Capcom is reviving Strider with a new game in development for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Double Helix is developing Strider which blends explorative gameplay with the high speed action the series is known for. When Siliconera spoke with senior producer Andrew Szymanski he promised that Strider won’t start off strong and suddenly lose all of his powers like Metroidvania games and explained how he was able to get a new Strider game in development.
How did you get started on Strider? It feels like fans have been requesting a new Strider game for a long time, but it finally got the greenlight.
Andrew Szymanski, Senior Producer: I was working on [Lost Planet 3], as you know. That’s been a three-and-a-half-year project. During the ups and downs, when we first get a project kicked off there’s a lot of work that goes into it. There’s a lot of work in the backend, like times like these when we are doing interviews and things like that, preparing before the game comes out. But during that in the intervening span, I obviously wanted to get some kind of pet projects, if you will, off the ground. Strider was really a labor of love for me because a lot of people of my generation grew up playing it. My first exposure was the Genesis version, which is a port of the first arcade game.
It was a perfect storm of different factors. I was looking to try to bring back some of the Capcom feel in terms of doing side-scrollers. You know there’s a bunch of great digital side-scrollers titles out there right now that marry modern graphical techniques with more an old-school gameplay style. I’m looking at these and thought these are a good fit for a lot of our IPs, and I’m thinking “Where should we go with that?”
Obviously, being a personal fan of Strider, but also we did a lot of research amongst our fans, on our Capcom-Unity community pages, and forum posts. I looked at replies we are getting from people what kind of games they wanted and what kind of characters they wanted to see. For me, personally, I could easily envision a concept to bring it to modern consoles. That concept was marrying the fast-paced old-school gameplay, the jumping, the acrobatics, the Cypher, with a more of a non-linear map design. To me, that concept came together very easily and organically. That’s why, it’s not super easy, but it was relatively low impact in order to get the game off the ground and get people to sign off everything inside Capcom.
For Strider, you don’t need Capcom to sign off. You also need Moto Kikaku to sign off too, right?
AS: We have a great arrangement with the manga artists that helped with the initial development of character. Capcom actually owns the rights of all the characters. When the first game came out in the arcades they actually ran a manga alongside it. Basically, you can even see it down there, it’s copyright Moto Kikaku. It’s just a courtesy and a thank you to say “Hey, they played a part” in doing this. They are always receptive when we go to them and say we want to do things with them, whether is Marvel vs. Capcom or it is a new game. They just love having these characters out there.
Huh, I’m a little surprised because I thought for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Capcom needed to get licensing rights to Strider which is why he didn’t appear until Ultimate [Marvel vs. Capcom 3].
AS: Well, it’s easy in the fact that it’s a standalone title. In other words, it either works or it doesn’t. Obviously, I wasn’t directly involved with Marvel vs Capcom, but that’s one characters of many. Everything is going on parallel. For us, we have to get permission. Assuming we get permission, we move on. This has been in the works for 18 months or so before we announced it.
When I saw the gameplay my initial impression was Strider meets Shadow Complex. Since you had the acrobatics Hiryu is known for with exploration and the 2.5D perspective.
AS: I think that is a compliment. I love Shadow Complex. Our biggest goal with the gameplay execution on Strider was figuring out how to create this golden ratio between the combat and the speed and sort of the exploratory elements. And the reason why this is a little bit challenging is because most games that sort of have an interconnected map like this don’t move as fast as this one.
The movement speed of Strider in this game is 8 times as fast it was in the original arcade game, just in terms of the actual physical movement speed covering ground. Trying to find that sweet spot between we want him to be constantly in motion, be fast, be jumping, and climbing up ledges and everything, we want to be slicing up enemies left and right, but we also want to have those exploratory moments. That really formed the level design and formed the overall game design. That’s going to be a constant tuning challenge to make sure that there’s enough speed and it feels like Strider, but you’re also going be able to extend it out to full-fledged experience.
The first two games, they were quarter munchers right? If you play them start to finish they are about half an hour, maybe. Strider 1 is probably even shorter. The difficulty is jacked way up. It’s all about trying to kill you and get you to put more quarters in. The question was how did we take that and turn it into a six hour experience on consoles, which is what people are going to expect for a game of this type. That’s really were the balance between the speed and combat, and that sort of fast-paced frenetic ninja style combat with exploration came about.
What kind of things will Hiryu be able to find? He’s pretty powerful already, so what kinds of things will I find if I go through that exploratory route?
AS: You saw some of the stuff at the show where you got the ability to get powerups that both affect combat and also affect traversal. A great example of that are the different plasma affinities for the Cypher. One of the concepts behind the game is the idea of the Cypher being a plasma weapon. Why don’t we actually extend that out to encompass all of Hiryu’s ability being plasma based. That’s actually the impetus behind to make his scarf to be made out of plasma instead of fabric.
The idea is actually a vent, an exhaust vent of plasma trailing behind him as he’s running. When James was doing the demo yesterday, and you saw when he got the explosive plasma. When you change to that, it actually changes your Cypher to an orange color as well as turning the scarf to orange. That’s the UI element to indicate that you’ve switched a plasma type. It allows us basically to ground the Cypher weapon with multiple abilities. The Cypher is part of the silhouette, if he’d change to use a different weapon, his character silhouette would be broken up. But, obviously you can’t play a six hour experience with only the same attack pattern. So the idea being is keep the silhouette and keep the actual physical Cypher attack, but change what it can do. We showed the explosive one, and there’s other that he’s going to be able to do as well. Do you want to add anything to sort of the cypher background?
James Vance, Producer: I can just give some background on the characters, if you are interested. As Andrew explained, there is a jet coming out from the back of him and the lore behind of the Hiryu character is if you are a normal man and you are to swing the Cypher sword, it will just be a plain sword. However, he’s being able to build up his psychic energy such that when he swings it, it actually affects the plasma that comes out of the sword. The setting of the character is he’s a super A-ranked strider. He’s so powerful that basically his plasma energy is an excess. He doesn’t actually need all of it, that’s why it comes out of his back of the scarf. A little background for you there.
Will we see Hiryu’s allies like the robot panther and hawk?
AS: Before you get any additional powerups, his core ability set is the same as it was in the first two [games]. Actually it’s even more. You got the climbsickle that allows you to climb on any surface. You got your standard jumping both straight up. You got you cartwheel jumping, sliding. All of these are his basic move set. His move set at the beginning of this is his classic move set. Every upgrade that you get actually adds on to that.
One thing we didn’t want to do that’s kind of common in games like this is have him be completely powered up at the beginning and then in like five minutes, he loses everything. We didn’t want to do that. We want to show that he was at his peak at the beginning and he gets even strong through the course of this game.
To answer your question, I don’t want to give away too many details. Because we have a lot of cool things we want to show. But, we will be seeing return of a lot of those classic sort of companions that everyone is familiar with. The one that we showed in the panel and in the gameplay video is the bot.
The little two-legged bot. It’s a little two legged mushroom-looking mechanical thing. In the old Strider games, it will walk along the environment and you could slice it open to get powerups. In this, it actually orbits an acts as a combination of both the shield, and it also sends out a projectiles to the environment. So it’s a great way to extend the reach and attack power of the Cypher. And you can engage it at any time. You have a life gauge and a sort of a power gauge. As long as you have remaining energy in that power gauge, you can engage it at any time once you obtain it.
Will Strider be able to use multiple companions at once like the panther and the bot?
AS: Stay tuned. But there’s definitely more than one. And once you get them, you’ll be able to engage them.
Strider has some very memorable music and sound effects. Like I still remember that sword slashing sound. How are you going to stay true to that part of Strider?
JV: To Andrew’s point about Double Helix understanding the IP, that carries over into the music as well. Some of the music you’ll hear in the video is a homage to the classic theme. We have that kind of music in there. We also want to take the game a little step forward in the future for modern gamers, so we added a modern twist to these soundtracks so it’s not playing back the same BGM you heard before, as well as original ones. We always want to keep the what we call "analog future" design of the Strider world, it’s this strange mix of high technology and low technology, we want to carry that into the world as well.
[Laughs] The same for the sound effects. I mean, you probably heard in the demo we put in the Meio laugh. That was an overt reference, but there are all kinds of little references like that throughout the game. If you’re a real hardcore Strider fan you can see that in there. We definitely made sure the sound that when he swings his sword, the sound that he makes when he jumps, some of the things the soldiers say when they are coming at you are a direct replica of the previous one or a reference to evoke the same emotions that old school players had when they played it back in the day.
What about people who only know about Strider from Marvel vs. Capcom? Do you have any references there?
AS: I know there are a lot of questions of why were calling it Strider, why isn’t it something else. It’s not a remake. It’s not a reboot in the strictest sense. Every Strider game has the exact same setting which is Grandmaster Meio has taken over the world and Strider is sent in to kill him. And that’s it. The second game takes place a 1000 years after the first one and Strider is cloned or resurrected or something… there’s not a continuity.
What we said is there are these core components of Strider. This is the first Strider, by the time it comes out it will be fifteen years since the previous game. This is Strider. It’s Grandmaster Meio and Hiryu has to come in and kill him. Along the way a bunch of stuff happens and there are a lot of references to the old games. This is a retelling of the same story, retold in a new game.
For fans that never played the old ones and only played MvC, we actually went through quite a bit of trouble to incorporate little touches from MvC as well. Some of the animations are directly inspired by the old side-scroller games and some of the animations are inspired by MvC. We wanted him to play as fast and fluid as he does in MvC. We wanted to have that side-scroller gameplay like the old games, so the design is kind of a marriage of the old and new [Strider]. His character design has been completely redone, but contains elements from everything. In the first one he didn’t have his facemask. It also contains a couple of touches from Marvel vs. Capcom.
JV: I think the way the robots move as well, as you saw in the demo, is a specific reference to Marvel vs. Capcom. Where the robots shoot out the circular blasts like they do in the hyper combos. They don’t move that way in Strider 1 or 2.
AS: Also his lifter is from MvC. His straight up jump, not the cartwheel jump that was from Strider 1, is from MvC. It’s what we can take from the history of the character so he feels like he’s been built up in the course of 25 years.