Ikaruga Reader Review
April 9th 2008.
It finally arrived.
I said goodbye to my friends and hello to crippling hand pains courtesy of the standard 360 pad.
This is the first time I have downloaded an Xbox Live Arcade title and genuinely felt excited watching the download progress bar. £6.80 (800 MS points) seemed nothing to me and I would have happily paid 30 quid without a second thought - I absolutely love this game. If you were hoping for an unbiased, subjective review, I would look elsewhere for it because over the next few paragraphs there is to be nothing but shooting love........
Not familiar with Ikaruga? It started life as a Naomi arcade game released by Treasure back in 2001 and is considered by many as the spiritual sequel to probably the best shoot 'em up ever crafted, Radiant Silvergun; indeed the opening credits state that the game is Project RS2, generally interpreted as Project Radiant Silvergun 2. Being Naomi based it was ideal for porting to the Dreamcast and a print run of a mere 50,000 copies of the game were produced for Japanese release only, instantly projecting it into cult status.
Fast forward to 2003 and the game was ported to the Gamecube and given a worldwide release. Enjoying limited success, the game once again attracted a further cult following and now in 2008 we can enjoy the game in HD, with Xbox live co-op and downloadable replays - splendid.
Ikaruga is a 2D vertical scrolling shoot 'em up, which like every shoot 'em up, the basic premise is to shoot the enemies, beat the bosses and make it to the end losing as few lives as possible, preferably finishing with that all important 1 credit completion. The bosses are big and at times the screen is littered with bullets and watching some one who 'knows' the game can almost be described as majestic.
There are basically 2 sorts of enemies, black ones and white ones. Black ones shoot black bullets, white ones shoot white bullets. Your ship, Ikaruga or Genkei in 2 player, is able with the press of a button, change its own polarity between black and white. When you are black you can absorb black bullets, when you are white you can absorb white bullets - incredibly important for moping up stray bullets and clearing a path for progression. Simple. Collecting said bullets fills your special meter and they can then be used as a rather handy smart bomb for getting out of sticky situations or for clearing the remaining enemies on the screen to ensure that you keep that all important scoring chain going.
Oh, I forgot to mention the chains.... As with Radiant Silvergun, Treasure built a solid scoring system into the game which not only serves as an extra layer of game play but also makes sure that the really dedicated, uber itchy finger shoot 'em up lover, will probably not rest until they have fully explored every possible avenue for increasing their score. Basically kill 3 enemies consecutively of one colour before killing 3 more consecutively of the same colour would be the best way to describe it. Doing so will start the chain bonus, starting at 200 points for your first set of 3 enemies with a max chain bonus of 25600 points after 9 sets of 3 enemies. Keeping the chain going above 9 will bring a reward of 25600 points for every set of 3 enemies destroyed, so you can begin to see how the points rack up and the loss of chain, for a serious player, will most likely result in a forced restart.
Probably the best feature of this version of Ikaruga is not the online co-op or high def graphics; although it does look very sharp, it's the inclusion of downloadable replays. Following it's original release back in 2001, Ikaruga was the first game to receive it's own appreciate DVD - simply a bunch of brilliant players making their way through the game getting as many points as possible and not dying. Since the DVD release, the amount of superplay videos from numerous players around globe increased, all farming off of each other for scoring techniques and of course all available on the internet via grainy AVI videos. Here of course, thanks to Xbox Live, we not only have online leaderboards but also the option to save the game play replay of the top players around the world. Saved to the Xbox hard drive you are then free to watch them back in HD - some of the skills out there are frankly staggering. Watching them is also testament to Treasure's game production such that the game has been created in a way that these skills are possible and flow almost like the Ikaruga ship is being controlled by a machine.
Make no bones about it; Ikaruga is tough and certainly not aimed at the 'casual' as per Microsoft's latest business plan. Most players will never see the end of the game without credit spamming. Indeed to even achieve this via Free Play takes 10hrs of playtime prior. But in spite of this, Ikaruga is probably one of the most accessible danmaku (bullet curtain) shooters of recent times - certainly so compared to TriggerHeart Exelica. Sure after the first few credits you may feel staggered that anyone would be able to get through the game without dying but slowly the basic playing traits required just seem to click and you never know, you might just be one of those people who have the ability to 1CC.
9 / 10