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Strider

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Reviewed by Michael LoCascio Having made previous appearances in the arcade and on the NES, Strider was released in 1990 for the Sega Genesis and garnered a great deal of attention. A darling of video game critics, it was tough to find a gaming magazine that didn't dub Strider "Game of the Year", or bestow upon it some other such honor. Indeed, the visuals in Strider were absolutely mind-blowing. Never before (and probably never after) had a game for the Genesis featured such stunning graphics. Thankfully, Strider had some substance to back up its visual flair. Strider features a typical "save the Earth" type of plot. A "Strider" is a specially trained warrior whose responsibility it is to defend our planet. You assume the role of Hiryu, a young, talented Strider, and your mission is to defeat the maniacal Meio, who has some dastardly plans in store for Earth. Equipped with a single weapon (which somewhat resembles a light saber), you must traverse five side-scrolling levels in an effort to annihilate Meio's forces. The game takes place in a futuristic setting; you'll undoubtedly be impressed by the advanced machinery that Meio has at his disposal. Strider is action-gaming at its finest. Most of the game simply asks that you run, jump and slice up any robotic menace that dares to even look at you funny. There's actually more to the game play than those simple elements, however. You must become proficient at Hiryu's many skills to make it very far in this game. You can make use of a special sliding technique to slip through cramped spaces or demolish smaller enemies. Hiryu is also quite good at scaling walls; jumping and grabbing on to ledges is one of the more important techniques in the entire game, especially considering how many tricky leaps you'll be forced to make during your adventure. With the numerous techniques that are at your disposal, it's a good thing that the controls in Strider are pretty tight. Making precise jumps can be a nuisance at times, but it's nothing that a little practice and a lot of untimely deaths won't eventually take care of. Hiryu immediately responds to your every press of a button, making it easy and enjoyable to slash your way through enemy lines. Besides the abilities that Hiryu already possesses, there are other methods of combating the enemy that you will become familiar with as the game progresses. One of Hiryu's greatest assets is the mechanical feline that joins him every so often. This ferocious little kitten can be a great aid in demolishing enemy attackers. There's also a robotic bird that swoops in and helps Hiryu out; I prefer the cat, but any way you look at it, it pays to have pets sometimes. Strider may be a short game, but it's incredibly tough. Hiryu can withstand only three hits from the enemy before he bites the dust (your life meter can be enlarged by obtaining the appropriate power-up icons). You'll often find yourself surrounded by a number of enemies, not to mention the shots that some of them may be firing at you. The three hits that you're allowed can take place within a matter of seconds; the game does allow you to pick up almost right where you left off whenever you die, however. Obviously, the most impressive aspect of Strider is its supreme graphic quality. No where is this more apparent than when you come face to face with some of the enormous robotic bosses in the game (screen shots of these giants really blew people away when this game was initially released). You'll be forced to fight an eclectic band of villains in Strider; boss characters range from a Russian strongman and a fierce pirate to female gymnasts and a gigantic mechanical ape. Following each level, a short intermission takes place in which Hiryu typically exchanges words with the evildoer that he has just defeated. These conversations set the stage for the next level, and then its back to work. As you can probably tell from some of the boss characters that I mentioned, Strider can be a very odd game at times. Things happen in this cart that you don't typically expect to find in most hack-and-slash action games. There is definitely a political element to this game (I'll let you read between the lines and come to whatever conclusions that you will concerning the games plot). But the mysterious side of Strider encompasses everything from the serious underlying political themes to the bizarre villains that you must defeat. For instance, at the conclusion of the first level you encounter a rather large group of politicians. Far from your typical Bill Clinton type of leader, these guys leap into the air and come together to form a huge robotic centipede. Strange stuff. The music is fairly atypical as well. There are certain points at which the music doesn't seem to fit the action at all. Then there are other instances in which the music becomes fast and intense, seemingly in order to warn you of the tough spots that lie ahead. In all cases, however, the music is extremely listenable, and I'd even consider it to be excellent at times. Incidentally, while the NES version of Strider was different from its Genesis counterpart in many ways, this cart represents a perfect translation of the Strider action game that appeared in arcades. It plays like a quarter-muncher too; there are quite a few spots in the game that are incredibly difficult to get through. Besides the fact that the game can be insanely frustrating at times, it's still a top-notch action title, one that has some historic significance due to its amazing visuals. One last note on this game: there is a well-known trick for this title which involves powering up the game Altered Beast, and then taking it out and replacing it with Strider (without turning off the system). This interesting trick granted players an unlimited supply of extra lives with which to work with. To my knowledge this was the first (if not only) instance where a trick could be performed in one game by making use of an entirely different cartridge. Now that I've mentioned the trick, however, I must also add: don't use it! Beat the game fairly, it can be a very rewarding experience. Overall: 8 / 10

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