Like Ben, I enjoyed growing up in the golden age of arcades and have many fond memories of days riding to my local 7-11 to play the latest cabinet, or many evenings spent trying to connive my dad into taking me to Chuck E. Cheese only to spend three hours there without touching the pizza. However, the good feeling of those golden years gone by don't really carry over to the current incarnation of Strider 2. Based on my memories of the original arcade release and the nearly flawless Genesis port of the first Strider, I was ready to put my money down sight unseen and trust in Capcom to produce something as solid and fun to play as the first game. However, I was quite disappointed.

For starters, I found the graphics to be rather unappealing, and lack the character and personality I generally expect from Capcom—who usually turn out above-average, if not outstanding, sprite graphics. Instead of the big, bright rendering found in the first game or in the Vs. series, your character is tragically small, and things are rather pixelly in general. The focus on showing larger portions of the of the levels and having the character in a smaller scale definitely takes away from the appearance of the game. There are a few choice areas such as a battle which takes place on top of a row of floating cars, or in the polar laboratory area when a giant cyborg mammoth lumbers forth for battle, but such memorable moments are few and far between. Also, as a side note to purists, the clean "ching!" sound of Hiryu's blade from the original game was mysteriously omitted from the sequel. It's missed.

I also concur with Ben regarding the "quick cuts" the game makes. After clearing a section of level you're mysteriously whisked to another area with no segue whatsoever. One moment you're in a strange, techno-gravity chamber, the next you're on top of an icecap attacking a huge mutant crab with nothing but "loading" to take you from one area to another. It absolutely kills any pretense of plot the game may have had and only serves to destroy immersion with the abrupt loads three or four times per level. While the plot or story segments may not matter much in arcades, in this day and age I definitely expect more than the few crumbs that were tossed into this version.

As far as the quality of the platforming goes, it seems like it might be extremely difficult and probably would be except for the fact that the game provides unlimited continues, which kill any challenge. There's really no need or incentive to play the game with skill since you can continue exactly where you died with no penalty. As a consequence, what could have been an enjoyable test of manual dexterity and game skill devolves into a mindless affair which consists of walking from the left to the right and holding down the attack button, jumping sporadically. There's no reason to even try and dodge incoming damage—so just hit the "start" button when you die and you'll finish the game in approximately thirty minutes. In comparison, the old Strider set you back to certain checkpoints so there definitely was a necessity to master certain sections in order to progress. Why Capcom didn't keep that system I can't imagine.

Due to the extremely short playtime, Capcom did add a bit of replay by being able to start a game with a different character after beating the game once, though the second character has no story segments whatsoever and uses homing blades as a weapon, which means that you have to work even less to beat the game. There's also one hidden level which becomes accessible after playing through classic Strider and using the save, but it makes as much sense as the other levels do and is just as appealing, which is to say not much.

While it's great that Capcom included the original version of Strider (and I'd definitely like to see more arcade or orginal versions packaged with newer sequels) with the limited replay and general disinterest Strider 2 generates, I can't recommend it. There is the core of a good game here, but it needs polish and fleshing out in so many areas that it feels a lot rougher than the average Capcom release. I'd suggest it only as a purchase to people who are huge Strider fans or who want a copy of the original Strider for archival purposes. For the average gamer, it's a rental at best and a substandard offering in general.Rating: 5 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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