Dengeki Stryker Review
“Heroes – A Manifestation of Everyone’s Dream”
Did you ever admired a superhero when you were a child? Did you ever aspired to be one? Dengeki Stryker is another visual novel by OVERDRIVE, the same studio which made visual novels like Kira Kira and Deardrops. Unlike those two though, the central core of Dengeki Stryker’s plots is these heroes.
Dengeki Stryker follows Yukki Yamato. When he was young, he wanted to be a hero, just like one of his favorite manga. He protected his childhood friend, Haruna, from bullies all the time, trying to be a hero he always wanted to be, but always ended up getting beat down instead. One day, after the same repeated cycle of getting beat down occurred once more, out of the blue, he met an old man who called himself the ‘Memory Collector.’ He could grant any wish in exchange for one’s memories. He wished to become a Stryker, a hero from his own favorite manga. Granting his wish, he lost all of his childhood memories, and became “Stryker Zero”, literally.
I find it interesting that even though Dengeki Stryker gives a shounen action vibe, it actually explores quite a few intriguing themes, though not on a major scale. The concept between true and fake is one such example. Through the memory collector interference, the identity of Yukki Yamato is in disorder. Although he possessed the boy’s body, his real identity is Stryker Zero, a hero from a manga. At some point, after finding out that he was from a manga itself, Yamato struggled to believe whether or not he is a fictional or non-fictional being. Another primary focus is the concept of “hero” itself. Young Yamato was able to experience and see the real Stryker Zero in real-time action, but at some point, even his own hero shown humane weaknesses at times, allowing young Yamato to have a new line of thoughts. At that end, I would say Dengeki Stryker resembles that of Fate/Stay Night, especially in it’s theme exploration of these fictional beings we called “hero”.
Of cause, it’s execution is obviously nothing like Fate/Stay Night. Dengeki Stryker focuses less on it’s morals, and more on the action itself, which made Dengeki Stryker more of a simple shounen action series then a thought-provoking series like Fate/Stay Night. What’s more, there’s the very cliche “good versus evil” too so Dengeki Stryker may seem a bit generic. I find the simple and bland way Dengeki Stryker present it’s heroes and antagonists resembles that of Marvel superheroes comics, or just any kind of generic hero medias out there. But because of it’s blandness though, it brings out the simple cliche humors and jokes quite nicely, making you laughed out loud at the most simplest of comedic situations. It makes you wonder just how bionic humans with high-grade sensors like them couldn’t discern the real identities of their own neighbors.
Not all visual novels are perfect and indeed, there are some few flaws in Dengeki Stryker, and some major ones include it’s short length and linearity. Story is told from a somewhat third-person view (the protagonist has a face and even a voice) and sometimes, perspectives jump from one character to another. Overall, it doesn’t even has a lot of dialogue choices to choose from, and there are only two routes available, Haruna and Sayaka, and a secret route which leads to a true end (more of a continuation from Sayaka’s route) made available only after finishing the former two routes. Each route is incredibly short too though in my own opinion, I do prefer Sayaka and her route more then Haruna’s.
In all of the characters, I find Yamato’s stoic and militaristic altitude extremely humorous. He regards TV as ‘information terminals’ and even planned military tactics to “conquer land” for cherry blossom viewing. He is definitely a good character with a sense of justice, but being blended into society and even attending high school, his lack of common sense is awkward, and the visual novel doesn’t forget to use that lack-of-common-sense disposition as a source of humors, and it plays out nicely. In that manner, Yamato is a lot like Sousuke Sagara of Full Metal Panic.
The two heroines are dull in comparison sadly. Putting Sayaka aside, who is at least better then Haruna; the latter is as generic as most childhood friend archetype goes. In a series such as these, I always find the osananajimi-types always play the most insignificant roles, and Haruna fell victim to this fate too, barely having much importance to the plot until very late into the series. In comparison though, Sayaka’s route came out a lot better, both the aftermath of her events and the outcome for everybody else turns out to be much more better then that of Haruna’s.
Aside from the heroines, some of the characters from the cast are quite entertaining, and at times, mysterious. One of them is Jack, one of the most mysterious character of all. After learning ninjutsu from his teacher, he flew all the way to Japan from Texas in hope of becoming a full-fledged ninja. While the period of ninjas had long gone in Japan, Jack ended up becoming Yamato’s sidekick. In one way or the other, he is somehow related to the memory collector, as it seems that his teacher obtained his powers through the memory collector. In the end though, Jack is still quite the mysterious one, though he is still loyal to Yamato and helps him in his time of needs. And indeed, even though I said “he”, his real gender (though I think it’s obvious..?) and even his real name remains unknown throughout the game.
Mirror is also another extremely intriguing character who has a lot in common with Yamato. I like how the visual novel makes subtle revelations behind Mirror is slowly shown as you progresses along the story and the routes. Mirror starts of as a mysterious character, but gradually, you learned more of his side of things, and it’s just impossible not to feel pity for him. In the last bonus route, Mirror will be the main focus of it, and the route is full of shocking plot twist to say the least.
The other side characters are dull and bland, and almost one-dimensional. Their blandness though, are what induces the very funny, yet simple humors, especially the goons from Balbora Empire. They all have major, evil plans, but their everyday struggles with mundane, everyday lives are hilarious, much like our favorite protagonist.
The visuals are almost satisfactory for the most part. Battle scenes are especially flashy; the illustrators really went all the way with the effects used in the battles. Character designs look slightly old traditional though, not sure if they are purposely going for the “classic shounen” look. Overall, I would say Deardrop’s artwork is actually better then Dengeki Stryker. But noteworthy is the amount of animated sequences present in the visual novel, there are quite a lot of animated scenes in between, and most of them are pretty lengthy, with the longest ones reaching about a minute or two.
OVERDRIVE had always been good with music, and what’s better then to use the familiar rock genre? Dengeki Stryker has quite a few excellent rock tracks, fitting that of the shounen action though they are also quite a number of subpar non-rock BGMs as well. The visual novel’s opening, feels like a track used in a classic shounen anime adapted from an old manga, again, not sure if it’s on purpose. “Bonds”, an ending track, is good song to listen to too.
I find that Dengeki Stryker’s sound effects are top-notch as well. In the title screen, players are already introduced to the theme’s of Dengeki Stryker; machinery sounds are heard when one clicks through the title screen to start the game or to look at CGs seen in the main stories.
Dengeki Stryker is a game which allows players to remind themselves of their lost love and fascination of their favorite superheroes during their childhood. As a kid, we tend to rely on these role models we called heroes, and the game helps us re-explore those special moments of our childhood. While Dengeki Stryker is definitely not the best OVERDRIVE visual novel, it’s simple and straightforward storytelling makes this game a fun and enjoyable ride throughout. The lack of routes is a disappointment but at least there’s Chou Dengeki Stryker, where there’s additional routes…