Developer – Overdrive
Translator – Mangagamer
Length – 30-50 Hours
[Note: For those of you who just want an opinion about the new content in Chou Dengeki Stryker, skip to the end of the review.]
Dengeki Stryker was one of the first visual novels I ever read and at the time I really enjoyed it. In fact, I often mark it as the most underappreciated VN out there and recommend it to just about everyone I talk to. Given that history, I’m sure you’ll understand that I was a little bit apprehensive about going back and replaying it. Nostalgia can be a bitch sometimes (as I discovered in my .Hack review), but in this case I can happily report that it was not a factor that colored my memories. Chou Dengeki Stryker is the expanded version of the original story, and for a superhero-themed comedy action romp with that little something extra, you simply cannot do much better.
When Yuuki Yamato encounters the Memory Collector as a young child, he has no idea what’s in store for him. His wish to become his favorite comic book hero, Stryker Zero – one of the famous Dengeki Stryker cyborgs charged with defending Japan from the dreaded Balboran Empire – backfires when all of his memories are taken from him, and the hero of the tale takes his place in the real world. Suddenly having reverted to the body of a child living in a Japan that is very different to the one he remembers, Zero vows to continue his sworn mission of protection. Precious years pass as the body he has inherited grows, allowing him to hone his skill at using the electricity-based mechanical addons that remain from his previous life – he is absolutely certain that the Balborans will not lie quiescent forever.
The first thing you have to know is that Dengeki Stryker isn’t a story that can be enjoyed if you try to take it seriously. It has that “detached from the real world” feeling that allows you to forgive it for plot holes that would be crippling otherwise. It has the “let’s have the hero and the villains live right next to each other in tiny apartments in a world they know nothing about” comedy that has you laughing so hard your sides hurt. It has the “throwing all of your strength and commitment at an enemy to defend the people you care about” action that revs your engines and has you cheering from the sidelines as fights unfold. It has both the warm, confident feelings that make your days end on a high note, and a dash of the fluttering, heartbroken lows that make you value what you have in life, if you look hard enough. Basically, if it’s your kind of story, it can be a heck of a lot of fun.
But what if it’s not your kind of story? Like I said earlier, it doesn’t work if you try to take it seriously. It tries to be a childhood comic book superhero story and that means it doesn’t have the grit that some people look for in their action. It means that some of what happens doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and that there are new developments that come out of nowhere. It means that a lot of what Dengeki Stryker is comes across as incredibly superficial, and that might turn some people off. Even the themes are right there, staring you in the eyes the entire way through the novel, and that might not sit well with some readers. There’s a kind of childishness that doesn’t allow the story to cross over from “something that’s really enjoyable” to “an epic, well-written masterpiece”. For me, that’s alright because it succeeds at everything it tries to do, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you don’t think that’s enough for you. The other thing I should mention, and one of my few complaints about the novel, is that the fight scenes do get a little be repetitive in terms of the actions Dengeki Stryker takes; there isn’t really any clever use of enemy weaknesses or setting pieces.
I have never been a fan of comic book superheroes. Their stories never interested me; they were lacking something. Whatever that something was, Dengeki Stryker has it, and its world and themes gripped me like similar productions couldn’t. Rather than having super powers (or lots of money) and beating up super villains whenever they happen show up, Yuuki Yamato (which happens to be Stryker Zero’s real name, as well) is just a guy that’s passionate about protecting his home and its people, using whatever he can scrape together to do it. The entire cast is varied and interesting, even if many of the characters are only there to fulfil a specific role rather than develop along with the story. Each new chapter does a good job of including everybody from the previous ones so that characters who have had their time in the spotlight don’t just get left by the wayside to rot, like in so many other visual novels.
From what I’ve heard from others, Dengeki Stryker’s visual style divides a lot of people. I personally feel that it suits the story that Overdrive tells well, being clean, vibrant, and pretty easy on the eyes overall. There are heaps of CGs, with many being added as expansion content, which is always great to see. Much like the visual novel as a whole, though, it all fits “childhood superhero tale” better than “gritty action epic”, so take that however you will. One of the production aspects I really liked was the inclusion of animated sequences peppered throughout the routes. They’re not very frequent but they’re put to good use and feature in all of the most important scenes (and they look decent, unlike some other animated scenes I’ve commented on). Up and above that, the well-timed used of insert songs is fantastic and the BGM fits the feel of the story to a T, so you could say I’m pretty happy with the technical work on this one.
Summary: Dengeki Stryker is a superhero-themed action comedy adventure that will get you laughing, excited and strangely satisfied all in one go. From its characters to its production values, the overall cohesion of the visual novel is impressive, fostering an atmosphere that draws you in more and more as you read. Unfortunately, the story may be a bit shallow for some readers, and many of the aspects I liked may also turn other readers off if they’re just not their sort of thing. Even from my point of view, it’s just a bit too childish to be really, truly epic. In any case, Dengeki Stryker appeals to me in a way that no other superhero tale has to date, and despite being my second reading I enjoyed it the whole way through. Nostalgia aside, it has earned and re-earned its place on The Geek Clinic’s Highly Recommended List.
Score: 8.5/10 – Good
On the extra content: Chou Dengeki Stryker was everything I wanted from an expansion of the original Dengeki Stryker content. The stories were interesting and added to what had gone before in an incredibly positive way, the new CGs were excellent and the new characters were just as worthwhile and fun to read about as the old ones. Basically, if you enjoyed the original Dengeki Stryker, you really should give Chou Dengeki Stryker a go.