From Panda Conspirator to Beloved Wife
One of the reasons why I love Capcom’s Strider so much is because it’s packed full of so much stuff. The game is a patchwork of incongruous art, half-finished ideas, and schizophrenic level design. Somehow, though, it all gels as one jumbled, wonderful whole.
One particular element, though, always struck me as being especially weird. Tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of the third level are three stacks of artillery shells. You don’t need to destroy them (they’re not even worth any points), and you might never see them in a normal playthrough.
Destroy the top row, though, and you’ll uncover this little guy.
He does a little dance, rotates his head a full 720 degrees, and then disappears, never to be seen again.
Strider Hiryu later crossed paths with another stuffed bear in a background cameo appearance in Street Fighter Alpha 2.
This, according to Internet legend, is a tribute to the troubled programmer of the unreleased SuperGrafx port of Strider. Depending on who’s telling the story, the guy either suffered a nervous breakdown or committed suicide after cracking under the pressure of strict deadlines.
But really, what’s with that panda? More than 20 years after the game’s release, an explanation was finally given in this recent interview with Strider’s designer Kouichi Yotsui:
“The graphic staff and planners will sometimes conspire against the planner and put something in without his knowledge. For Strider, someone put a panda in the battleship’s cannon room without my knowing. The person who did that later became [Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune]’s wife, fully supporting her husband’s success.”
Yotsui also claims no knowledge of any programmer suicides or breakdowns in regards to Strider’s creation.
The panda was, apparently, snuck into the game by someone who simply likes pandas.