Strider 2 is still a great time and an example of the kind of game I hope Sony brings to its new PS+ classics collection

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bigsocrates

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Edited By bigsocrates

Strider 2 is a weird little game. It’s a sequel to the arcade classic Strider, which really came into its own as an early Genesis title and also spawned a well regarded NES version that was a totally different game. That first Strider arcade game already had a sequel, called Strider II (roman numerals instead of numbers), which was made by US Gold and which Capcom disowned because, by most accounts, it was bad. Strider 2 came out in 1999 as an arcade game on a PlayStation based board and was ported to PS1 in 2000. It came with the original arcade Strider on a separate disc for some reason (it’s a tiny game in terms of memory and Strider 2 is quite short so it’s unclear why they couldn’t fit on one disc together) and the North American version was famously stamped wrong, with Strider 2 on the Strider 1 disc and Strider 1 on the Strider 2 disc. I remember getting it at the time and thinking I had a cool and possibly valuable misprint only to go online and find out they were all like that.

That’s right, this is a game I bought its original release because it was like $20 (I think it released at a higher but still budget price and got discounted at my local shop) and I was excited to play Strider 1, a game I’d neve owned but had seen at friends’ houses. Even then I found retro games on modern consoles irresistible. Strider 2 also got reasonably good reviews including an 8 from Gamespot.

I played through the game this evening just to see if I thought it still held up and I was surprised at how enjoyable it still is. It’s very much a game of its time and place, but in a cool and interesting way. It’s 2.5D with polygonal environments and some polygonal enemies but with Strider a 2D sprite and most of the enemies also being sprites. It’s a simple straight up action game that plays a lot like the original Strider but faster and with tighter control. You slash, jump, and wall-climb your way through 5 levels, with the first 3 being selectable right off the bat, a 4th being selectable after you defeat one stage, and the last level available after you have beaten the first 4. The levels are broken up into about 6-7 short sections with a short load between each section, which take about a minute or so to complete and generally involve a short platforming segment, a boss fight, or both. That’s right, this game is incredibly short and I finished my run in under 40 minutes. There’s a 6th stage unlockable by beating Strider 1 and saving your clear to a memory card, and you can also unlock an alternate character by beating Strider 2 and saving the clear, so there’s a little bit of replay value, but this is pretty much a straight arcade port with your focus being on getting a higher score and a better ranking (you are ranked after each stage and after completing the game.) You get limitless continues and start right where you left off including boss damage so anyone can spam credits to get through this thing if they want, which was unusual for PlayStation 1 arcade ports. They maybe did it because it was such a late release and a budget title so they didn’t think that value was as important.

What helped Strider 2 age so well is that they just aren’t making games like it anymore. The 2.5D look with sprites over polygons just doesn’t really exist anymore, especially with the low res and polygon 3D elements Strider 2 has. This kind of straight ahead action game is also extremely rare, with arcade style games these days focusing more on being tests pf skill than Strider’s combination of hectic action and spectacle. The shortness of the levels means they are packed full of set pieces and changes of pace (including flipped gravity and lots of boss battles) and the game never gets boring. Strider feels fantastic to control, with his wall climb and jump being very effective and his sword slash fast and spammy. You can stun lock some mini bosses if you find the right spot and that’s always fun. The game is fast paced and has great momentum as you charge forward leaping around on flying cars and fighting cyber mammoths in arctic bases.

I don’t really know why Capcom made Strider 2, but I suspect it was because the character gained popularity in the Marvel Vs. Capcom games and they wanted to capitalize by giving him his own game. They made a fun title but it was pretty outdated for an arcade game at that point (remember we’re talking post Naomi and after games like Soulcalibur were already available, and Strider 2 is based on PS1 hardware) and it was very short for a PlayStation game and released in the console’s waning days.

But these things make it a great release for a classic games selection. It’s a relatively rare game that goes for way too much online and is still fun to play for a hit of nostalgia while not requiring a big time commitment. It’s unique and different but features a character who is still relatively well known. It’s by Capcom and was a very late PSN release (coming to PS3 in 2014, after the release of the PS4) Because it came to PSN we know that Capcom has the rights for it, and Sony is already working with Capcom for PS+ os it’s very obtainable. Meanwhile it’s not clear how Capcom can monetize this game outside of the PS+ classics brand. They could include the Arcade game in their arcade collections, but it’s the inferior version to the PlayStation version because the PlayStation version has an extra level and some other goodies. Also I can’t imagine many people have arcade nostalgia for this. It can’t really be remastered because of its 2.5D nature and they wouldn’t bother with a remake of this, probably instead focusing on the more popular versions of Strider 1 or just making a new Strider game like they did with the reboot in 2014.

So this is a still fun game with no major rights issues and no clear path for monetization. It’s perfect for a classic games rental service. I personally wouldn’t care that much because I have it on PS3 (and I think I still have my physical version) but it’s the sort of thing I think people would like over games like Worms that have better versions available elsewhere and where the PS1 was never the best way to play.

Obviously the PlayStation has a lot of heavy hitters that have been released numerous times and are very well known, like Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, and Croc 2: Legend of the Gobbos. I’m sure those games will come to the service eventually and some people who haven’t played them will have some fun, but I think most people who want to play those games have. Symphony of the Night is available on both PS4/5 and Xbox One/Series.

I still like PS1 games and I’m glad to see them made available on the newer PlayStations. I really hope Sony does well with its subscription service, both in terms of value provided and getting customers. Strider 2 scratched an itch that modern games just can’t, for me, and I think it would be great if it were easily accessible to more people.

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sub_o

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I'm curious, have you tried Osman? An arcade game that's like Strider made by ex-Strider developers?

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It's a really cool game. I played the original back in the day, but hadn't played the second til about 10 years after its release (the Galloping Ghost arcade has a machine and it caught my eye one weekend). And I still give it a playthrough every few years.

It reminds me a lot of Contra: Hard Corps. Both games that start with a bang and never let up. And that chunky polygon style takes me back to Apocalypse and One, also two games I'd like to see show up on PS+.

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@sub_o: I never played Osman though I have heard of it. Did it get a US release? If so I don't think it was very big. It was published by Atlus so it's possible it could show up in some collection of early Atlus games some day. Maybe it's one of the big remakes Sega is talking about. A $70 next gen version of Osman!

@csl316: I've never actually seen a Strider 2 arcade cabinet. I don't think they're common in the USA. It was a weird release for 1999 when arcades were either polygonal or had very highly detailed sprite work, and generally were focused on fighting, racing, gun games, and rhythm games. This 2.5D sprite/polygon mix action game would have felt more at home like 3-4 years earlier, I think it feels more at home on the PS1, but it's kind of a weird port with unlimited continues and not much attempt to add replay value beyond just chasing score for your offline leaderboard. It had a few extras including an extra level, which is cool, but that stuff is all easy to unlock.

I think One is likely to show up at some point. That was released on PS3. I actually played a fair amount of it like 5-6 years ago when I was sick and...it definitely has big PS1 energy. The control and especially the camera feel very old, and it's kind of brutally difficult in the way some PS1 games could be but it is at least an interesting artifact of its time. I rented it back in the day and found it pretty tough then too.

Apocalypse has Bruce Willis and is an Activision game so I'm pretty sure that's a no go, what with the cost of relicensing that likeness and the fact that Xbox is buying the whole publisher. I still have my disc for that game and I know what you mean in terms of its chunky feel.

I'd really love Wild 9 to come out digitally. And, of course, Skullmonkeys. Those are unique and weird games that deserve more attention. Interplay is dead but someone has its rights so that seems possible. Skullmonkeys was EA so is at least feasible but nobody seems to remember that game.