The very first thing I noticed in Strider worried me: I couldn’t use the D-pad to move. It was analog only. I checked the pause menu for a toggle, and even asked the attendant, but there was no way to move digitally.
However, when I started moving Hiryu around, my worries melted away. He’s fast. Faster than he is in Strider 2. It’s not just his speed that gives this impression, but the fact that certain things that felt a little bit jarring about older Strider games have been smoothed out. For instance, the time between the end of Hiryu’s slide and his return to quick movement has been decreased. Whereas a slide would lead to a brief stop in Strider 1 and 2, that delay is gone.
As soon as the slide ends, you can keep running. That sounds like such a little element, but it adds lot more fluidity to this new Strider.
Appropriately, Hiryu’s starting moveset was practically the toolset he was given in Strider 2. Hiryu can double-jump, slash in any direction in mid-air, and even jumps off of walls at the 45 degree upward angle that made leaping between two walls so much fun in Strider 2. However, the new game adds a couple of new tricks.
For one thing, Hiryu can now toss out three knives with either R2 or circle. They didn’t seem to do as much damage as a slash from his sword, but they did a decent job of stunning or killing machinegun-using enemies from afar. I’m curious to see how these might get upgraded further along in the game.
He also has a launcher, which can be performed with either up and attack or triangle. Unfortunately for me, most of the enemies I had a chance to fight against would be sliced to bits by the launcher itself, so I didn’t really get to play with anything the launcher leads to.
Of course, the other element at play here is the more open-world approach to stage-design. While the game’s design shuttled me into two different upgrades. The first one was the “Assault Slide,” which added a bit of damage to the already seemingly-invincible slide attack (which becomes even more destructive if you keep slashing your way through it) and allows Hiryu to kick through red hatches that lock him out of certain rooms. The second was the “Reflect Cypher” which will knock bullets back in the general direction of the person or robot who shot them with a well-timed slash. Given how many bullets people shoot in this game, it was pretty handy.
The map always has an arrow on the Strider marker that shows him where to go next, but even with my limited playtime and the station attendant constantly reminding me that I should follow the arrow, a bit of platforming and recognition of a platform I could drop through led me to a health upgrade that increased my HP from 100 to 150. Given that I found two weapon upgrades and one health one in under 10 minutes, I’m curious as to how things will be spaced out across the game’s final map.
Finally, the demo’s mid-boss, a human-sized enemy with an electro-polearm, was a tad underwhelming given the Strider franchise’s history of bizarre bosses. His attacks were easily readable and avoidable with a slide, and although he would teleport every time I landed a launcher, I didn’t take a single hit. While my demo ended here, I could see things being interesting if that kind of enemy was added into groups of others (which mostly took one or two hits to kill).
Food for Thought:
1. Try as I might, I couldn’t perform the multi-directional aerial slash from Strider 2 in this game. It doesn’t seem like they kept it.
2. Even though the first footage of the demo showed Hiryu’s locked at 40 points, regardless of the damage he took, it was possible to die in the TGS demo. Bullets do more than you’d think if you’re not paying attention… like when I was trying to do the multi-directional aerial slash from Strider 2.