I'm positive my first question for Strider senior producer Andrew Szymanski and producer James Vance during our interview at Comic-Con last week was the question on every fan's mind. It's just not Strider without a massive robotic primate.
"I can neither confirm nor deny," said Szymanski. "Hmmm, I dunno," said Vance.
The new downloadable Strider game is a game crafted by fans of the original 1989 game and its various console ports and sequels, for fans. That's why Capcom chose the San Diego Comic-Con — one of the world's largest gatherings of fans of things — as the backdrop for the big announcement.
They made the announcement at a Capcom panel during the show. Th didn't mention the game name. They didn't introduce the clip. Still, the moment Hiryu entered the scene on his para-glider, the crowd went nuts. After the panel, fans came up to the team and thanked them from bringing the game back. "One guy goes, 'Man, I grew up playing Strider. I'm 30!'" I suggested Szymanski punch that man right in the face. 30. Hmph.
Of course Strider's senior producer isn't going to punch a fan in the face, warranted or no, especially considering both he and producer Vance are big fans of the game themselves.
"This was a personal passion project for me," said Szymanski. "After I got Lost Planet 3 kicked off and in the groove, I wanted to do something a little more intimate in scope, something that leveraged one of Capcom's classic IP. Strider's always been one of my personal favorites. I love ninjas. I love the character. And I thought, most importantly, that this was one of the best characters and best games, in terms of its core competencies, to bring into a modern setting."
And so the original arcade assassin, Hiryu, has returned. He will dash. He will slide. He will climb. He'll slice through enemies with his energized blade. He'll enlist the aid of robots. The gameplay will be instantly familiar to fans of the franchise.
What's different? Instead of a series of sequential levels, the game takes place on one large map — a map with obstacles that Hiryu will only be able to traverse once he gains certain powers. There's a bit of Metroidvania here, though Strider's hero is much faster than the characters in similarly-styled games.
The new Strider will be a downloadable title for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One and PC — it's one of those games that may not have made it as a full retail release but should thrive as a digital download.
"In the old days this would have been a grey-zone game," explained Szymanski. "We wanted to do it on a home console — we wanted to do it in HD and a controller and everything — but if there was no sort of downloadable niche then we'd have to pony up all the resources to be able to charge $60 for it.
"We're bringing this character back after 15 years. We had to convince Capcom — for good reason — that people are not just going to like the character, but that they'll care that there's a new game, and that it's going to be strong enough that people are going to want to buy it."
I can guarantee that at least one person will buy the game, and depending on the size and scope of the game's mechanical bosses, perhaps many more. Maybe even enough to justify more adventure with Hiryu.
"Personally I'd love it if the outcome for this game was so strong that we could bring Strider back and not have to wait another 15 years for it," said Szymanski.
Strider is coming to its various downloadable platforms in early 2014. Even though we've waited for a new game for a decade and a half, that seems far too long to wait.
"Just long enough that we can have an announcement and show more stuff and potentially talk about giant mechanical animal type things," said Szymanski.
"Hypothetically," chimes in the PR person sitting in the corner of Capcom's Marriott penthouse suite.
There is so going to be a mechanical ape.