The classic feel of the series was there as I deftly dodged the laser turrets and automated security drones that have become a staple of futuristic, neon-tinged video game factories.
I navigated Strider through precision-based platforming segments and bullet-spewing robotic enemies. Strider could stick to any surface, and effortlessly climb about as he has in the past. His nimble movements were quite easy to corral through responsive controls and it felt like old times – until I used Strider's new catapult ability, which allows him to pause and focus on a single direction, teleporting forward.
Strider's catapult ability proved to be quite useful. Not only is the skill good for navigation, but it's also handy for slowing falls: Strider will slow his descent mid-air while focusing on where he wants to teleport. In addition to that, it's a great triple-jump move for reaching elevated platforms and a good way to dart past encroaching enemies so you can attack their flank.
Another new facet is the Cipher system, which provides Strider with a few elemental properties with which he can imbue his attacks. The standard red laser cipher allows Strider to reflect incoming laser shots, which I found useful when rushing a hallway full of gun-toting bots. The yellow fire cipher deals more damage and sets enemies on fire. Finally, the blue ice cipher freezes enemies, providing Strider with emergent shields or platforms to traverse.
Switching between these ciphers is handled with the d-pad, which can feel a bit clumsy in the heat of the moment. When a room is filled with enemies, the last thing I want to do is take my thumb off the left analog stick. Despite this, the system mingled well with the combat and provided me ample opportunity to handle each encounter with the planned strategy or shoot-from-the-hip spontaneity I saw fit.
Strider isn't alone when things get too tough, however, and can call upon bots for assistance. During my demo segment, which was well into the campaign, Strider had access to three bots: a panther that darts forward across the ground, slamming any enemies in its path; an eagle that swoops down from the sky on an arc, damaging anyone it touches; and a series of satellites that surround him with little protectors he can fling at enemies. Thankfully, pulling out the bots in the middle of an intense battle is a bit easier than changing ciphers – you simply hold in a shoulder button and press one of the face buttons.
I quickly found uses for the bots too. The panther was great when a row of enemies were on the ground, as it would run through the whole lot and damage them all instead of disintegrating after its first contact with an enemy. The eagle worked well against air-born enemies and the satellites were on double-duty, both protecting me from incoming projectiles and flying forward to attack enemies out of my sword's reach.
My jaunt through the robot facility was quite brisk, unfortunately, and culminated in a boss fight against Mecha Pon – the same mechanical gorilla seen in the original arcade game. To put it lightly: Mecha Pon was tough
. I couldn't defeat him, understandably so, due to his tenacity (he barely gave me a second to catch my breath) and the fact that I just picked up the controller 20 minutes prior to our battle. I felt ill-equipped to fight one of Strider
's later bosses with so little experience.
One thing I do hope Capcom addresses, however, is the pre-fight cutscene. It takes a few minutes and on my fourth run at Mecha Pon, I was getting quite tired of hearing the cheesy voice acting and just wanted to get on with it.
Seeing a familiar face of course spurred the question: Will Capcom re-release the old games? Corbett expressed interest. "It's not something I can confirm right now, but it's something we'd like to do," he said. Sales of Strider
are "definitely a factor" in helping Capcom decide, just as the company has said with past revivals
Even in my brief encounter with Strider
, I felt it successfully toed the line between those old-school sensibilities of punishing platforming segments and unforgiving enemies with modernized mechanics such as ciphers and catapulting. Strider
didn't feel like a mindless affair of running left-to-right and slashing everything in sight. Instead, Strider
made me think about how
I needed to stab every enemy in my path, proving that the mind is the ninja's greatest weapon.
launches simultaneously on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC via Steam "early next year" for $15.