The Strider Series' Origins

Most gamers know about Hiryu's appearance on the NES. It's infamously bad, both for its horrible translation and even worse programming. Few, however, know that it was never released in Japan. The Famicom version of Strider never surfaced in any playable form, despite the claims of the advertisment at left.

Until very recently, there were no other images of the Famicom version, save the screenshots on that ad. That all changed on March 1, 2006, when Chris Covell from Lost Levels released a video of the beta from a Japanese commercial.

It wasn't that different, but it was different enough. It still had the same sprites and tilesets, for example... but what was truly interesting was the in-game release date: 1988, a full year before the arcade game was released. The implication is that the NES game is the true, original Strider story and the beloved CPS-1 version isn't.

It's entirely possible. You see, while it was being developed in late 1988, Strider went by the name of "The Falcon", as these two posters show. At some point, the game's name was changed, but the original concept may have had little to do with Hiryu himself. Certain contributors to Wikipedia have noticed a striking similarity between the hero of the CPS-1 Strider and the hero of a 1966 fantasy/adventure anime called Boken Shonen Shadar. As Wikipedia contributor Kronnang Dunn puts it,

The main character's look is strikingly similar to Hiryu's appearance in the 1989 arcade game. [He] can also multiply himself like Hiryu when in invincibility mode.

Take a look for yourself. I can kinda see it. Maybe the game designers at Capcom originally intended the CPS-1 Strider to be a remake of this old anime. It's not that farfetched.

At any rate, the video of the Famicom game shows a different level layout, and there are other indications in the NES version that the game was put on hold and then given a rushjob completion: the glitchy collision detection, the Engrishy translation, and the insane amount of flicker, for starters.

It would be interesting to play the version in the video to see how closely the script mirrors the manga, but as a working beta cartridge recently sold on Yahoo! Auctions Japan for somewhere in the vicinity of $1500 USD, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it.

If the Famicom game was in development before the arcade game, anything's possible. It's impossible to tell which came first, because they both seem to have been in production at the same time. There is also the possibility that the NES version could merely be a pared-down version of that beta, as well. And since the arcade game has nothing to do with either the manga or the NES game other than having the same protagonist, the thought does give one pause.

Was the Strider arcade game an original game idea of Capcom's? Or did they simply appropriate the Strider name to boost their game's popularity?

We may never know.