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Well hey everybody, school is finally out for good ol’ Kaioken and I’m feeling in the mood for a review. The game? Ikaruga:
a fast paced, non-stop action, brain pounding, quick-reflex requiring, vertical scrolling shooter from our good buddies at Treasure. This is a direct port of the Dreamcast game of the same name that came out in 2001 in the Land of the Rising Sun. Since they finally allowed this game to grace our shores, should we at least give it our attention? Read on and find out!
My Eyes Hurt. Having said that the game is a direct port from a Dreamcast incarnation, it still competes graphically with some of today’s games. Hell it only came out two years ago. The models in the game (your ship, enemies, bosses, etc.) are just beautiful. The game is highly anime/mecha inspired, and it succeeds at this style extremely well. The bosses in the game are absolutely huge, and you will actually feel intimidated when you start to fight against them. Though the game keeps 2D gameplay at its core, the backgrounds in the game are all 3D and will spin, and flip and just try to keep you completely disoriented while you play. The backgrounds are so lush that it’s almost a pity that you can never pay attention to them because the action is so intense. The other great thing about the graphics is that there will literally be thousands of shots of enemy fire coming at you all at once, and it never misses a beat. Never.
My Brain Hurts. The game is an old-school, vertical scrolling aircraft shooter. This is known in some circles as a “shmup” (shoot-‘em-up). These days, shmups are very few and far-between because there is much less of a demand for them. They just don’t entertain people any more because of their monotonous gameplay. Well Ikaruga shatters that notion for good. The gameplay is very simple, but it is incredibly hard to master. In short: your ship has 2 “polarities,” black and white. You can change polarities at the touch of a button. When you are white, you are immune to all white enemy fire while black is fatal, and vice versa. Also, when you shoot an opposing colored shot at an enemy, it damages twice as much. You also have a meter on the side that grows when you touch enemy fire with the corresponding-colored polarity of your ship. The game calls this “bullet-eating.” When your meter is full, you can press the R button and it shoots out a powerful array of missiles, usually destroying everything on the screen. While they’re chucking hundreds of thousands of bullets at you, it’s up to you to dodge or collect them all simultaneously while also shooting all the enemies on-screen. It’s not so black & white anymore, is it?
My Thumbs Hurt. Take my word for all it’s worth. This game is HARD. And that is an understatement. You start out with a limited amount of continues, but the more you play the game, it begins to add more continues until you have an unlimited amount. Thank Treasure for this because you’re gonna need that many to beat it. The game only has 5 different chapters, with each one gaining in difficulty. When I first played the game, I couldn’t get past chapter 2 without using all of my credits! The game might be a little intimidating for your average casual gamer, but those who are hardcore enough will definitely be in for a very good ride. It more or less forces you to memorize enemy flight patterns, attack patterns, boss attack patterns, and so on. And even when you think you have those down, you really don’t. Treasure has also added a few modes to help you get better at the game. This includes a Trial game, Tutorial, Practice, and Conquest that lets you watch an Ikaruga expert in slow-mo to gain insight on certain battle techniques. Conquest mode is extremely helpful, but unfortunately you have to beat the chapter in the regular game without continuing to unlock the corresponding chapter in conquest mode.
Do My Ears Hurt? The game supports a great 80s-90s upbeat anime/techno soundtrack, just like all good shmups do. The music isn’t overly cheesy and goes well with the theme of the game. Its fast paced nature can also really get you into the action. For those with high-end stereo equipment, you’re out of luck. The game has only stereo or mono, but you can blast it out of those 5 speakers you have in every corner of your living room anyway. The sound effects are equally decent and do their job—nothing overly good or overly bad. You won’t be caring about the sound when you start to play the game anyway, since it forces you to concentrate so much on dodging and eating bullets.
My Wallet Hurts For hardcore, old-school fans of the shmups genre, you are in for a treat. However if you are a hardcore, old-school shmups fan, then I’m sure you already imported your copy for the Dreamcast a while back and you’re reading this thinking, “Yeah, I already did that.” For everyone else, this game is a great addition to anyone’s collection that wants to take a breather from the din of contemporary gaming. The game has many features to make it a worthy purchase. There are art galleries to unlock, high scores to overtake, and even a web-ranking system to prove your Ikaruga skills to the world. And just when you thought you mastered everything about the game, you can bring a friend into the action which effectively makes the game HARDER! Good luck with finding it to rent—this game is much too hardcore for the likes of Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. Play at your own risk: difficult AND highly addictive. Bring on R-Type Final!