Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns, released as Strider II in Europe, is a port of Tiertex's Strider II for the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive/Genesis console. This is the first port to be released outside Europe, making it the most well-known version of Tiertex's sequel. The port presents several changes when compared to the original game, a result of having been adapted following closely the Mega Drive port of Strider.
Although it got a mixed reception upon launch, the game is currently vastly despised by the fandom and derided by both critics and even the staff behind it. The game's sole programmer Allan Findlay referred to several problems including a lack of instructions from the higher-ups and a drawn-out, innefective debugging and testing period. The game has been criticized for its shoddy programming and uninspired gameplay, product of the higher-ups being only interested in getting the game "written and out as fast as possible".
The story presented in the game's manual differs in several details from the one found in the original versions, as well as the revised story introduced in the Master System port: Grandmaster Meio (called "Evil Master" in the manual and "The Master" in-game) returns from his previous defeat and plots his revenge against the Striders by posing his spaceship, the Prison Ship, above Earth with the intention of turning it into "one big black hole". He's also ordered his minions to kidnap Lexia as insurance against the enemy. Strider Hinjo, the "most pumped-out Strider of them all", is assigned the mission to stop Meio and rescue Lexia.
While the basic setup (rescue a kidnapped girl and save a world) remains intact, most of the details have been changed: There's no mention of "Alien Terrorists" and Grandmaster Meio is instead the main antagonist and final boss of the game, for the first time in any version of Strider II. Planet Magenta is now directly Earth, and the distressed damsel is not a world leader but Hinjo's beloved. The manual also introduced names for the Strider and the kidnapped damsel: Hinjo and Lexia. While this is the first time the main character is properly named, this is the second name given to the woman after the Master System port's Princess Magenta.
Differences with the original game
This port has adopted several of the changes first introduced in the Master System port, while also bringing back elements from the original Mega Drive port of the first game. Elements carried over from the Master System port include the ability to climb ceilings, the Slide attack, the use of Shuriken as long-range weapons and the addition of the Rotun shield mechanic for boss battles, while it brings back the Cypher extension power-up and the ability to use the Cypher Attack while standing idle. The Shuriken and Rotun shield had been retweaked: Shuriken are no longer infinite and must be found as item pick-ups to be restocked but they can be thrown in pairs at spread patterns, while the Rotun shield now works as a secondary health bar during boss battles.
Graphics resemble their appearance from the Master System port rathen than the Strider II originals, albeit touched-up to closely resemble the sprites of the first game. Some sprites (such as Hinjo's) were actually ripped out from the original port; except everything uses a darker and watered-down palette. Stage design follows the alterations made for the Master System port as well, but also removes several of the obstacles it included and adds elements of its own. While expanded up from their original versions, stages still retain uninspired and simple layouts as well as the trial-and-error approach. Besides moving slower than the original, the game also suffers from odd physics and unresponsive controls which makes Hinjo difficult to handle, specially as he makes tricky jumps.
List of Changes
- Slower gameplay and progression.
- Fewer onscreen enemies.
- All enemies have different score and HP allocations.
- Modified enemy, object, and checkpoint placement.
- Some enemies have new behaviors and appearances. A number of new mid-bosses are included.
- Stages have been redesigned entirely from the ground-up, and feature entirely different layouts and designs when compared with the home computer versions.
- Hinjo starts out with a new "Sweep" Cypher whose plasma arc is a flat 3-segmented edge. This can be changed back to the "Original" plasma arc in the option screen.
- The Master System bosses Waspini and the cyborg dinosaur are brought back, while the remaning three bosses are replaced by Solo and Grandmaster Meio (appearing as a boss in the 2nd and last stage). An extra "bonus" boss obstacle is included after the final boss: Hinjo must destroy the platform where Lexia is chained before saving her.
- A boss rush was added to the final stage, pitting the player against all Stage 1 bosses and the dinosaur a second time.
- A "1UP" and "Power-Up" item are added to the item selection, the latter providing either a Cypher extension or extra shuriken. The Item Boxes from the original are reintroduced as well.
- Altered collision detection has also been implemented for the redrawn foreground tiles and sprites, affecting gameplay.
- The viewing area is full screen now, having removed the lower panel from the home computer versions.
- The stage layout and appearance has been completely overhauled. Whole areas were removed and replaced, stages are significantly longer as a result.
- A green "teleport pod" is placed at the beginning and end of each stage so Hinjo now teleports in at the start of each stage and teleports out after the boss fight. This makes stages feel even less connected.
- Sprites have been overhauled for the most part, taking sprites from the Mega Drive port of the original.
- Entirely new HUD. This includes a health bar split into 5 segments, resembling the original Arcade game's health bar instead of the early port's gray full bar; an identical "Orb" bar below for the Rotun shield, a score display at the top center and a Timer, Lives counter and Shuriken counter below it.
- All the game's graphics including sprites have been redrawn to match the style of the first game's Mega Drive port.
- Different text fonts.
- Much like the Master System port, this version features a brand new soundtrack created exclusively and as a replacement for the reused Mark Tait score.
- All sound effects are new.
- Reprogrammed game.
- Inclusion of an Options setting, which allows to change difficulty and number of lives, hear the game's soundtrack and dialogue, and select between either the "Sweep" or "Original" plasma arc animation for the Cypher's attack.
- Stage 3 and 4 (The Alien Depths and The Rooftops) are switched around for some reason.
- Inclusion of in-game cutscenes with digitized voiceovers. The cutscenes, however, make no attempt to tell a story and are simply exchanges between Hinjo and the enemies. These also reuse the mugshots from the Mega Drive port of the original, including those of Tong Pooh and the Amazoness, who otherwise make no in-game appearance.
- A single extra animation was added to the ending, showing Hinjo and Lexia's escape ship taking off.
- Ade; Paul (February 4, 1993). "Strider II". Sega Force (15). Pg. 39
- Staff (September 1993). "Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns". EGM (50). Pg. 158.
- Scion (February 11, 2010). "Interview with Allan Findlay". LSCM 4.0. Accessed August 18, 2015.
- Gibney, Adam (October 2, 2014). "Box=Art artists: Julie Bell". boxequalsart.com. Accessed August 18, 2015
- Allan Findlay reply, posted May 25, 2008. Tiertex Facebook Group. Accessed August 18, 2015
- U.S. Gold (1993, Mega Drive). Journey from Darkness: Strider Returns (English). Instruction Manual, Pg. 1
- Strider Returns Advertisements. Guardiana.net. Retrieved November 25, 2010
|Strider II / Returns|
|Equipment: Cypher • Climb Sickle • Gyro laser • Rotun shield • Shurikens|
Moves: Slide • Cypher Attack • Elite Mechanical Combat Unit
|Alien Terrorists • Automatons • Wall Crawler • Wolf • Aliens • Turbo Wasp|
|Helios • Energy discharging skulls • Alien Mother • Milsoma • Podulous • Inferno • Waspini • Anti-Gravity Device|
Terrorist Leader • The Master
|The Forbidden Forest • Castle Metropolis • The Hive • The Alien Depths • The Master's Prison Ship|
|Lexia • Striders|