Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on
From the makers of Persona 4 comes ... a Strider rip-off? It's true; Run Saber is the Super NES answer to one of Capcom's best arcade games. Sadly, it falls short of the highs set by Strider Hiryu. If you can get past the deja vu, you'll discover that Run Saber is a rewarding experience with surprises around every turn. Find out what Cyril thinks of this Super NES gem when you read his full review of Run Saber!
Dubbed the "Strider killer" by 1990s game critics, Run Saber certainly shares a lot in common with Capcom's popular 16-bit action game. From the slice of the sword to the way our futuristic ninja hero moves about the five stages, this 1993 title shares more than a passing resemblance to Strider. But while it looks and feels a lot like the must-own Genesis game, Run Saber is no Strider killer.
After an experimental chemical is launched into the atmosphere, humans begin to mutate into horrible monsters. To make matters worse, scientists knew this would happen and take the opportunity to command an army of mutant soldiers to take over the Earth. Now our only chance for survival rests in the hands of a small group of human cyborgs with genetically enhanced powers.
You play either Allen or Sheena, a couple of athletic characters that do an incredible Strider Hiryu impression. They run, leap over enemies, slide through narrow passages, climb walls and hang from the ceiling. Their weapon is a sword that whips across the screen so fast that all you see the is powerful streak. It can also be upgraded, which is essential if you intend to beat the game's tough bosses.
Run Saber sees our heroes rushing around the world in order to stop the mutant invasion. What starts out as a simple side-scrolling action game quickly develops into something with an alarming amount of diversity. It doesn't hurt that the game constantly puts the player in situations never before seen on the Super NES. The game is full of surprises right from the get-go, including an intense boss fight on top of a spinning jet airplane.
Mere minutes after surviving a plane crash, our heroes are off to Japan to battle a sexy skeleton woman. From there it's off to the jungle, where you'll go up against a giant eagle and small dinosaurs. The five stages are both lengthy and challenging, with multiple boss encounters and plenty of area to explore. I was also impressed that the game breaks free from the usual horizontal level designs and offers quite a few vertical sections.
But as diverse as the action is, Run Saber pales in comparison to Strider. In Capcom's 1990 arcade game, Hiryu runs down a snowy mountain, fights a metallic dinosaur, floats through the air on a flying boat, orbits a tiny planet and walks on the ceiling. And that's all before he flies into the sun. Run Saber seems almost pedestrian when put side-by-side with Strider.
Comparisons aside, Run Saber's gameplay holds up twenty years later. The movement is occasionally stiff, but it rarely gets in the way. Players can slide to safety by using the two shoulder buttons, a good use of the Super NES controller. Both human cyborgs also know ninja magic, a useful attack that can be summoned by the push of a button. This is one of the few times when Run Saber deviates from the Strider formula, instead choosing to take inspiration from Shinobi.
Regardless of whether you consider it a rip-off or homage, Run Saber is a fun action game that is full of surprises. The boss battles are exciting and the levels are full of interesting twists and turns. Run Saber never matches the highs of Strider, but it does offer an exciting adventure with a cool science fiction story.