I don't get the chance to write a review like this very often. Ikaruga, a new title from Infogrames Atari imprint, presents a new take on an old classic, the 'arcade shooter.'? Using a simple gameplay twist, refined graphics, and a level of on-screen destruction requisite for this genre, Ikaruga is an innovative new title, but whether or not it is a good game is up to some debate.
Comparing it to older shooters is rather futile. The only one of recent memory that even approaches Ikaruga is Einhander, which showed similar promise and quality. Your basic craft features 'polarity,'? letting it switch between white and black polarities, where you are invulnerable to shots of your color, while you do twice as much damage to enemy craft of the opposing color. Given the ability to make your craft invulnerable at any time, the enemies in Ikaruga fill the air with enough shots to choke even the most determined arcade adept, and thanks to levels that literally leave you with no room to maneuver, learning to control your polarity and position is a key to success.
There are three basic ways to beat the game, and more or less, succeed. First, you can defeat enemies, shooting away as normal. This might make some areas more difficult, but others much easier, as you destroy everything you can get your hands on. Next is the dot eater mode. While invulnerable to a certain type of shot, you can absorb them to power your special weapon. Technically, it's possible to go through the entire game without firing a single shot, absorbing dots as you go. Finally, you can chain combos, where you destroy three enemies of the same color in a row, looking to earn more and more combos by following this 3 by 3 pattern. This style can perhaps earn you the most points.
It isn't even that necessary to mention the graphics and audio in Ikaruga, because they're secondary to the frenetic gameplay. While they aren't shabby by any means, you won't be paying much attention to them. Ikaruga rests its laurels on hard and fast gameplay, and while it is good gameplay, it's also very challenging, fairly short, and not what I'd call a mass appeal title. Look into it, but I give this one my seal of approval.
Most gamers likely fall into one of two camps: Those whove never heard of (and maybe cant pronounce) Ikaruga and those whove already imported it from Japan. And since I dont have to bother explaining whats so great about this game to the hardcore fiends whove been playing it on their Japanese Dreamcasts for months, Im talkin exclusively to you average Joes: You simply must try this game. Now, I know that old-school shooters are about as popular as the Spice Girls these days, but luckily, this ones good enough to help revive the genre. Im not recommending Ikaruga so highly because it has spectacular graphics (in fact, the visuals here are merely average) or tons of diverse levels (nope you could count em all on one hand). Instead, incredibly innovative, wickedly addictive gameplay is the compelling reason to pick this up. Its pure genius every enemy in the game is either black or white and shoots bullets of that color. You can switch your ships color between the two, and when youre the same color as the bullet headin at ya, youll absorb it rather than perish. It gets a little more complex, since your white bullets cause more damage to black enemies (and vice versa) and you get massive point bonuses for consecutively killing foes of the same color. Sound confusing? Maybe, but after a few sessions, you wont be able to put it down for a long, long time.
I had a Gollum (from LOTR: The Two Towers) moment when writing this review: Yesss...game isss pretty. The gameplay isss wonderful! But nooo...game is too hard, and most people wont appreciates it! But master gamersss will like game! Itsss old school and hardcore! But nooo...most gamersss are not old school and hardcore, so we cannot recommend game! So, how do I review this one? Im a sucker for 2D shooters, and Ikaruga shoots with the best of them. The black/white gameplay twist will test your skills like nothing before, but if you werent raised on classics like Raiden and R-Type, you probably wont see why we think Ikaruga is so preciousss.
Like Keanu Reeves said in...well, every movie hes ever been in: Whoa. Ikarugas onslaught of baddies, bullets, and bosses push your reflexes to their limits, while its brilliant black/white-switching and combo-scoring systems make for surprisingly deep gameplay. As you learn patterns and develop skills (assisted by excellent practice modes and instructional videos), playing Ruga evolves from just hoping to survive, to wanting to beat the game, to finally just having to perfect each stage. My only major gripe is that, despite being infinitely repayable, it could use more levels. Still, if you value mastery and high-score bragging rights, this will blow your socks off your ass.