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Name's Josh. I'm 24, play pretty much any kind of game, and have since I was old enough to hold a controller.
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People have a habit of becoming very attached to games they enjoy. Nowhere is this more evident than on sites like Destructoid or IGN where games are the main subject. This attachment, however, can turn out to be a bit counter productive if taken too far. Everyone is guilty of, or at least knows someone who is guilty of, having a game that they really enjoy and therefore think that it is beyond criticism. People can have the silliest excuses for this as well. Tell someone the story in a game isn't very good and you may get the reply “No one plays these games for the story.” Mention that a game's graphics are under par and you'll hear “Graphics don't matter, gameplay does.”

This sort of behavior is especially prominent in the comments of reviews as people tend to put far too much stock in the number score at the end of said review and how it compares to what they consider “fair.” The first thing that many people fail to understand is that a game should be critiqued on all of its merits, not just the ones it considered a priority. Just because Monster Hunter focuses on you hunting monsters and making armor and weapons from those monsters doesn't mean that you just ignore that the story is mediocre at best.

Video games have basic pillars that hold them up. Gameplay, visuals, story, controls; these are things that should always be taken into account. The ideal video game, I'm sure most would agree, would have a good combination of these things. That's not to say that a game lacking in one of those departments is suddenly a bad game though, there are plenty of fantastic games whose story isn't that great or whose visuals aren't up to snuff. But just because a game is good doesn't mean that the parts of that game that could use improvement should go unmentioned.

Here's another example: when Resident Evil: Revelations began making the rounds on 3DS and  then consoles and PC, there was a lot of talk of how it was the Resident Evil game that people had been waiting for. After playing it for myself I mentioned in the comments of an article about the game that I personally wasn't a big fan of it. It was a solid enough RE experience, but I had a few problems with it, namely the writing and the fact that the second half of the game became 'back track a lot and shoot all of the things.' Someone replied to my comment (one of the writers from the website actually) saying “I must have missed the Resident Evil game that had good writing.” Then surely now would be a great time to start working on that.

If you've made a series that includes over 10 titles and not a single one is memorable for its story or writing then maybe you should consider working on your writing. This comes back to the argument “people don't play these games for the story.” Of course they don't, they don't have a choice in the matter because there isn't one with a good story. A good game with a good story is automatically better than a good game with a mediocre story.

This is where this story wraps around to become directed at you, the reader. Yes, you specifically. If you enjoy a game, even if you think it's the best game you've ever played, it never hurts to offer constructive criticism. The Souls series is one of my favorite game series ever but I'm not going to deny that some of the bosses in DaS2 proved to be way too easy, or that the second half of DaS1 was much weaker than the first half. 

Giving feedback helps show that, while you enjoy a game that has been created, you still want the developer to keep trying to get better. That's the mark of someone dedicated to what they do, they constantly try to improve on themselves. You as the consumer should want games to improve, because you're the one spending money on the hope that you'll get your $60 worth. No one worth your money is going to create a piece of art, sell it to you, and then tell you they don't care what you think about it. Help them help you. Go forth and critique!

Infamous is a series that I've had mixed feelings for over the years. I played the first game a while after its release in hopes of catching onto the hype that surrounded it, but it just didn't stick with me. There were a combination of things that kept me from really enjoying it, but at the same time there were things that I knew had the potential to take me in and I quite liked the story. The second game did a far better job at reeling me in. The new powers, more interesting setting, and a host of other things placed Infamous 2 firmly into my pile of really good games. I wasn't sure what to expect from Infamous: Second Son and that's probably for the best, because having no real expectations meant that I was all the more blown away by how much fun I've had.

Second Son comes off as part sequel, part reboot. It's tied to the previous two entries in that Second Son takes place 7 years after the events of Infamous 2's good ending. At the same time however, it makes no effort to mention those events in more than passing and if you want any sort of real ties to the previous games you'll have to play the Cole's Legacy dlc that comes with the preorders. I didn't mind this, and in fact I think this was probably the best course of action because it serves to be an excellent entry for those who have never played an Infamous game before while still being familiar to those who have. 

Second Son is the story of a delinquent by the name of Delsin Rowe, a young man of Native American descent whose place in life becomes infinitely more significant when a military vehicle carrying “Bio-Terrorists” (the government's brand for the powerful Conduits of previous games) crashes and he comes into contact with one of them. Delsin soon learns that he himself is a conduit, and one with quite a unique gift. While up to this point we've mainly seen powers of lightning or ice, Delsin has the power to absorb the powers of other Conduits through skin on skin contact. Your protagonist's new powers unfortunately attract the worst kind of attention as the DUP, the government agency who has been keeping tabs on all Conduits, comes looking for the escapees and stumbles upon you and your Akomish tribe. From there the story escalates into one of corruption, empowerment, and taking down the oppressors.

This entry sees the return of the Karma morality system as you remember it, and this is certainly one of the elements of the game that could have stood to be improved. It's really cool to have the option to take different choices and obtain powers depending on the way that you've built your character and the decisions you've made, but the evil choices don't seem to fit the character. While Delsin is a bit of a rebel and always seems to be up to no good, you never get the impression that he's a bad person. He's such an excellent and believable character, whether he's being a brat or helping people out, that I wouldn't want to see them remove that for the sake of you having a blank slate to project your morality choices onto, but maybe one day someone will discover a way to combine having a fantastic character with a good/evil morality system.

Your first power is that of smoke and embers and by the end of the game you'll have four powers to swap between. Sucker Punch clearly sought to give each power a unique feel while keeping them similar enough so as not to get overly confused by any sort of potential control change. Each power uses the same control scheme but varies the outcome, for example using your Smoke L1 will lob a nonlethal smoke grenade which throws enemies into coughing fits, while your second power, Neon, causes an equally nonlethal explosion that sends enemies into the air while slowing down time for them. Each power is fun to use, especially once you learn the best scenarios to use it in, and they allow you to vary up the already enjoyable combat at your leisure.

There's only one thing with the power system that I didn't particularly enjoy and that is the fact that if you wish to swap between powers you have to go over to the desired power source in the world and absorb it. It would have been nice if it kept track of how much of a given power source you still had absorbed while using a different power, but I suppose that would have also made Delsin a bit TOO powerful. 

Each of your powers has a skill tree assigned to it and you can gain new skills, or power up existing ones, by obtaining and spending blast shards. There are a few skills that are tied to your karma and some of them enhance your powers in very interesting ways, for instance with good karma you can give your basic smoke projectile the power to instantly throw an enemy into a coughing fit when you get a headshot. The previously mentioned blast shards can be found all over Seattle, and are made easier to locate by taking out the DUP in each of the districts. By taking out the mobile command center in a given district, the locations of all blast shards and side objectives will appear on your map, making 100%-ing the game both accessible and enjoyable.

Speaking of Seattle, you've probably noticed this from the various screenshots and gameplay videos that have been released but the setting for this game is absolutely gorgeous. It does a wonderful job of showcasing the power of the PS4 and can lead to you simply wanting to wander the city and take in the amazing visuals on display. The models, voice work, and facial capture are all excellent. The framerate is solid as well, with noticeable drops only ever occurring if there is just an absolute mess of things going on onscreen, and even then it's rare. Delsin himself controls well, but there are occasional issues with some of the parkour elements when it comes to trying to grab onto specific ledges, as well as a few clipping issues when speeding up the side of a ledge-ridden building with one of the more transportation oriented powers.

Overall Infamous: Second Son is excellent and just what the PS4 needed to pull in some more early adopters. It's fast paced, dramatic, and most of all: fun. Regardless of your feelings on previous entries in the Infamous series, Second Son is a fantastic way to spend 10-20 hours, depending on how much of the city you want to take back. I can't wait to see what the future holds for Sucker Punch and their Infamous series.

This includes major story spoilers for Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. It is merely an opinion piece and is in no way meant to attack anyone mentioned within.

There seems to be a fad going these days where people go out of their way to search for ways that any given game could possibly offend someone. Even if an event in a video game could offend someone, is that really cause to change or remove it? On Tuesday we saw the release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a game that has attempted to take the previously part serious part camp series into a new mature direction.

Prior to the game’s release, Hideo Kojima spoke about his goals of wanting to help further both his series and the medium as a whole.”If we don’t cross that line, if we don’t make attempts to express what we really want to express, games will only be games,” Kojima said. “If we don’t try to go beyond that, we won’t be able to achieve what movies or novels have achieved. I didn’t want to stay away from these things that could be considered sensitive. If we don’t go that far, games will never be considered as culture.”

If you’re curious as to how this ties in and what sensitive material he’s included in MGSV then here are where the spoilers begin. The main story mission of Ground Zeroes sees Snake infiltrating an enemy camp to rescue two children he is acquainted with who have been kidnapped, Chico and Paz. Making your way through the camp you learn that they aren’t the only people to have been kidnapped, and upon finding Chico you discover that nails have been driven into the backs of his feet to prevent him from escaping on foot. You then learn from a recording that Paz has been tortured and possibly killed, so after getting Chico to safety to go to search for her. She is found in a basement strung up and having been tortured but still breathing. Getting her to safety is your final goal and from there you’re treated with a long scene that contains what has people talking.

As you, a medic, and the two kids escape on a helicopter, you discover that Paz’s stomach has been recently stitched up and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that you’ve been set up. Snake and Chico hold her down as the medic removes the stitches, opens her up, and you watch a graphic (as video games go) scene of the medic reaching inside of her, moving her guts about, and removing the bomb, which is then thrown out of the helicopter. After a bit more cutscene and more story details come and go, Paz wakes up and, disoriented, moves to against the wall of the helicopter muttering and saying to stay away from her. She mentions that she has a bomb inside of her, and Snake assures her that it has been removed. “There’s another one,” she replies as she then willingly falls out of the side of the helicopter and almost immediately explodes before your eyes, causing the helicopter to crash and the game to end.

Now, is that event intense? Absolutely. Has Hideo Kojima gone too far? No. This is a story of war, of treachery, of possible child slavery and definite child warfare. Regardless of the camp nature of any previous games, this is an obvious attempt to push for more mature and sensitive material in video games, and it does just that. As far as I am concerned, nothing should be out of bounds or too sacred to be brought up in any medium, let alone video games. If it can happen in real life then it can happen in a video game. There always seems to be one group of people saying that video games can’t be taken seriously because they are all either about humor or murdering for no real reason and another group shouting that you can’t approach serious subjects because games should be for fun happy times. Obviously everyone doesn’t fall into one of these categories, but both seem to be pretty prevalent.

You’ll also hear talk of those who say “these subjects should only be approached if they can be done in a fitting way” which really means “a way that I find fitting.” Here’s the thing though, we can’t demand that games shy away from sensitive material until they can do it perfectly. You have to let developers and writers try and make mistakes so that they can learn from those mistakes. IGN’s review for Ground Zeroes called the ending “unearned,” but I would argue that it wasn’t trying to, nor did it need to, earn anything, because this ending isn’t really an ending. Ground Zeroes, while a standalone product, is not a standalone story. The “ending” of this is really just the beginning to the bigger story of Metal Gear Solid V. If anything, this is letting you know what to expect in the story to come. There is no easing into warfare and death. It happens when you least expect it; whether you’re ready for it or not.

Another, less intense, example of searching for controversy in a game is an article that was published on U.S. Gamer prior to the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. Kat Bailey wrote about her time getting to see a preview of LoS2 and meeting with producer Dave Cox to discuss what they call the “family scene” early in the game. This is a scene, again very early on, where a recently awoken, incredibly weak Dracula wakes up in a locked room with a family (a father, mother, and daughter) on whom he is to feed to regain his strength. In the scene he wakes up dizzy, looks over at the scared family, and before he does anything is immediately attacked by the father. He then kills the father, grabs the mother, and drinks her blood. He then turns to the daughter and reaches for her as the screen goes black.

Bailey writes “First, the way this scene is constructed isn’t accidental. When Cox talks about wanting to take risks and arguments with the marketing team, it’s clear that the scene was constructed with the intention of evoking sexual assault. It’s ostensibly there to show that Dracula is evil; but really, the imagery was chosen for its ability to provoke a strong emotional reaction. That it’s being used almost exclusively for shock value serves to trivialize a very real horror that women must deal with every day.” I feel that this is another grab for more controversy than is actually there. The idea that it is “clear that the scene was constructed with the intention of evoking sexual assault” is a bit of a stretch to me. He murders the father because the father attacked him, which shows the others what they should expect if they fight back. He then sucks the woman’s blood and is done with her. There’s nothing there that implies anything sexual. It’s a tough sell to a marketing team because you have a character murdering a family on screen.

She goes on to talk about how you’re not even meant to sympathize with the victims because the woman is given neither a name nor a personality (for the sixty seconds or so that she’s there) and how because Dracula is the hero of an action game he is meant to be cool and so “any ambivalence about the hero is bound to feel superficial, and in the case of the Family Scene, gratuitous.” She ends by stating that she hopes they remove the family scene from the game before release, which in my opinion is the biggest mistake of the entire article.

Now I am by no means saying that these events, or anything that takes place in any game, is beyond criticism. I believe that everything is open to criticism, and I’m sure that most developers happily accept constructive criticism, but saying that something shouldn’t exist or just that “it’s not done well” is NOT constructive.

Essentially this entire piece can be condensed down to “Let developers and writers create what they feel fits into their vision of their game, and if it’s not done as well as it could be then help them to make it better next time.” We partake in one of the most fascinating mediums ever contrived. Don’t put it down, help to make it even better!

The Souls series is a strange one. In an era where video games generally tend to be more “hand-holdy”, or always tell you where to go, or restrict what you can do, the Souls games focus on giving you no more than you need but allowing you access to everything at the same time. Want to be a slow heavy tank with the ability to hurl lightning? Go for it. Want to be super nimble with a weapon in each hand and the ability to cast spells? Sure thing. Dark Souls 2, the newest installment in the acclaimed series, brings back everything I loved about the series and even improves upon it.

Dark Souls 2 is the first actual sequel in the series, and while it does connect to the previous game in a few ways, it is completely stand alone in that anyone can start with this entry without finding themselves lost. If you've never played a Souls game then this is what you need to know: each is an action RPG that, while difficult, will never present you with anything that you are not capable of handling. On your first attempt through a given area or boss you may feel that it's cheap, or impossible, or bullshit, but if you put your mind to it and think about everything at your disposal you will ALWAYS find a way through any hardship the game presents you with. 

Just as in previous Souls games you are able to customize your character and pick a starting class. These classes do not lock you in to any particular way of playing, they are simply a starting point. Every character is capable of doing anything that any other character can do. In previous games it was possible, if you didn't know what you were doing, to mess up your build by putting points in places that you may end up regretting. This entry however has a certain item that you can obtain that will allow you to have those points returned to you so that you can “respec.”

Combat, and actions overall, have undergone a bit of a change, one that is tied to a new stat. In previous games your ease of dodging through rolls was tied to your equipment load (the percentage of your maximum weight capacity that you have made use of, the lower that percent the better your roll), your shield was raised immediately when you pressed the corresponding button, and your estus flask (the default, autoreplenishing healing item) was consumed at a set speed, but this game introduces a new mechanic called Agility, which is leveled up through a stat called Adaptability.

Agility determines a few things. When you roll, there is a mechanic referred to as “i-frames” which is how long you are essentially invincible while dodging. In DS2 i-frames are dependent on your Agility, your equipment load simply determines how far you roll. Agility also allows you to raise your shield faster and, if enough points are spent in the stat, drink your estus every so slightly quicker. Overall an extremely useful stat.

Another change to combat is that dual wielding weapons is now viable. This is made possible by the new “power stance.” If you have a weapon in each hand, and you have 1.5x the stat requirement for those weapons (ex. If you have two longswords and they require 10 str and 8 dex you'll need 15 str and 12 dex.) and then holding down the triangle (PS3) or Y (360) button you will swap into power stance, which changes your L1/LB and L2/LT to attacks that make use of both weapons at the same time. This adds even more customization to the already incredible amount of re-playability of the Souls games. There are a few other changes as well such as fire damage now scaling with int and faith and the new dark damage scaling off of whichever of those two magic stats is higher, but for the most part you'll feel right at home with this game if you've played either of the previous.

The new landscape presented, known as Drangleic, is fantastic. It's gorgeous, atmospheric, and haunting. It doesn't always have quite the same sense of “wrap around” that DaS1 had in that areas would often bring you back to the starting area, Firelink Shrine, but it still feels like a well realized world and still has the same sense of freedom in which direction you can go. In fact right from the beginning of the game out of the four directions that you'll need to go from the starting area of Majula for the main quest, three of which can potentially be taken almost off the bat. This entry has also taken the ability to warp between bonfires that was given to you halfway through the first game and made it available right from the start.

The story, while not on the same godly scope as the first, is still extremely interesting in my opinion. Rather than the story of great lords with equally great powers you get what feels like more of a dark personal story of the land of Drangleic and its King. You'll still only be given the vaguest hints from characters, the world itself, and the descriptions of items, and it's still a blast to try and piece these together into a coherent whole.

Many have been worried about difficulty of this installment, mainly that it might be too easy compared to previous games, but that is certainly not the case. In many areas of this game I would say that it is in fact more difficult, but nonetheless still challenging in a way that makes you want to keep at it for that incredible feeling of satisfaction you receive when you see those words “Victory Achieved.” As someone who put quite a lot of time into the first game I was pleased with the difficulty offered this time around.

Overall Dark Souls 2 is an incredible game, both in its own right and as a sequel to the equally fantastic Dark Souls. It's challenging, interesting, and rewarding. Whether or not you've immersed yourself in a Souls game before I urge you to pick it up and give yourself the challenge that you may not have even realized you needed.

MercurySteam's Lords of Shadow trilogy has long been subject to “love it or hate it” syndrome. The first installment rebooted the Castlevania franchise four years ago to mixed reception from fans. Many would claim that it was Castlevania in name only, but I would argue that Lords of Shadow was truer to its name than it could handle. Nowadays when most people think of Castlevania their minds harken back to Symphony of the Night, as well they should as it was an utterly fantastic game, but before SotN used the Metroid formula to bring to life the Metroidvania subgenre the series was very much a two dimensional version of what you're given in Lords of Shadow. Generic fantasy enemies, whip combat, and linear levels. But enough talk! Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2; have at you!

The story of Lords of Shadow 2 picks up long after the events of Lords of Shadow and Mirror of Fate, its primary story taking place in a modern day city that has been built on the land where Dracula's castle once stood. After a brief (yet intense) introductory level taking place in the past, Dracula (formerly Gabriel Belmont) wakes from a long sleep to find himself weakened after centuries of wasting away. His “old friend” Zobek would like to team up once again so they can stand together against the armies of Satan, who seeks to return to the world of men.

The final installment in the Lords of Shadow trilogy seeks to overcome many of the criticisms from the first game. LoS was as linear as they come, but in LoS2 we see the Metroidvania formula revived as it features 2 “open” worlds which you traverse in the style you'd expect, following a given path until you unlock a new power and then using that power to follow paths that you couldn't before. As Dracula you will go back and forth between exploring both a modern day city and your glorious castle in the past. That's not quite as confusing in practice as it sounds on paper, there are portals around the city through which you can go back and forth between the two time lines. There are also fast travel points, known as map rooms, to help you get around the city and castle faster, unfortunately they only work for the world you find them in(i.e. map rooms in the castle can only take you to other castle map rooms and vice versa).

Your primary combat style is still that of the whip, but now that whip takes form through a combination of shadow magic and Dracula's own blood. Unlike previous games you also obtain more weapons. In place of light and dark magic Dracula can obtain the Void Sword, for restoring health, and the Chaos Claws, for breaking defenses. Though these aren't quite the same as the magic system from the previous games, they still use the same charge up system from the first game where long combos fill a bar at the bottom of the screen which then causes orbs to spawn that will refill each respective resource. Rather than a list of skills / combos to obtain, LoS2 features a skill tree of sorts for each weapon. Basic button presses stay the same between the weapons, but the function of those combos and the way they play out changes. After unlocking a new combo you can gain mastery in it by using it repeatedly. Once you've fully mastered a combo its mastery can be drained into the weapon, and after doing this with a few different combos your weapon becomes upgraded. It's an interesting system that gets you to constantly try out new combos in the hopes of gaining mastery in them. Overall combat feels fluid and responsive and definitely the most fun I've had out of the three games.

The item powers work a bit differently this time around as well. Now on your D pad you simply have three powers and a final slot for a selection of relics, which are basically beneficial consumables. These relics act as health potions or buffs. There are quite a few types of these in the game but honestly the only ones I ever felt the need to use were the health ones and I maybe used three of those over the course of the game. Your powers are those of the Shadow Dagger, Bat Swarm, and Mist Form. The first two are obtained very early on while the third is a ways in. Shadow Daggers work how Daggers did before, except that now they have no inventory count and instead regenerate over time. These daggers also gain power from the weapon form you're in. By pulling out your Void Sword they gain the power of ice and by pulling out your Chaos Claws they become fire balls (and potent ones at that). The Bat Swarm power is a bit of a strange one. I'm not sure that they have much use in combat, but they seem to be in the game pretty exclusively for one reason.

Here's the deal: LoS2 introduces stealth segments into the game. I'm not sure why, as they feel out of place. I understand that Dracula has lost many of his powers and early on probably could not take the extremely large guards on, but there is never a point where you can actually just say screw it and take them on later on in the game either. While these segments don't make much sense, they are almost always incredibly short and easy to get through. This is where the Bat Swarm ability comes into play. You can use the swarm to distract a guard. Distracted guards don't see what's going on and a second guard will come over to see what the fuss is about. If you walk up behind a guard undetected you can possess said guard for a short time. There are also points in the game with shadowy portals on the ground that, when stood in, allow Dracula to turn into a pack of rats to sneak around or travel through small grates. The only stealth section that gave me any real trouble, and one of the only sections in the game to really frustrate me, was a special lengthy section of the castle where you have to sneak around a boss while avoiding stepping on leaves, of which there are many all over the ground.

There are far less puzzles this time around and none of the large scale puzzles you saw in the first game. The platforming is still around and works pretty similarly; jumping from rung to rung, never with much risk of falling. The one major downside of this game is that, after playing the first Lords of Shadow, you may come into this one expecting a decently lengthy run, but that's simply not the case. If I recall correctly the first LoS took me in the neighborhood of 20 hours to finish, while LoS2 took me about 11 and a half. Now, there were plenty of upgrade gems I could have gone around searching for to increase my health, chaos, and void bars, but I didn't really feel the need to as this game overall felt easier than the first. There are also pins you can collect that open challenge rooms to partake in. Aside from the length, the ending felt a bit out of place to me, though I won't go into spoilers, and the final boss battle wasn't quite as intricate as that of the first game.

Overall while Lords of Shadow 2 has its share of pitfalls and high rises it has far more of the latter. I had more fun playing through LoS2 than I did through either of the former games(both of which I enjoyed as well), so much so that I played the entirety of the game in one day through two sittings. The game is a fitting final installment to the trilogy and if they do attempt DLC I hope it takes the form of Alucard story missions as there was no where near enough of him in this game. Who knows where Castlevania will head next, but for better or worse, this stage of its life is now at rest.

(Note: I'm aware that the fantastic Mr. Carter wrote up a solid review for this, this is mostly just an attempt for me to get back into the swing of writing again. Criticism is welcomed as always.)

Double Helix, developers of the new Strider reboot, have been viewed as a bit of a shaky group in the past. They made such blockbuster titles as Battleship: The Movie: The Video Game and Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters. Probably their most recognizable title was Silent Hill: Homecoming, which seemingly sought to combine the cult magic themed story of Silent Hills 1 and 3 and the psychological themed story of Silent Hill 2, while essentially falling flat on both. People were understandably worried when Double Helix was given not just one, but two old IP's to recreate, but against all odds Double Helix chose a fantastic time to turn themselves around.

Strider is a very old franchise, and one that hasn't received any love in quite a while. It was an arcade side scrolling action game with a ninja theme and was pretty well received. It's seen a few variations, with the NES version and a solid PS1 sequel, but that was a long time ago. The new Strider is what, in my opinion, people really want from a reboot. Strider HD takes what made the original so great: it's fast paced nature and simple yet intense combat, and adds to it with a bit of combat variety, a gorgeous world, and a dash of Metroidvania.

The new Strider starts you off with a very basic move set; you can jump and attack. You very quickly gain a charge up attack, a sliding attack, and then a falling attack after that. It eventually evolves to the point where you have a double jump as well as a dash and kunai for throwing. You also gain multiple attributes that can be added to your basic Cypher (Strider Hiryu's weapon of choice) attacks. The first is the Reflect Cypher which, like it says on the tin, reflects bullets when you swing at them. Next is the fire element Cypher which sets enemies ablaze for damage over time when you swing at them. You also gain an ice element which, naturally, freezes enemies. The final Cypher attribute is plasma, which fires out curved beams which fly forward and then arc and return to you in a boomerang fashion. These attributes can be swapped between on the fly with a press of the d-pad in the corresponding direction.

Many of those attributes can also be added to your kunai and sliding attacks through upgrades. For instance, a reflect upgrade for the kunai will make it so those that miss their mark will bounce off of walls to keep searching for enemies. By the same token, the fire element can modify those kunai to make them stick to enemies and then explode after a delay for very good damage.

There are also a few special abilities to be obtained by the way of “Options”. There are three of these Options; A, B, and C. You'll obtain B first and it serves as a robotic phoenix which swoops down from the sky, damaging enemies in an arc, and doing more damage with each enemy hit. Next is A which surrounds Hiryu with spinning satellites that protect him from projectiles and damage enemies they touch. Finally is Option C, which is a robotic panther which runs back and forth along the ground damaging enemies it runs through. Each of these serves a purpose outside of combat as either a key of sorts in the case of Option A or a means of transportation for Options B and C.

The difficulty pacing is excellent as well, with enemies slowly becoming more and more challenging as you progress through the large city of Kazakh. There is no regenerating health, but there are plenty of health pickups around the world and a small amount of health is restored when you kill an enemy. Boss fights are both interestingly designed and fun to participate in. There are a few fights which are presented as boss fights only to then introduce that enemy as a regular mob, and while these are less interesting fights in the grand scheme of things, the true bosses make up for them. 

The game is not terribly long, but with its lineage in mind you wouldn't expect it to be. I finished my first playthrough with a time stamp of about 4 and a half hours and that was with about 65% game completion, meaning there were still plenty of things in the world for me to find. 

I have few criticisms for the game but they exist nonetheless. The first of which is a lack of even attempting to tell the player the story. By going into the menu you can read the background of the story, which is pretty much the same as it has always been with all powerful Grandmaster Meio taking over the world and you on an adventure to assassinate him, but it would have been nice to have been told that within the game. Even an old school scrolling text story screen when starting the game would have been fine for me. The other criticism I have is the lack of variety in the environments. Kazakh is a gorgeous location to maneuver around but aside from a level spent on an airship the entirety of the game is spent there. 

Overall the new Strider is a triumph among reboots. It captures what made the franchise captivate people in the first place and builds upon it and makes it modern. Fans of previous games will see endless characters and enemies pulled from previous entries such as the flying robotic dragon, robotic gorilla, even Solo and the Pooh sisters. For the ridiculously low price of $15 on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, AND PC, I can do nothing but wholeheartedly recommend this fantastic game.