Review by Tyler Willis



Graphics: 7.5

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9


Ikaruga is a throwback to old-school games that require an intensity of concentration such that a single blink can mean the difference between victory and obliteration. This is a good thing.

ikaruga01.jpg (50547 bytes)Scrolling shooters used to be a staple of the video game genre, but have fallen out of favor with today's audiences who prefer 3D free-roaming action to the more traditional 2D scapes. Treasure (of Bangai-O and Silhouette Mirage fame) has produced a title to warm the hearts of shooter fans, proving that there is still life within the genre.

Originating in the arcade, and seeing a Japanese Dreamcast release, Ikaruga finally makes a US appearance on the Gamecube. The release features five levels of play, three difficulty settings, a two player mode, unlockables, and several further game modes.

Most shooters follow one rule: destroy everything on the screen while avoiding everything on the screen. Ikaruga takes this premise and applies a Silhouette Mirage style of gameplay. Simplicity is beauty; only three buttons beyond the control stick are used during gameplay.

The ship can be two different shades: light or dark. When the ship is light, it fires light bullets and can absorb enemy light fire. The dark is exactly opposite. Every enemy is one of the two colors and will fire either shade of bullet. To further add to the scheme, dark bullets damage light enemies at twice the damage of light bullets, and visa versa. Thus the question becomes: should the player stay the same color as the currently engaged enemy and play it safe or switch colors for a faster yet riskier victory?

Theoretically, a simple question, but the fact that the player is constantly bombarded on all sides by both colors makes the question more moot in favor of survival. When the ship is absorbing bullets, it stores them up for use as a homing laser - the only alternative to the normal ship fire. Oh yes, it should be noted that when enemies are destroyed, they can burst into light/dark particles and come flying at the ship.

ikaruga02.jpg (50606 bytes)Easy to learn, but hard to master is this concept. Ikaruga features a high difficulty level that could leave some frustrated. Though the initial options are limited, continued play unlocks the possibilities for more continues - and continues will be needed. The game is not impossible to finish - eventually there will be more than enough continues provided to make it all the way, but do not expect to be able to run through all five levels after a few hours of gameplay.

The game itself is short, but the depth of play adds significantly to its replay value. Ikaruga features a chaining system - destroy three enemies of the same color in a row to score a single chain, continue the pattern to rack up multiple chains (and higher points). These chains will be the only realistic way to reach the numbers needed for extra lives and provide an extra incentive for mastery.

Indeed, the game itself actually rates the gameplay at the end of each stage; barely surviving with few chains will net a lousy "C" rating, expect to spend much time in practice before getting anything higher than a "B". Fortunately, Ikaruga provides the option to watch a perfect run-through or even slow-play specific areas of the game. Since patterns are basically the same every run through, this is an excellent way to learn the intricacies of each area.

Visually, the game is ok, but shooters are not necessarily played for their graphic brilliance. The audio tracks provide a fine atmosphere for gameplay. Oddly, the US release comes without any story beyond what is in the instruction manual. Then again, the story is not that integral to most shooters.

Ikaruga comes recommended, but not to the faint of heart.


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Last updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2005 10:34 AM