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The Holy Grail of Vidya, Part 3

Posted 01-31-2011 at 06:48 PM by Ethane

With the Supergrafx permanently put out to pasture, the Super Famicom (Super NES) had arrived on the scene. Confident due to strong sales, NEC enjoyed a comfortable second place to Nintendo throughout Japan's duration of the 16-bit era. The PC-Engine's CD system is what guaranteed this success -- there's so much more you can do with a game when it's on a CD as opposed to a tiny, limited cartridge. The system enjoyed a multitude of outstanding shoot em' ups and RPGs, most of which never found their way over to the United States, where the Turbografx-16 was struggling like crazy to stay afloat. It was a wasted effort, as the Turbo was doomed from very poor marketing -- but that's neither here nor there.

Returning to the fate of Strider -- this is where it gets interesting.

Strider was never to see an actual release on the Supergrafx, so it was decided to push the development onto the regular PC-Engine. In the works for the CD system was a new, 2MB upgrade called the "Arcade Card". NEC's marketing perhaps felt that this huge upgrade card for the system could be the boost Strider needed to make a faithful port to the aging system. Even with the incredible amount of space the card offered -- an entire 2MB -- it certainly wasn't anything that'd make up for deficiencies that the system had. Strider was developed in mind to capitalize on the arcade board's (The CPS-1) power. This included three independent scrolling background layers, 256 sprites, and 4096 on-screen colors. The PC-Engine had only 1 background layer, 64 sprites, and 512 colors. I think you see the problem here.

And from this, the first video game urban legend of a suicide was born. Supposedly, driven by the crack of a whip by his NEC superiors, a lone Japanese programmer was given the impossible task of accurately porting Strider. So he killed himself, so the story goes. It's not much, but I can personally attest that legend is old and one of the most enduring on the net.

Strider did eventually see the light of day as a release on the PC-Engine using the Arcade Card -- in 1994, long after its Genesis cousin had been forgotten. The intro graphics and voice exclusive to this version are nice, but as soon as the actual game begins, it all falls apart. It becomes readily apparent that while many CPS-1 games made for a fine port to the PC-Engine -- including Street Fighter II -- Strider just wasn't meant to be.

But you just know that it doesn't end here, does it? Next time: It came from USENET! Where did the Supergrafx version go?

In the meantime, feel free to take a look at every available home version of Strider, including the faulted PC-Engine version here: Hardcore Gaming 101: Strider

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