Strider II SMS logo.png
This article is about the 1990 sequel. For the official 1999 sequel released by Capcom, see here.

Strider II is an action platformer game and the "first" sequel to Strider (arcade version). It was developed by the British company Tiertex simultaneously for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum, and released in 1990. The game was later ported to the Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis and Game Gear; the latter two reaching North America under the title Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns. A version for the Amstrad GX4000[1] and a port for the Atari Lynx developed during 1991[2] were also announced but never released.

Strider II and its ports are well known and despised for their poor quality, something even the creators admit: graphics are washed out and darker, a stark contrast with the colorful world of Strider; gameplay is centered around trial & error, something even the design team admitted was a mistake; and the experience is often marred by the fake difficulty, mostly from the overly aggressive hordes of enemies that crowd the areas and the non-intuitive stage design.

With the release of Capcom's own Strider 2, this game has been removed from official continuity within the Strider franchise.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

For the most part, the game plays similar to the home computer ports of the first Strider. Much like those games, a panel covers the lower portion of the screen decorated with two artworks at each side (the Strider and the robot he turns into). The panel encases the health meter, energy meter (for the robot), lives, score and stage's timer. Unlike the original coin-op, health is represented by a grey bar, which is depleted as the player receives damage.

The Energy bar is refilled by collecting special energy items scattered throughout the game. During the stage's boss fight, Strider will transform into his robot form. The energy bar will then act as the robot's life, and if its depleted Strider will return to normal. The robot has a very limited set of moves, which makes most boss fights needlessly difficult, considering most of them are either airborne or on uneven grounds.

Stages at first are mostly linear and simple. The few alternative paths are usually dead-ends holding Energy items, and there's not much reason to deviate from the straightforward path. Later stages become maze-like, proceeding from top to bottom by choosing from various paths, many of whom lead to dead-ends. Enemies spawn continuously and attack aggressively. Flying mecha eagles are notably troublesome, as they fly around the screen before swooping down at Strider for a suicide assault, inflicting a good amount of damage.

Some of the abilities from Strider are present: The Strider can jump acrobatically much like Hiryu in the original game, albeit controls aren't as tight or precise, making maneuvering during long jumps much more difficult. Strider can also attach and climb walls, ropes and chains, but he can't cling onto ceilings. Also missing from the original coin-op is the sliding kick technique.

The Cypher is used to attack up-front, though it is only activated while running or in mid-air. If one attacks while standing still, Strider will use his Gyro Laser rifle instead. It has infinite bullets and full-screen range, making it useful to clear out enemy clusters from afar.

In his robot form, the Strider is restricted to moving only forward and backwards, and shooting a laser beam straight ahead of him. He can't jump, climb or duck at all.

All items have a big square form that makes them hard to miss. They can be found lying on the stage, often on the alternative dead-end paths.

Story[edit | edit source]

Assuming the role of a nameless Strider simply known as "The Warrior" (later identified as Hinjo[3]), the player travels through five stages (Forbidden Forest, Castle Metropolis, The Alien Depths, The Rooftops and the Master's Prison Ship), overcoming obstacles and enemies on the path to reach the stage's end boss.

After returning victorious from the Soviet Bloc, The Warrior is called back to help the inhabitants of Planet Magenta. Their female leader Lexia has been kidnapped by alien terrorists, who are now holding her planet to ransom. The Warrior is given weapons by the Magentans in order to stand a chance: a high-velocity "Gyro Laser" rifle and a matter converter, which transforms him into a tank-threaded robot after being charged-up.[4] Strider then must pass through 4 areas in order to reach the terrorist's Prison Ship, where the world leader is held captive.

Worth noting that the part about the Soviet Bloc seems to be a nod to the fabricated backstory found on the home computer ports of Strider, which described its protagonist as an agent sent to infiltrate Red Square in order to procure enemy secrets.[5]

Characters[edit | edit source]


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Development[edit | edit source]

Strider II was designed by U.S. Gold and Tiertex under license from Capcom USA as an official sequel to the original arcade game, having somehow being able to capitalize on the license, likely from having previously worked on the home computer ports of several of Capcom's titles, including the first Strider.[6] This was the second time both companies developed a sequel to one of Capcom's properties, the first being Human Killing Machine, an unofficial sequel to the first Street Fighter (which they also developed ports of) known in early promotion as "Human Killing Machine: Street Fighter II".[7]

In spite of having used the Strider license, much of the game's visuals bear little resemblance to the original coin-op, and only the sprites for Hiryu and Grandmaster Meio (the latter only seen in the title screen) were directly taken from their previous home computer ports. Hiryu's sprite is, however, noticeable recolored white instead of the original lavender. This is believed to have been done because they couldn't use Hiryu due to being jointly owned by Capcom and the artist circle Moto Kikaku.[6]

Originally, Strider II was born as an entirely-different project bearing the in-house name "TOR",[8][9] designed by graphic artist Andrew Ingram[10] and a Commodore 64 coder who only spent six months at Tiertex.[11]

According to the account given by NeoGAF user "Clear", who has claimed to be the one responsible for the game's existence during his short tenure at Tiertex, the game that would become Strider II began as a side project of his for the Atari ST. The basic setup for "T.O.R." (acronym for "Transforming Overland Robot") was that its main character would traverse a series of horizontally-scrolling gauntlets with "ambush areas" where he'd need to transform into the robot in order to get through, both due to its higher endurance and its ability to interface with defenses that'd allow him to "look ahead" off-screen and disable threats beforehand.[11]

Since Andrew Ingram was lead artist in the first Strider, they picked up assets from the game to serve as placeholders for the human sprites while they developed the game further. Their side project, however, caught the attention of the company's higher-ups, who kept suggesting them to make it "more like Strider", something that irked him because he felt a tank-like robot character was only suitable for a horizontally scrolling experience. His bosses finally decided on making it a full-on sequel after he mockingly suggested it to them out of frustration. Tired of their meddling and having his other, almost finished project put on hold, the coder issued an ultimatum to get more money, which ended with his resignation.[11] Once the coder left the company, the game's original design changed entirely for the worst[10], and it was rushed ahead for a quick release. The Commodore 64 version was given to artist Wayne Billingham to "spruce it up", but he thought the game was so bad that only by ripping Strider graphics and passing it off as a third-rate game would it sell.[8] The music was also recycled entirely from the score composed by Mark Tait for the first game, even though he was gone from Tiertex before Strider II was ever mentioned.[9] In the end, Strider II was announced at the September 1990 London CES event[12] and released mere three months later in November.[13]

Ports[edit | edit source]

A port of the game for the Atari Lynx was revealed to be in the works during 1991. Although reported to be 50% complete around July[14], the port was quietly cancelled and never saw release.

A port for Sega's Master System was developed and released in 1991, followed by ports on the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1993 and Game Gear in 1994. The latter two are the only ones who reached the American market under the title Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns.

Development on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis port began somewhere around the first half of 1992, EGM reporting it being only around 20% complete in their August issue[15]. Higher-ups at the company were only interested in getting the port "written and out as fast as possible", and as such all the design instructions were, literally, to simply make a better version of the Amiga original in full screen, by removing the lower panel HUD present in all home computer ports.[6]

The game was programmed by Allan Findlay as his first ever job in developing a game, which made him feel that it could've done better. He specifically cites the error of making the game run on 2 frames (25Hz/30Hz) instead of the expected 1 frame (50Hz/60Hz) given its genre.[6] He also mentions how the game's testing "left a lot to be desired", done without much care or interest and in such a way it dragged on for months[16]. The game engine was mostly coded from scratch, built off the code from the first game's Mega Drive port and actually ripping and reusing sprites from it,[6] which led to more Strider elements and bosses like Solo and Grandmaster Meio to be finally featured.

The game tester (Danny Curley[6]) was also in charge of testing the Game Gear port, which he did a similar shoddy work as implied by the game's programmer, Danny Whelan, years later.[17]

Gallery[edit | edit source]


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Reception[edit | edit source]

Upon release, Strider II received mostly positive reviews (albeit it was consistently reviewed lower than its predecessor) and rumors also rose among videogame magazines about Capcom being impressed by the game and planning on basing their own coin-op sequel off it,[18] with a Tiertex representative responding to an inquiry from YourSinclair about this with a simple "So we're told"[19] but in retrospective, Strider II and all its ports had been criticized and derided by critics and fans of the series for its many shortcomings and general lack of quality. Officially, the game has been removed from the Strider canon, with Andrew Szymanski (producer of the 2014 Strider game) addressing it as an "illegitimate sequel".[20]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Leadbetter, Richard (December 1990). "Review: Strider 2". Computer + Video Games (109). Pg. 121.
  2. Staff (July 1991). "Atari Attack". Raze (09). Pg. 20
  3. U.S. Gold (1993, Mega Drive). Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns (English). Instruction Manual, Pg. 1.
  4. U.S. Gold (1990, Amiga). Strider II (English). Instructions Manual
  5. U.S. Gold (1989, Amiga). Strider (English). Loading Instructions.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Scion (11 Feb 2010). "Interview with Allan Findlay". LSCM 4.0. Accessed August 18, 2015.
  7. Staff (October 1988). "Previews". Crash! (57). Pg. 114.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Games That Weren't 64. "Creator speaks: Wayne Billingham", from the California Games 2 article. Accessed August 18, 2015.
  9. 9.0 9.1 SID Tune Information List. "Mark Tait comments from STIL text file". Accessed August 18, 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Anthony Ball reply, posted May 24, 2008. Tiertex Facebook Group. Accessed August 18, 2015
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Clear (November 23, 2013). "Strider (Capcom/Double Helix, PC/PS4/XB1/PS360, 2014) [Open World, Orig Devs, Video", post #1281. NeoGAF forum. Accessed August 18, 2015
  12. Staff (November 1990). "CES 1990" (German). Amiga Joker (11). Pg. 105.
  13. Webb, Trenton (December 1990). "Coming Attractions". Amiga Format (17): Pg. 19
  14. Staff (July 1991). "Atari Attack". Raze (09). Pg. 20
  15. Staff (August 1992). "Strider 2". Electronic Gaming Monthly (37). Pg. 116.
  16. Allan Findlay reply, posted May 25, 2008. Tiertex Facebook Group. Accessed August 18, 2015
  17. Danny Whelan reply, posted October 20, 2008. Tiertex Facebook Group. Accessed August 18, 2015
  18. Bielby, Mark (January 1991). "Strider 2". YourSinclair (61): Pg. 51.
  19. Davies, Jonathan (November 1990). "YS Megapreview: Strider II". YourSinclair (59). Pg. 15
  20. Yamoto, Shinichi (February 21, 2014). "out for the new Strider, the only one Strider - producer Andrew Szimansky talks about the revival after 15 years!". 4gamer.net. Retrieved 15 Aug 2015.

External Links[edit | edit source]

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