Posted 30 May 2003 at 22:25 by Bas Oosterveld
Remember Sky jaguar, 1942, Nemesis or the more recent 16-bit Gradius or Axelay.Those old shoot'em up games of the 80's - early 90's, where it all came down to fast-paced mind-numbing arcade action. Where you just shot everything that came your way.A game where you didn't have to solve puzzles, sneak upon enemies or create a long-term strategy.Well, the developers of Treasure decided to dust off this oldskool genre, give it a mouth to mouth and reanimate it into the likes of Ikaruga.Is Ikaruga a graphically brushed up space-shooter or has the game something more to offer?
No graphical excesses in Ikaruga. A little Manga style throughout the game gives it a nice atmosphere; however the graphical potential of the Gamecube hasn't reached its boundaries with this game. The backgrounds aren't really dynamic, although it gives you a nice 3D feeling. I think the static backgrounds were intentional, because you shouldn't be too much distracted when you're playing. Your ship and the enemies are pretty small and look like they've been cut out of an old 16-bit game. This is not a con, because smaller graphics in shooter games are just standard trademarks, it should always be that way.
The fire/laser elements and explosions are probably the best graphical elements in the game and are Gamecube worthy.This leaves me to the bosses of the game. The bosses are, custom to this genre, well detailed. One thing you will immediately notice is that the bosses are huge and can take up a third or more of your screen. It certainly states that the boss is the end of the area, and that if you want to advance further, you have to take him on first.
Not too much too tell here, the sound is done up to par level, nothing more nothing less. The voiceovers are robotic style, the fire and explosion effects suit this type of game.A nice sound element is when you're approaching a boss, sound alarms are buzzing and you know it's time for business. The music has a nostalgic touch, as if you were playing Ikaruga on your old MSX or NES, but the tunes aren't memorable or anything, just good techno background music that adds up to the feel of the game.
In a nutshell Ikaruga is a forced vertical scrolling 2D space shooter in a 3D environment. The game has 5 fast skull breaking levels which may look like it's not much, but it takes a while to get through them all, because it is unbelievable hard. One of the elements which make the game hard is that the screen area is small in width; this gives you little freedom to move around.
A nice and probably the most important feature of Ikaruga is the light/dark power element. This basically means that there are 2 types of enemies, black and white. When you're protected to light attacks for instance, and get hit by a dark missile, you'll die, and, as you would have already guessed, vice versa. Your ship can absorb one of the 2 powers, depending of which element you've chosen. This can be switched at any time with a simple button press. So if you're protected to one of these powers, you're able to absorb this power and you can unleash a special attack after a certain amount. A special meter will show you how much energy you've absorbed. Also, the absorbing black/white powers are the only power-ups in the game. This sounds simplistic, and it is, but it can result into a very exciting gameplay.
There is a co-operative two player mode which should make things a little easier on you. Or so you think. It takes great skill to work together and manoeuvre, because if you hit the shield of your partner, you'll be pushed away. And in some parts of the game this easily leads to a crash. But two is always better than one. This is a fun mode to play.
Another aspect of Ikaruga is that you can register your high score, achieved in challenge mode, on the game's website. You can try to get your high score in the top rankings. This brings me back to the difficulty level of the game. There are three difficulty levels in Ikaruga, but even if you play easy mode, where most enemies don't fire back at you, it's incredibly tough. With this in mind, it's safe to say that Ikaruga is developed for hardcore shooter fans.
The controls of Ikaruga are fairly simple and easy to master. You only use three buttons, a fire button, a switch element button and a special energy wave button. So that's not the issue.The difficulty all lies in the hand-eye coordination. When hoards of enemies and missiles come towards you in every possible direction, where you have to manoeuvre yourself through small glitches with moving walls and those same enemies chasing you, you'll get a picture of what you're up against. Welcome to how games used to be made.
As I said earlier, Ikaruga has only 5 levels. But it takes a while to get your way through them. If you get through them, that is. Because of the high difficulty level, the average gamer will probably give up after a little while, leaving him frustrated and dissatisfied. The 2 player mode is fun though. This could increase the lifespan of the game a little. Playing the game with one of your mates every now and then, releasing that adrenaline.
The game can be finished in under 2 hours if you get the hang of it. In that case there is not a whole lot more to do. For those who can't get enough of the game, there are a couple of things that can be unlocked, such as an art gallery or a new game mode. Good luck with that.
I truly believe that Ikaruga is more suitable for the die-hard arcade shooter fan, or at least for a gamer who likes fast paced action. Those people will love this game. The average ninty-gamer might be a little reserved to get into it. But if you're looking for a little variety in your collection, be sure to check this one out. And for the older gamer generations amongst us, take a walk down memory lane with the arcade shooter Ikaruga.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Great fast paced space-shooter, if you're up to the inhuman challenge.
2 player coop