump farther. He can also air dash off of walls by pressing the jump button while holding the direction opposite to the wall he's currently clinging to. Another overlooked maneuver Hiryu has in this game is the "Savage Slash," which is a violent flurry of slashes that is done by pressing down, up, and the attack button in quick succession while in the air. Lastly, he can cancel slides with a backwards somersault at any time; this is done by holding back and pressing the jump button during a slide. It's handy for backing out of dangerous situations. All of these new moves add a considerable amount of depth to the game.

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Besides the standard life power-ups, which either replenish varying amounts of Hiryu's lost health or increase his maximum capacity, there's also a weapon power-up that allows him to shoot small projectiles from his blade, extending his attack range. However, Hiryu loses the weapon power-up the moment he's injured. This is similar to the range extension power-up in the first Strider, except that one didn't involve projectiles. On that note, the first Strider also had power-ups that would give Hiryu tiny robotic pals that assisted him during battle. Those mechanical friends don't return in this game, but they have been replaced with the "Boost" system. Throughout the game, you'll frequently find Boost items. Pressing the appropriate button will expend a Boost item, granting Hiryu the ability to shoot massive projectiles from his blade that home in on enemies. This only lasts for a short period of time, however, which is signified by the Boost gauge. The Boost ability makes short work of most enemies and bosses, so it's handy in a pinch.

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Unlike the original Strider, this game has a stage select screen that allows for some nonlinear progression. Only a couple of stages are accessible at first, but the last few open up as you complete what's available. The individual stages themselves are still mostly linear, however. Either way, the stages in this game are filled with enough action to raise the dead. On your high-octane journey, you'll cut through countless sci-fi environments, such as futuristic cities, mechanical castles, arctic research facilities, and the aerial battleship from the first game. Some examples of the cool stuff you'll be doing include fighting the three female martial artists from the first Strider while jumping from one flying car to the next, being chased by a tank across a collapsing bridge, scaling a building while a helicopter attacks you, and running on ceilings due to reversed gravity. The only issue is that the game gets unreasonably difficult later on, forcing you to put in countless coins to continue if you're playing the arcade release. Thankfully, the PlayStation port gives you unlimited continues; no coins required.

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The original arcade version of the game ran on the Sony ZN-2 board, which is similar to the hardware that's housed in a PlayStation. As a result of that, the PlayStation port is nearly identical to the arcade original, but it does have a couple of extra features. For one, it came packaged with a nearly arcade perfect port of the first Strider, though the discs were mislabeled in North America, so the first game is actually on the disc that's labeled as Strider 2, and vice versa. The PlayStation port of Strider 2 also has an extra stage set in a jungle, but it's only available if you have a completed save file of the first Strider on an attached memory card. Beating the PlayStation version of Strider 2 also unlocks a new playable character in the form of Hiryu's rival, Strider Hien. Hien is unable to use the Boost feature, but his regular attacks consist of whirling blades that home in on enemies from a distance.

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Forget Strider Returns; Strider 2 is the true sequel to Strider. Aside from the awkward graphics, this game surpasses the original in every other way. Considering the original was already a great game to begin with, that's quite a feat. Strider 2 has a solid soundtrack, smooth controls, ace stage design, killer bosses, and insane action. If you enjoy hardcore action of the arcade variety, then you owe it to yourself to play Strider 2.

Word Count: 1,504

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