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Throughout their youth, our videogame heroes were riddled with a kind of reverse arthritis. When Mario was but a twinkly upstart with a gorilla problem, he could barely jump over a barrel. His hammering technique was, shall we say, inelegant. Nowadays he can run and fly and is equally at ease riding a speeding go-kart or a voracious baby dinosaur. Jet Set Willy could really jump, but couldn't navigate his own home without having some kind of grievous domestic accident.

In 1989 Capcom brought Strider Hiryu to the world's arcades. It was a heart warming tale of a cyborg ninja sent to single-handedly annihilate the cruel Soviet Empire armed with just his pluckiness of spirit, a spring in his step and a fairly persuasive plasma sword. The spring in his step must have been some kind of future spring, perhaps developed in conjunction with trainer manufacturers, because Hiryu could jump all right. He could jump, and he could double-jump.



He could slide, and he could cartwheel. He could scale sheer surfaces while attacking with the other hand. He could hang from the ceiling, and somersault, and mostly on metal surfaces, mind. No gym mats for Hiryu. He must have had shock absorbers in his shins.

This new agility rocked the gaming world. US Gold and Tiertex knocked off conversions of Strider for every conceivable home format. Although many of these versions were rather impressionistic, they received high accolades from over-excited gaming magazines. Strider was truly a big deal.



Then came the Genesis, the next generation of games consoles. Sega developed an 'arcade-perfect' Strider. It was the biggest game cartridge yet, an astounding 8 MEG. It radiated style, from the opening hang-glider drop to the final encounter on the moon, where gravity was a question of context and at times you would be fighting upside down.


The level design was varied and interesting. Hiryu's acrobatics allowed the 2D environments to sweep and dive and, in one case, revolve through 360 degrees. There were bosses at both the middle and the end of levels, some of which were almost surreally inspired. A giant mechanical gorilla, for instance. A foray into the Amazon jungle, replete with grazing brontosaurs and buxom warrior ladies. A battle in the sky, hijacking an enemy airship.

In truth, the Genesis version's graphics weren't quite as sharp or detailed as the original arcade, and the music was unmemorable at best. The sword animation was pretty minimal too. Nonetheless, it strode like Strider should.

The next time your game character cartwheels, or hangs from a rail, or fights a robot snake composed of evil cowled executives, spare a thought for Hiryu. That plasma sword cut deep.



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