Fact: Ninja are cool.
For one, they dress in all black, the coolest color. Two, they’re secretive! They wear a disguise, sneak around and are super quiet. Three, they have neat weapons! They have the ninja sword, throwing stars, smoke bombs, and more. Four, they can control snakes…and the weather! Of course, that's not true, but it might as well be. Because so little is known about the ninja, their powers have been exaggerated throughout time.
And that’s what makes them perfect for video games! Ninja have had great representation in games, dating all the way back to the 80s. From the shuriken-throwing ninja in the classic Shinobi to the modern day ones in the Ninja Gaiden series, their legacy continues to grow. And some ninja are so badass—they don't even care about hiding or sneaking around! Ninja like Strider…
I mean the new Strider is so tough, he’s like, "Hey, I’m not only going to not hide, I'm going to wear a bright red scarf. That anyone can see!" But I guess you don't really have to worry about enemies seeing you when you can cut of their heads in a split second. And that’s more-or-less what you do this entire game—run around slicing and dicing up bad guys like they’re tomatoes and you're a pitchman with a new set of Ginsu knives.
The new Strider is a side-scrolling action game pared down to the purest elements. There’s virtually no story and no tutorial. It's just pure action. But the combat is so tight and intuitive, you don’t really need any prodding to get into the game. It’s obvious what to do—run up to everyone you see and cut 'em up! Then run, jump, cut, run, jump, cut until every screen is cleared. The combat in this game is the highlight, and it’s one of those rare games where you immediately “get it” on an instinctive level.
The futuristic world the game takes place in is full of nooks and crannies to explore for the all-important power-ups. And there’s a little bit of backtracking necessary to gain access to places previously out of reach. But don’t worry, you won’t have to spend hours scribbling detailed maps on napkins to remember where locked doors are, it’s fairly obvious.
Most of the bad guys are butter for your hot knife, but occasionally you’ll run into an armored tough guy who takes some finesse to bring him down. Some of the level designs are quite clever, giving you very little room to outmaneuver the enemy’s bullets and attacks. And of course, the bosses will give you a hard time—especially as the game goes on.
The graphics are neat and clean, but won’t blow you away. Overall the world is visually appealing, but towards the end it starts getting a little repetitive. Considering how great the overall art direction is, the game would have truly benefited from more environments.
Is it as good as the original old-school Strider? No. But in this world of horrendous modernizations and bastardizations of arcade classics, it’s a stand-out example of how to do it right. The developers smartly chose to focus on the combat and level design to make a fun and compelling experience. I really hope this game does well, because I’d love to see the great combat and level design, but in a much larger more diverse world.
Hint: Don’t try to control snakes in the game (or in real life).
by Urian Brown