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Title: Strider
Rom Player: Genecyst
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: Striding. Everyone does it at least once in his or her life. Few people, however, make striding their career of choice. As a result, this interesting side-scroller has earned a place in video game history for its unique brand of action, explosions, and swords. So great was it that it was ported to many of the popular consoles at the time.

Itís an action game, though, and in that spirit, the plot takes a back seat to the carnage. Such as the story is, in the distant future, some weird, floating, cloaked bad guy who calls himself ďThe MasterĒ is taking over the world with his armies of soldiers, robots, and whatever else he can find. You play Strider Hiryu, a guy with a schnazzy sword, who wants to stop The Master for whatever reason. Maybe thereís a worldwide, crime-fighting organization backing him up, maybe not. Regardless of that, each stage ends with him beating the boss character and then having a brief cutscene in which he interrogates them about the location of The Masterís operations, and ultimately, to the man himself. I donít understand how is able to talk to them after the big fights they have, as they almost always end with him destroying the boss and leaving not even a trace of a corpse anywhere.

Speaking of not leaving a corpse behind, once you die (and believe me, you will fairly often.), rather than leaving a bloody, mangled corpse, Strider simply changes into a ball of light and zips off of the screen. Now, to me, that just doesnít seem very heroic, or even realistic. I suppose that its just part of the manís personal style. One aspect of Striderís style that is most memorable, far more than his lackluster death, is the way that he jumps. Rather than a simple, mom-and-pop kind of jump, the man does a frigging cartwheel in midair. Itís an interesting spectacle, and the fact that you can still swing the sword while doing one is nifty, but it is difficult to gauge where youíre going to land when you perform one such jump. Even better, Strider also comes equipped with some kind of mountain climbing tool that lets him climb up walls and along ceilings with ease. A large part of the game, however, is getting the hang of this climbing and all the rest of his fancy acrobatics.

The other part of mastering the game is learning to utilize powerups, which are startlingly few in number. Each powerup is either delivered via a robot that looks like a flying dinette set, or is found by jumping up or crossing specific spots. There are a handful of powerups that summon little robots that come to help you. Mostly, said powerups summon robots that look like walking endtables. These boys try desperately to help you by shooting little rings at your foes, but most of the time, they will just spin around on and off screen. Other times, you will summon a robot hawk that will fly briefly overhead doing who knows what. The last, and therefore least often summoning, is one where a sort of robot puma/tiger/lynx/etc. runs in and takes down nearby enemies. These things provide little help, and to make matter worse, once you obtain a robot, a mark is placed on your life bar. If your life gets below that point, all your help-monkeys vanish.

Make no mistake; your beginning life bar is very small, allowing only three hits from the throngs of bad guys standing in your way. To combat this, there are two kinds of life powerups in the game: one that increases your life by one, and one that increases your maximum life by one. Unfortunately, Japanese characters represent both of these powerups and, unless you can read the language, it is somewhat difficult to discern between the two of them.

The most useful, and therefore the least common of all, is a sword icon that effectively doubles the reach of your sword for a brief period of time. Iím not a hundred percent certain of the length of time, but I assure you that, unlike your sword, it is never long enough. Anyway, you may also stumble upon the ever-elusive 1-up powerups, but more often than not the detour it takes to get the life will wind up costing you both precious time and energy.

It would take far too long for me to describe every different thing that is trying to stop you from stopping The Master. Depending upon the setting of the stage youíre in, you will fight anything from robotic Russian soldiers, to amazons, to piranhas, to plain old turrets and other gun emplacements. None of the stage enemies are that difficult to overcome, and most of them manage to hurt you if you are overanxious and botch a jump, or you underestimate how many sword swings it will take to bring them down.

The stage bosses and the other, smaller bosses strewn throughout the levels are the ones that will be doing the most damage. Now, maybe The Master has a thing for screwed up bosses, or maybe scientists in the future have too much free time on their hands. Whatever the reason, the bosses range from a giant, robot gorilla to an orb that fights you by flinging you around the room in a circle. Now, if it were I in charge of security at these places, I would have spent my money on guys with guns instead of fancy robot animals and what have you. The bosses do cause you some trouble, but can often be defeated easily once you find a spot on the scene that their attack patterns always miss. As the old saying goes when it comes to robo-animals, you get what you pay for.

Another thing that the game has plenty of, aside from bizarre enemies and delicate flipping about, is music. Each stage is set up to be a series of scenarios in which you kill people and have to maneuver up or down to a point. Each scenario has its own short song that plays while you try to reach said point and move on to the next scene.

Music, however, is pushed into the background in most scenes by the sound effects. Sure, there are some sound effects, but you will only be hearing one: the sword-swinging noise. The latter is a brief, high-pitched ringing sound that will bore a hole into your brain because in this game, you will need to do a whole shload of slicing and dicing. I donít know how Strider can take it, being as close to the origin of the noise as he is.

The only real problem that the game has is that it uses a checkpoint system to determine where you begin your next life once you die. Many of the scenes are ruthlessly tricky and require perfect timing. Believe me, restarting the same damn scene over and over again because you keep missing one last jump, or because one insignificant enemy keeps bumping you off of a platform gets to be pretty goddamn irritating. Plus, since the game only affords you two continues, you may wind up starting all over just as you figure out exactly how to approach that last spot at the end of the scene. It is in games like this that I am thankful for the Save State feature on emulators.

Still, the game is fun as a whole. It teaches children that in the future, everything will be a robot, or an animal, or a robot animal, and that if you want to be a hero in the world, you will need to do so with excruciating perfection. Download this one today!

Best Cheats: Invincibility - At the start screen press up, down, right, left, a, b, b, a, c, start, and you'll be invincible.

Game Play: 8
Graphics: 7
Music/Sound: 9
Originality: 10
Overall Rating: 8

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