Review by Justin Johnson



Graphics: 8

Sound: 8.5

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9

As one of last year’s most popular and sought-after imports, many wondered just what the hell all the fuss about Ikaruga was.  Many online importers hawked this game for months upon it’s release, and many even sold through their initial shipments and had to order more.  Just what the hell was this oddly titled game for the Dreamcast that everyone’s always yapping about, and is it any good?  Well now it’s here, albeit on a completely new platform (although certainly one that’s a bit more powerful) and it’s a welcome blast from the past.

At it’s core, Ikaruga is a scrolling shooter with a top-down perspective, the likes of which haven’t been seen regularly in many years.  Needless to say, if you were ever a fan of the genre, you should definitely check out Ikaruga, and even if you’ve never been a fan, Ikaruga may just convert you and is worth at least a rental.  There’s a story backdrop about some war going on, but much like other shooters, you’re not going to be playing this one for the story, it’s all about twitch-action, which Ikaruga delivers in spades.  Fan-favorite Treasure seems to have been hooked on a “color-switching” theme in the past few years, releasing several games that feature some sort of color or character-swapping in order to add new gameplay elements.  From Bangai-O on the Dreamcast to Silhouette Mirage on the Playstation, it’s an element we’ll probably be seeing from Treasure for a while to come, but hey, as long as it keeps producing quality games that are fun to play they can stick with it as long as they please.

In Ikaruga you pilot a ship that can switch polarities, either black or white.  While your ship is in the white polarity you’re immune to white gunfire, and instead absorb it, while black gunfire will kill your ship, and vice versa in the black polarity.  Another interesting feature is that while you’re in the white polarity, you’ll deal out double damage to black enemies and vice versa.  While it sounds simple enough, when your screen fills with enemy fire, most gamers will admit that it’s a little tough to weave in and out of screen-filling fire while switching polarities to survive.  There’s an old saying that “less is more,” and that describes Ikaruga to a tee.  The game doesn’t get bogged down in complicated control schemes (in fact you’ll only use 3 buttons plus the control stick), story or anything trivial, it’s just a kickass game.  Players are encouraged to get “chains” which basically translates to “shoot 3 of the same colored enemies in a row” in order to create higher scores and combos.  This allows the truly hardcore to master chaining together enemies to get high scores, while newbies or casual players can just go through blasting everything in sight.  The intense and powerful soundtrack does wonders for the game and pumps you up (think Rocky’s “Eye of the Tiger” theme).

One of the best aspects of Ikaruga, at least in my opinion is that once you’re accustomed to the controls and gameplay mechanics, it’s a blast just to pick up and play.  The most fulfilling aspect of Ikaruga isn’t beating the game necessarily, but playing for high scores (think arcade games like Crazy Taxi or Robotron).  A two player mode, an online ranking system and some time or score-based unlockables add to the replay value of Ikaruga, although the regular game is plenty enough to keep you coming back for years to come.  While Ikaruga is certainly one of my favorite GameCube games, it’s definitely not for everyone.  A high difficulty level will alienate a larger audience from appreciating the game, but it’s just right for those that miss the challenges and sheer fun of yesteryear.  For old school shooter fans and twitch-action fans, however, this is a must-buy.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:26 PM