Strider review: still sharp

It's been nearly 15 years Capcom's Strider series last slashed the original PlayStation. Strider Hiryu is back in a bold new adventure, developed by Double Helix Games--the same team that worked on the Killer Instinct reboot.

Double Helix adds a Metroidvania approach with their take on the series. Whereas the first two games were about following a linear path from point A to point B, the new Strider has players exploring a futuristic Kazakh City while unlocking new abilities that will enable discovering new parts of the map. It's a drastic change to the formula, but also a welcome one.

This new Strider captures every bit of gameplay goodness from the original games, whether you're running down a mountainside, rapidly slicing enemies in succession on the ground, or taking out droids in mid-air with multi-directional sword slashes. It clicks almost perfectly, although there are times you'll need to think ahead to find the next step to take towards your objective.

For instance, one stage requires you to activate a pulley switch with a train car hanging overhead, which you'll need to do by activating a switch hidden in a side room. Once you do that, you need to grasp onto it and jump to an adjacent car, then move quickly enough to avoid being vaporized by electrical currents. It's just a small portion of what the game offers overall, but it shows the game's ability to test both a player's reflexes and wits.

Along with a traditional sword attack, Strider also uses a secondary technique, which allows him to knock enemies into the air with an upward swipe, similar to a move he performed in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Other techniques open up as well, including the return of his sliding kick and a jump kick that can crush opposition (and breakable floors) upon execution.

Players will need to utilize all of their skills, mainly because of the tough bosses that await. They're challenging, but not impossible. For example, the opening battle with the mechanical dragon- returning from the original- is sweet. The first part has you climbing his large, scaling body while avoiding electrical shocks. The second involves destroying cannons on his back while chopping away at circuitry on his neck. And the third? Homing missiles and having to jump off of floating platforms filled with gunmen before the dragon escapes.

The Metroidvania-style design adds much-needed depth to the game, giving players much more room to run and explore. There are hidden goodies galore, including concept art designed as the classic "Pow" blocks from old-school Capcom games. Some areas are blocked off until you unlock a certain ability, such as being able to slide through a grate or bust through a floor with a jump kick, but that just comes with the territory.

Remarkably, Double Helix has managed to nail down the classic feel of what Strider Hiryu is all about: athleticism, agility, and destroying everything in his path. At the same time, the game modernizes the design into something unique, even if it borrows heavily from the Metroidvania genre. Strider may have been gone for over a decade, but his return is more than welcome. [7]

This review is based on downloadable Xbox One code provided by the publisher. Strider will be available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC on February 18 for $14.99. The game is rated T.