Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
The Grand Master is a pretty evil chap. Well, what could be more evil than coming to Earth with a massive contingent of space fighters and proceeding to take over the world? Strider Hiyru and his merry band of roaming martial artists watched the carnage in their island hideaway on an island is the South Sea.
Strider decides to use the deadly martial artist skills endowed on him to bring about an end to the evil tide of death and destruction devastating the world. This generally involves negotiating five levels of four-way scrolling action, dealing with an evil guardian at the end of each.
Strider begins his alien-Killing antics in Kazafu, a small province where the aliens first landed. The guards here are little more than sword-fodder and it shouldn't be too long before Strider moves on to Siberia, where he fights off rabid wolves until he reaches a mighty alien battle cruiser. Later levels include an Amazon forest and the Third Moon the Grand Masters deadly domain!
Strider is not defenceless in his quest for freedom. He's packed his massive titanium chopper in his trousers and he can whip it out at will, using it to cut in half anyone who gets in his way! Strider can also slide, and the special razor blades mounted on his striding Reeboks fatally maim anyone who gets in the way! Icons carried by enemy drones can be collected in order to give Strider an extra satellite which blasts away at the enemy.
Strider didn't spend all those years training as a martial artist just to impress the girls. In this death packed mission, Strider finds that jumping and somersaulting are just the ticket for taking on the danger-ridden platform landscape. Strider also has a knack for hanging on to things. This means he can cling on to the underside of some platforms, and swing his way onto the top of them. A pretty bizarre party trick, but rather useful in this dangerous mission - especially when scaling the many spires and towers behind enemy lines.
To say I'm disappointed with this is the greatest understatement of the year. Strider may have smooth scrolling and okay sprites (although the Strider sprite seems to change size at times and sometimes hovers over platforms!), but the playability is sadly lacking. Strider can't duck under bullets, is sadly unresponsive and loses energy rather quickly. A hideous death is unavoidable, since there doesn't appear to be any extra energy icons to pick up. I can't recommend this unpolished effort at all.
This certainly looks good, with great sprites and smooth-scrolling backgrounds. However, when you start playing, the poor controls and frustratingly unforgiving gameplay brings you down with a bump. The responsiveness is very sluggish, and there are some very annoying points like the fact that Strider moves very slowly and can't duck under bullets. The programmers, Tiertex, whose previous Master System games were excellent, have really slipped up here - hopefully next time their quality control and playtesting will be far more rigorous. As it stands, even the biggest fans of the coin-op will be very disappointed.