The announcement of Strider HD last week by Capcom did something to me. It made me lose sleep… a whole lot of it. The latter portion of my Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights were total nightmares. I literally had to force myself to close my eyes, and even then, the mind would wander and questions linger. It has been 14 years since I dictated the movements of Strider Hiryu in his own game: Has he grown obese and hobbled? Does he still look good in red neckerchiefs? Has his grey hair finally set in? Every single nuance, every detail is important here because to me, all modern gaming began in 1989 with Capcom and Strider’s 1st arcade incarnation. Today I will look briefly at three of my favorite musical numbers found across the very limited Strider titles in existence.
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3. Destroy The Terrorists In The Occupied City (stage 1) – One of the most gorgeous aspects of Strider 2 is the menace of Hiryu himself. In previous games, our protagonist is largely depicted, drawn with a radiating empathy. He helps the aged carry groceries, recycles plastic, and well…. spends time exfoliating. From 1989 to 1998, by all accounts he’s vehemently Youth for Christ. 1999’s Strider 2, however, finds him ruined, narcissistic and near the cliffs of devil worship. Thing is: he’s powerful. The opening level’s score articulates his newly capricious nature with fiendish sweat-heavy percussion, and a dissonant grumbling fog not far removed from Public Image Limited’s Metal Box, or Yoko Ono’s brilliant interpretation of a low anesthetic root canal in “Why?”. The opening number of Strider 2 prowls unrelentingly. Meet Strider Hiryu: your favorite unshaven, tarot-card wielding atheist. Strider 2 is one of the most bold and exceptionally brutal transformations in Capcom’s history.
2. Kazakh Stage Theme – If for nothing else, Strider’s NES debut can be likened to the moment in the 1986 film The Three Amigos as they first stumble across The Singing Bush: Its arms flailing, and harmonies hitting just under the note. You can’t reason with it, can’t crack jokes with it… It’s wholly content to string together an awful rendition of Camptown Races. You’re irritated that there will be no conversation and no back-story as to how or why this weed turned exclusively to exhausted children’s standards. But… you’re mildly, ever so slightly entertained by his attempts for applause. This was the case with Hiryu’s butchered Nintendo outing: It’s simply going to do as it pleases, and could care less about your questions or expectations of it. This version was completely alien to its arcade counterpart, and yet Capcom delivered something both visually and aurally unmatched on the system. The game’s first mission theme creates an impenetrably thick yolk of straining symphony, cackling midi, and unwavering lowbrow bass. The NES never had it so filthy!
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1. Stage 2: Mountain Run – Movement of the body contains all manner of subtle differences. When you walk, your pace inevitably fluctuates. An amble can turn to quickened stride instantaneously. Running similarly jostles fewer bones depending on the intensity of the foot strike. My point: our mobility lacks fluidity; we’re clumsy, inconsistent and labored in our attempts to maneuver physically. Strider is different though, as his every step pushes off from the tip of his toe; it may seem miniscule but this tiny aberration actually launches him towards obstacle, downward trajectory, and dimwitted enemy. This action provides him the grace to leap as a form of overall, permanent travel. It’s this that makes one of gaming’s greatest moments of all-time feel at once transcendent and wholly invulnerable. This one snapshot of play is unequaled by anything in computer silicon since. When Strider travels down that blustering white mountain and the instruments rise above his tall frame, you can actually feel your feet come free of the ground as your head goes dizzy and disoriented. This is phantom flight, and it’s likely the only place in video games you’ll actually touch some aloof, distant God.
Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love. He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake. Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.