Retro Review: Strider (NES)

Strider for NES is an interesting game with a lot of good ideas. It’s also one of the jankiest good games for the NES. NES arcade ports often differ wildly from the originals, but in most cases they did so in order to allow the NES to handle them. Not so much here.

Strider presents itself as a non-linear game, with a level select that adds more levels over time. The truth is, the progression is pretty much set in stone, though you will find yourself revisiting levels quite often. A small few of the upgrades you find are optional, but for the most part you’ll collect a variety of new abilities and items while searching for the keys needed to advance to a given area.

You are equipped with a cool-looking energy sword of some type, but the mechanical problems with the game start there. The hit box of the sword (or perhaps the enemies) is not at all consistent, and you’ll often miss enemies for no good reason. Moving and jumping are even worse. The jumping in Strider is among the least fun and consistent I’ve seen in a game. The wall jump, which is necessarily (thankfully only twice) to complete the game, is so difficult to pull off that I assumed the manual was incorrect and I had to learn it somewhere. (A turbo controller works wonders when trying to pull this move off.) Even the vertical scrolling in stages is jumpy and buggy. As far as game engines go, Strider’s is a mess.

Despite its terrible execution, Strider manages to be fun due to its structure, plot, and ideas. You’re initially tasked with assassinating a captured ally, but you immediately decide to disobey and save him instead. Over time you’ll discover who the bad guys are, what they’re planning, and how to stop them. The stage designs are all over the place, varying wildly in size and structure. The jumping puzzles tend to be a nightmare due to the bad controls and physics, but everything else tends to work reasonably well.

All in all, Strider is fun despite itself. However, since the most frustrating parts of the game are early on, it’s difficult to recommend the game. Even when things are working right, the stuttering scrolling and graphical glitches make the entire game seem amateurish.

Review Score: C

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