1990 advertisement for the computer versions of Strider II
Strider II (released in North America under the title of Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns), is a side-scrolling platform game published by U.S. Gold (under license from Capcom USA) and originally released for various computer platforms in 1990. It is a European-developed sequel to Capcom's arcade game Strider, which U.S. Gold previously ported to home computers in Europe. The game was developed by Tiertex, as with Human Killing Machine, the U.S. Gold sequel to Street Fighter.
In the computer versions of Strider II the objective of the game is to rescue the Princess of Planet Magenta from a terrorist group that are keeping her captive. The controls in the computer version are similar to U.S. Gold's home computer ports of the original Strider, although the character cannot slide nor climb ceilings like in the original game. However, he can still climb walls, as well as ropes. In addition to his cypher, he can also use a rifle whenever he is standing still. If the player character has collected enough energy icons throughout each stage, he will transform into a wheeled robot when confronting the boss at the end of each stage. As a robot, the Strider can shoot lasers, but cannot jump nor crouch. His robot form has a separate health gauge from his regular health gauge as a human. When his robot gauge runs out, he will transform back to a human. The game consists of five stages.
Two years after the release of the computer versions, U.S. Gold and Tiertex ported Strider II to the Mega Drive. In addition to its European release, Strider II was also released for the American Sega Genesis under the title of Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns. The Mega Drive version of Strider Returns differs from the previous computer version in several ways. While the plot is the same, the antagonist is now the Grandmaster (Meio) from the original Strider (who is referred in the game's manual as the "Evil Master"). Although the main character uses the same sprite as in the Mega Drive version of the original Strider, this Strider is addressed in the manual as "Hinjo" (instead of "Hiryu", the actual code name of the original protagonist).
The player controls Hinjo similarly to Hiryu in the first Mega Drive game (with the ability to slide and move under ceilings retained). Instead of a gun like in the home computer versions, Hinjo throws shurikens but only if he collects them first. Instead of transforming into a robot when he confronts a boss, Hinjo collects orbs throughout each stage instead. These orbs will surround Hinjo and protect him when he faces the stage's boss. The player can choose between Hiryu's original cypher from the first game or a new "sweeping" cypher.
Strider II was also released for the 8-bit Master System in Europe. This version features gameplay similar to its Mega Drive counterpart. Unlike the Mega Drive, the Strider's supply of shurikens are unlimited, but he can only throw two on-screen at the same time. Due to the fewer buttons of the Master System's controller, shurikens are thrown while the player is standing still. This version was converted to the Game Gear and released in North America as Strider Returns.
The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Genesis version a 6.75 out of 10, describing it as a decent but disappointing sequel. They praised the massive size of the game and the high amount of digitized voices, but criticized that the animation is much too choppy. Three of the four also felt that the gameplay lacked the excitement of the original Strider. They gave the Game Gear version a unanimous score of 7 out of 10, but were sharply divided in their opinions. Two of them felt it to be "surprisingly better on the Game Gear than on the Genesis", citing better playability with far less choppiness in the animation, while the other two felt it to be far worse than the Genesis version, complaining of both inferior graphics and the annoyingly long distance the player character is knocked back when hit. GamePro took the middle ground, saying the "Graphics and game play parallel the Genesis version." They praised the controls, large sprites, and detailed backgrounds, but criticized the slower pace and droning soundtrack, and concluded "Strider fans will welcome his return, but others will shrug."
In a Strider series retrospective, Ken Horowitz of Sega-16.com compared Strider Returns to "seeing a loved one revived as a mindless zombie". Travis Fahs, writing a Retro feature for IGN, commented that U.S. Gold had made multiple improvements to Strider II for its console ports, but that the core problem of dull level design remained.
- "Transcription of Strider II's Amiga Manual". Lemon Amiga. Retrieved 5 Jan 2010.
- Tiertex. Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns. U.S. Gold. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 1.
- Tiertex. Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns. U.S. Gold. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 3.
- Tiertex. Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns. U.S. Gold. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 5.
- Tiertex. Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns. U.S. Gold. Level/area: Instruction manual, page 4.
- Bielby, Matt (January 1991). "Strider II". Your Sinclair (61): 51. Retrieved 20 Dec 2009.
- "Review Crew: Strider Returns". Electronic Gaming Monthly (51). EGM Media, LLC. October 1993. p. 40.
- "Review Crew: Strider Returns". Electronic Gaming Monthly (51). EGM Media, LLC. October 1993. p. 44.
- "ProReviews". GamePro (51). IDG. October 1993. p. 139.
- Horowitz, Ken (31 May 2005). "History of: The Strider Series". Sega-16.com. Retrieved 21 Dec 2009.
- Fahs, Travis (20 Aug 2008). "The Shrouded Past of Strider Hiryu". IGN. Retrieved 21 Dec 2009.