Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Let’s start with the good news; once again the Master System demonstrates its graphical excellence with some superb backdrops and sprites. The Russian towers on Level One have a great sheen about them, while Hiryu Strider himself looks great...
Unfortunately the price of the graphics is gameplay, which has been brutally and almost completely sacrificed to making the game look good. The rushin’ Russians may look very fetching in their green greatcoats, but as there’s only ever one on screen at a time they’re hardly overwhelming. The worse part is their random fire: you can slice through four or five without them doing anything but just as you close on the last one he fires — giving you no chance to react.
In the 21st century a series of disasters sweep the world at the behest of Grand Master Meio, an alien living on the Third Moon’ space station. On a demilitarised Earth the main defenders are an elite known as Striders — incredibly athletic warriors armed with laser swords. The youngest and best is Hiryu who begins his quest in Kazaful (Level 1) where Russian troops, a laser-beam trap and a fearsome end-level robot must be defeated. Siberia follows (Level 2), including a now very spartan power-station and static helicopters to leap between. The biggest aircraft takes Hiryu to the flying battleship Ballotj (Level 3): blast the gun turrets and defeat a massive spherical robot. Hiryu escapes the ship’s wreckage and lands in a jungle (Level 4) where Amazons and dinosaurs must be taken on. The fifth and final level is on the Fifth Moon. Levels are linked by the plot and couple of pics.
Of course you can proceed more slowly and carefully, but that risks funning out your tight time limit. On Level Two, after defeating the metal gorilla the only real obstacle is time; the circling platforms have been stripped out here (and on the third level). In fact huge chunks are missing throughout the game: the snapping steel shafts in Level One, the robot spiders, the electrical power bolts in Level Two... the list goes on and on.
The sacrifice of graphical showpieces need not be fatal if the gameplay is there. MD Castle Of Illusion is just as awesome graphically as MD Strider but the MS version is hardly a disaster — adventure elements have been added in place of graphic spectaculars to make the MS game superior, in many people’s opinion, to the original! And what about MS Sonic?
Strider certainly doesn’t follow their example. There are so many long stretches when there’s nothing to worry about except a lone soldier running on screen, tedium soon sets in. Then when there is a graphical spectacular the game slows down massively: beating Level One’s end-level guardian requires a crystal ball to predict where the baddie is going to be when your man has finally started moving.
Over and over again crucial energy is lost in situations where control is difficult — this mix of long easy sections and random-death situations is highly frustrating. Strider does look very good indeed, and there’s a good rendition of the splendid coin-op tune in the background, but there’s only-five levels and precious little fun to be had out of any of them.
On first clapping eyes on Strider I thought a good game lay in wait. The graphics are beautifully drawn with some good, nicely shaded backdrops and large, colourful, well-detailed sprites. The overall look is great.
Unfortunately this instils a false sense of security, it’s not until I’d actually played Strider a few times that I realised how average the game really was. The action in Level One is fairly slow and remains so throughout. Fighting the enemy is easy, one blast and they’re dead! Sometimes the screen remains completely devoid of baddies and time after time I found myself trudging around aimlessly with nowt to do. The end-of-level monster on the first level (yes, another one!) requires luck rather than skill to defeat.
A couple more whines: the time limits are too tight and control is sometimes difficult. I’m afraid the moans outweigh the good points; Strider is a game I can’t recommend.
A weak and unimaginative conversion