The Nintendo Entertainment System version of Strider is substantially different from the versions modeled after the arcade game, and warrants a separate section in this entry. It is a side-scrolling platformer with an item system, multiple levels to explore and return to later, and simple inventory-based puzzles. The plot is also more explicitly laid out in the NES version, although the goals are completely different.
In the NES version the player still assumes the role of Hiryu, a Strider whose goals and allegiances are never explicitly stated but whose expertise with the deadly cypher blade is unquestioned. In the Nintendo version, Strider starts out with no powers, but gains them over time by finding special items in the vein of Metroidvania games. Magnet boots, for example, allow Hiryu to climb special walls, while the plasma sword allows him to charge up a blast over time and hurl it at enemies at a distance.
Play begins aboard a space station called a Dragon, which allows Hiryu to deploy to various spots across the Earth. The game begins in Kazakh, similar in theme to the Kazakhskaya of the arcade game. Through discovering information-encoded diskettes Hiryu unlock other areas: Egypt, with its obligatory pyramid and tomb motif; Africa, that for some reason is not differentiated from Egypt, which is a jungle only vaguely similar to the rain forest level in the arcade game; dry Australia (which has a secret tunnel that leads to Africa); a brick-covered complex in China; a small building in Japan where someone from Hiryu's past awaits; and Los Angeles (the only city named, and a relatively short level), as well as a final secret location.
When interrogating or defeating enemies Hiryu is able to pick up clues that leads him to these various spots, as well as keys picked up in specific locations which allows him access to different areas on maps he has already visited. Kazakh, for example, will need to be visited multiple times to unlock all its secrets. As each of the bosses in the locations are defeated, Strider levels up, providing more health and energy, as well as giving him a new "trick" or two, which are special abilities that use energy. Many of these abilities are not necessary for completing the game, but will make certain portions easier.
- Fire (costs 5 energy) - ranged attack that can in special circumstances knock objects out of opponent's hands
- Medical (10) - Recovers 20 health
- Spark (5) - A spark of energy travels across the ground and up inclines, resembling attacks made by certain enemies
- Jump (10) - Allows Hiryu to jump must higher; a nice advantage on certain levels where he can fall into dangerous spike pits
- Warp (30) - Allows Hiryu to exit a level completely from any point on the map, rather than having to return to the beginning to escape
- Ground (30) - Takes out flying units
- Medical (25) - Stronger healing power that restores 50 health
- SP-Ball (15) - Upgraded Spark
- Medical (50) - Strongest healing, 100 health
The plot and gameplay are fairly straightforward once the player knows where to go and what items to get in order to get there. Hiryu learns about betrayals and about a sinister weapon which has mind-controlling effects that infest several locations. Destroying these and the conspirators behind it are key to beating the game. Some of the poorly translated text can take a bit away from the themes it presents, but the death of major characters is a bit more frequent than many Nintendo games of that era.
NES vs. Arcade
Strider for the NES definitely has the same main character and style. Just like the arcade version, Strider visits many locations across the planet, and there are several enemies which directly resemble enemies from the arcade, including the fur-clad Kazakh soldiers, airborne mechanized troops, and mechanical pop-up turrets. The Kazakhaya 4-pointed star is featured prominently in the NES's Kazakh, and Strider's own blade swing resembles that from the arcade. There are also architectural touches that are similar, most notably the angled floors.
The arcade, however, puts much more of an emphasis on pushing the player forward. There is a time limit, there are many areas that can be skipped, and the player is often blocked from retreating after a certain period of advancement. The Arcade Strider also places a much greater emphasis on visuals, with huge moving bosses covering the screen, and cinematic music matching situations.
By comparison, the NES version is a deliberately-paced adventure platformer in the traditional NES mold. The non-linearity of movement (if not plot resolution and puzzle solving) creates a more considered atmosphere where players have more of a chance to make mistakes and explore different possible avenues. The power set is completely different than the robotic assistants and blade extension available in the arcade version, as well.
NES Version History
The NES version was developed alongside the arcade version specifically for the Famicom and NES consoles, but remarkably the Japanese version was canceled before it was completed. This game also closely resembled the plot from the manga that was developed to go with the property, unlike the arcade version. The Manga was developed by studio Moto Kikaku and serialized, though it was discontinued when the NES game was finally discontinued in Japan. More info about the manga can be found here.