| The Good
Awesome 2D shooter action
Polarity system is a nice twist
Can be played with 2 players
| The Bad
Not really for non-shooter fans
I'll save you the long song and dance about the history of
how this Japanese arcade game finally made its way to the
states and how hardcore shooter fans should be "honored"
just to have it. The hardcore shooter fanatics (and fans of
Treasure in general) probably already bought the version that
was released on the Japanese Dreamcast rather than waiting
for an American release that was really in doubt until the
recent confirmation of the GameCube version. Ultimately, the
2D arcade shooter (not to be confused with the first person
shooter genre) is a dying breed, so when a title like Ikaruga
pops up, it deserves to be noticed.
The story behind Ikaruga tells of Shinra, a fighter
pilot who is flying against the Horai, who have found the
Power of the Gods (Ubusunagami Okinokai) and have used it
to conquer and destroy Shinra's people. After being shot down
near the village of Ikaruga, Shinra is given a ship by the
same name and sent to fight the legions of the Horai. With
such a sharp story and some fine art created for the game,
I was kind of left wanting a little more story in the game
itself, rather than just in the manual and promotional material.
Of course, 2D shooters don't really need to rely on the story,
but with what Treasure had done art and story-wise for this
game it seems a shame not to make the best of it.
Ikaruga gives players five stages of intense shooter
action. But, rather than focusing on power ups or a variety
of weapons, the main concept behind the action is a strangely
simple scenario - enemies are of two "polarities",
black and white. During each stage, you can switch the polarity
of your ship to either black or white, which allows you to
absorb energy attacks from the color you are and cause more
damage to the opposite color. Of course, you'll need to avoid
the attacks from ships of the opposite color and there are
physical obstacles and the enemy ships themselves that can
do you harm. You also have a bar that stores energy you absorb
which can be expelled in the form of a super attack. While
you could tear through the levels with little in the way of
technique, your ultimate goal is to improve your score and
to do so, you must perform combos be defeating enemies in
groups of three. The more chains of three similar enemies
you defeat, the better your bonus score will be.
You will come to find that the further you get into Ikaruga,
the quicker and more responsive to the controls you'll have
to be. When assaulted with wave upon wave of black and white
energy bullets, you'll have to be quick to switch back and
forth to keep alive. One hit is instant death, so making good
use of the few ships you have is essential. The control scheme
(which is customizable) is simple as to reduce any unwanted
confusion. You have one button to switch polarity, one to
fire and one to use your special attack. The control stick
moves your ship around smoothly, so much so that you might
find yourself accidentally ramming into the scenery in some
of the tighter quarters (like in the claustrophobic halls
of the third level).
Along with the standard gameplay mode, in which the player
can alter difficulty and the extra lives rate, is a practice
mode, conquest mode (where you can watch a demo for techniques
or practice at slow or normal speed), and a challenge mode,
which will give you a code when you finish so you can post
your score online at the game's official website. There are
some unlockables that can be accessed by finishing the game
or by the number of hours played. And, if you've got a friend
around, you can play the game as a two-player shoot-em-up.
Visually, Ikaruga provides a finely crafted alien
world for you to explore and ultimately destroy. While the
bulk of the game is run along a 2D path, you'll be treated
to some nicely crafted 3D backgrounds, which get featured
during sequences where your ship flies from one area to another.
While a number of the enemy ships tend to look nondescript
and function more as a swarm than as detailed individuals,
there is an overall design that works well throughout. It
must be said that the bosses for this game look downright
amazing and work wonderfully as a final punctuation to each
stage. To be honest, you'll be so busy trying to not get killed
that you may not get the chance to take notice of the graphics.
The musical score is sharp and provides a dramatic backdrop
to the action. There are dramatically epic moments of the
score that work in tandem with the more cinematic portions
of each level. Throw in some crisp sound effects and a retro-robotic
voice announcer and you have a nice audio package that aids
in the experience.
Plainly stated, Ikaruga is hard as nails and although
you only get five stages, only seasoned genre pros will be
able to finish the game without a vast number of attempts.
While some may complain that the game is technically short,
where the strength of the game lies is in its replayability.
Shooter fans will be addicted by the game, which beckons multiple
play-throughs just to improve their score and hopefully their
Should you buy this? If you're an arcade, 2D shooter fan
- without a doubt. In fact, you probably already have it and
are reading this review to kill time. If not, you may want
to rent it to see if you won't be turned off by the difficulty
and the fact that it makes no excuses for being a hardcore
representative of the genre.