Sunday 25 August 2019

Strider (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Tiertex
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Strider is an action game that was originally released in the Arcades in 1989.

As a defender of justice named Hiryu, your mission is to battle through five stages to stop the evil Grand Master Meio from taking over the world. Your main attack is a sword, but Hiryu can also slide into enemies, or power-up with robot allies to help you in battle. The level design does an admirable job of replicating all five stages from the coin-op original, albeit it in heavily condensed format (e.g. the rotating gear platforms in Stage 2 are entirely absent). In most sections, the difficulty is lower than the original, mainly due to the lack of enemies on screen at the same time; this is presumably a sprite limitation, but to be fair it does make the action more accessible than the coin munching Arcade game. However, the action is slow and includes various bottomless pits where you need to take a leap of faith due to not being able to see what lies beneath you. There's also a dreaded and inconsistent timer which is generous in some sections and overly stringent in others; for example, in the finale of Stage 3 you pretty much have to plough through enemies and take damage on your way to the boss, otherwise you'll run out of time! Speaking of bosses, each one is a classic case of poor design, as they can be beaten simply by button mashing from a stationary position; there's literally no point in trying to employ strategy for them, as most give you no room to move, meaning you'll take damage and lose a life unless you hammer the attack button. Hiryu's animation is stuttery, but the worst offender is his overly floaty jump which can frequently place you in harms way due to him taking forever to land on his feet!

Strider is a brave attempt to condense an Arcade powerhouse into an 8-bit version, but unfortunately it's an ill-conceived mess and it quickly becomes apparent that the under-powered console just isn't up to the job. Its only redeeming quality is its tight level design, but even that can't save it from complete mediocrity.

Random trivia: The game features a hidden level select feature that can be accessed by pressing certain button combinations on boot-up.

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