Ikaruga Review

Developer: Treasure Publisher: Atari
Release Date: April 15, 2003 Also On: None

2D space shooters saw their heyday come and go back during the 2/4 bit and 8 bit generations of game consoles. Few and far between are 2D space shooters anymore, and what few there are often don’t get the recognition they deserve. Ikaruga is a game that is heavily underrated by the gaming community at large, a game that didn’t get anywhere near the level of recognition it deserved. The advance of 3D graphics to the detriment of great 2D genres is both a blessing and a curse to the gaming industry.

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Anyway, I’m not really sure why I’m writing this. I know the site used to have a review of this game, but it, last I checked, was no longer present. Whether it was a casualty of the hacker strike we had or whether Kyle just deleted it for a personal reason I really can’t say. But either way, the point is that this game is good enough that I feel the need to step up and remind people why it’s so great.

What can I say about the graphics? For a 2D game, they are very well-detailed. Everything looks just like it should. The ships, the backgrounds, the scenery and obstacles, everything looks very good. I don’t think these graphics could have been made much better. Treasure did an excellent job on them.

I wish I could say the same about the sound. The music is very catchy, and the sound effects sound much like updated versions of the sound effects from classic 2D space shooters. However, I have one complaint about the sound, and it has to do with the voice. Yes, there is a voice in this game, although it doesn’t say much. “Press start button� when you turn on the game and “Warning� when a boss is approaching are all I recall of it saying. Yet, while it is bad enough that the voice sounds all computery, even worse is the fact that it is barely understandable. Yet, as little of this voice as there is in this game, the sound overall still can get a very good rating.

The gameplay is not quite exactly what you’d expect from a 2D space shooter. Unlike most games in the genre, there are no powerups to collect. Instead, you charge homing missiles by absorbing bullets. Yes, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this game, this game is just as much about absorbing bullets as it is about destroying them. You see, there are two colors of bullets: white and black. Your ship can change between the two colors at will, and can absorb bullets that are the same color as the ship. As you absorb bullets, you build up a bar that determines how many homing missiles you can fire. This bar empties every time you fire the missiles or if you die, which you do by running into an obstacle, a ship, or a bullet of the opposite color.

Since not all bullets are deadly, it should not surprise you that the levels, particularly the later ones, are completely covered with them. Switching colors quickly is a big key to survival in this game, but survival still will not be easy. This is easily one of the most difficult 2D space shooters I have ever played. Indeed, the difficulty of the game more than makes up for its relative brevity. The game is only five hours long, but it will take quite a few playthroughs before you’ll be able to get that far.

If this isn’t enough, this game has chain maneuvers and other such things for those people who want to play not just to survive but to also get a high score. Every time you beat a level you will get a rank based on how many points you accumulated in the level. Between the difficulty of the game itself and the difficulty of getting a high score, this is a short game that will have high replay value for those who care to strive for perfection in it. That, combined with three difficulty levels, which should have been named hard, harder, and impossible rather than what they are named, and a two-player mode, make this game a game with nearly endless replay value for the true 2D space shooter fan.

Ikaruga is a game that hasn’t gotten near the credit it deserves. If you are a fan of games like this, you owe it to yourself to give Ikaruga a try. Despite its difficulty, you will not regret doing so.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.5
Written by Martin Review Guide

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