Strider Returns: Journey from Darkness
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Tiertex
  • Publisher:
    • U.S. Gold
  • Released:
    GEN
    • US UK 1990
    AMI/C64/CPC/IBM/ST/ZX
    • UK 1990
    SMS
    • UK 1991
    GG
    • US UK 1994
Score: 65%

This review was published on 06/30/2017.

Strider Returns: Journey from Darkness, known outside North America as Strider II, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Tiertex Design Studios and published by U.S. Gold. It was released for the Sega Genesis in North America, Europe, and Australia in 1990. In that same year, the game also came out on various computer platforms in Europe, such as the Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, and IBM PCs. About a year later, a version of the game was released for the Sega Master System in Europe. Lastly, in 1994, North America and Europe got a Game Gear port. This is the sequel to the original Strider, which was created by Capcom in 1989 for the arcades before being ported to various home platforms, the most popular of which was the Genesis version. Capcom owns the Strider IP, but licensed the publishing and development of Strider Returns to U.S. Gold and Tiertex, the same two companies that published and developed most of the computer versions of the original Strider. However, Strider Returns turned out so bad that Capcom later retconned it in 1999 by releasing Strider 2, not to be confused with Strider II.

Image

In the first game, there was an organization of futuristic ninjas known as the Striders that frequently engaged in covert operations involving assassinations and the like. Within this organization was a highly skilled Strider by the name of Hiryu, who was the protagonist of the first title. His task in the first Strider was to eliminate an evil dictator known as Grandmaster Meio, though the plot of the NES version was completely different. In most of the computer versions of Strider Returns, known as Strider II, the story is about a nameless warrior who must rescue the female leader of Planet Magenta from space aliens. On the other hand, the Genesis version of Strider Returns sees the return of Grandmaster Meio, who wishes to exact his revenge on the Striders by destroying Earth with his Prison Ship. Additionally, he kidnapped Lexia, the girlfriend of a Strider named Hinjo. It's now up to Hinjo to defeat Meio and rescue Lexia. Hiryu is nowhere to be found in this game, so the title is basically false advertising.

Image

Depending on which version of the game you're playing, things will control a little differently. In most of the computer versions, you're able to walk around, duck, attack with your sword-like weapon, and climb walls just like the original Strider, but some other things have been changed. The first of those changes is that you can't climb ceilings anymore, though you can climb ropes. Another strange omission to your move set is that you can't do a baseball slide across the ground. There are a couple of things you can do in this version of the game that you couldn't in the first Strider, however. For instance, you have a gun with unlimited ammo in this version of the game, but it can only be fired while you're standing still. Also, if you gather enough energy icons, you'll transform into a robot with treads for the boss battle at the end of the current stage. The robot can't crouch or jump, but it can shoot lasers, and it has a separate life gauge. You revert to human form once the robot's life gauge is fully depleted, and also after beating the boss. However, most of the bosses fly around, so the robot form's inability to jump makes it more of a hindrance than a help.

Image

In most of the console variants of Strider Returns, things control similarly to the original arcade release of the first Strider. In other words, you can do the baseball slide and climb ceilings, in addition to all the other normal stuff. However, instead of having a gun like the computer versions, you throw shurikens. Like the gun, you can only throw shurikens while stationary. Unlike the gun, shurikens are limited, so you have to find more throughout the game and ration them carefully. The console versions of the game also don't allow you to transform into a robot. In exchange, you find icons that fill up a meter that gives you rotating orbs when you reach the current stage's boss. These orbs rotate around your body and damage most things they collide with, plus they act as an additional life meter. Occasionally, you'll also find orbs that can be used outside of boss fights, but you can only have one of these at a time and they go away when you get hit. Orbs may be boring, but they're far more useful than the goofy robot transformation.

Image

On his journey from darkness, this Strider will stride across many different environments. This journey will take you through the Forbidden Forest, a Castle Metropolis, and other mechanical places. Along the way, you'll mostly be facing robots, because that's creative. Regardless of the version of the game you're playing, the graphics are drab and the music is grating. The Genesis version does have cut scenes with surprisingly crisp voice acting, though. Unfortunately, all versions of the game feature pretty spotty stage design. Many stages suffer from unfair enemy placement, necessitating a tedious amount of trial and error. The bosses aren't much better, being that they have attack patterns simplistic enough to make even early NES games blush. Further, while the first couple of stages are so simple that they become boring, the later ones have complex maze-like layouts that will make you hate life. On top of all that, the pacing of the game has been slowed down considerably, with sluggish controls and frequent dips in frame rate. All of this makes playing the game a rather unpleasant experience.

Image

Out of the countless versions available for this game, the Genesis one is the best. However, it's still bad, because this game is bad. The original Strider is a classic, but Strider Returns isn't. It'd be more accurate to say that Strider doesn't return, at least not in this game. This is basically a journey into darkness, not from it. Even Capcom was ashamed of this game, considering they didn't publish it themselves and later retconned its existence. Strider Returns isn't outright terrible, but it greatly misrepresents the series and is such a chore to play through.

Word Count: 1,071

Tweet