Strider splits the difference between action and adventure

Sometimes things happen in this job that don't make a lot of sense. Like, say, going to the Tokyo Game Show and checking out the Irvine, California-developed Strider. But here we are.

Revealed back at Comic-Con in July, the new Strider from developer Double Helix evolves the classic ninja action-platforming series into 2.5D. In many ways, it looks to split the difference between action and adventure, with combat that's quick but not too flashy (at least early on), and level designs that are open but not too elaborate. It's a Goldilocks tale.

The important message is the game feels responsive. Main character Strider Hiryu runs through enemies with quick attacks and bounces around without any trouble. In what I saw at TGS, his moves were efficient yet simple, with almost an equal balance between platforming and combat. Though looking at the game's Comic-Con trailer, it seems like later portions of the game will put on a bit more of a show once the character upgrades kick in.

In the TGS version I played — which according to Capcom producer Andy Szymanski includes various pieces of the full game taped together, so it's not a perfectly representative sample — players can earn upgrades like the ability to reflect bullets with their sword and the ability to set enemies on fire, giving a taste of what's to come.

"Since it's faster than most games in the air, it just feels like it's a lot faster [than on the ground]."

One detail that stood out while playing came with Hiryu's running animation. When I started experimenting with Hiryu's controls, I noticed he seemed to turn around slower when on the ground than he did in mid-air. A subtle distinction, perhaps, that left me wondering if there was a reason for it. Maybe the developers were trying to encourage players to spend more time in the air, or it could play into some platforming challenges later on.

Following my hands-on time, Szymanski explained that Hiryu's turnaround speeds are equally responsive whether on the ground or in the air; it simply looks different because of the way the game is animated, which sounds believable to me since I didn't run into any issues along those lines. "Since it's faster than most games in the air, it just feels like it's a lot faster [than on the ground]," he said.

Szymanski said the game will last approximately five or six hours for most players, and that all versions of the game will have the same content. At TGS, the game appeared on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4, and the PS4 game had a slight edge running at 1080p and 60 frames per second, but the difference seems relatively minor.

All-in, it's hard to get a good sense of the game's exploration mechanics and combat upgrades from a 15-minute trade show demo, but it looks like a good start.

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