Posted by Female Gamers on Jan 14, 2010
Ikaruga – Review

Ikaruga – Review

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Ikaruga is an old styled fashioned scrolling shooter set in 2D, against a rich 3D backdrop which has been released for the GameCube. A typical game for science fiction shoot-em-up arcade fans who like to take control an experimental fighter plane, the Ikaruga, to shoot all the crazy enemies away from the screen. Besides the action and the visual overload, the game includes a story as well. Let’s take a look.

It originates in the land of Horai which used to be a small island nation. But several years ago, one of the the most powerful men of the nation , Tenro Horai, discovered the the power of the Gods. This energy emanated from an object he dug up from deep within the earth and gave him powers of unimaginable strength. Soon after that, Tenro and his followers began to conquer other nations one by one. They saw themselves as the chosen people and carried out their conquests in the name of peace. Meanwhile a freedom federation emerged to challenge the Horai. By using figher planes they fought with the hope of freeing the world from the Horai’s conquests. But all their efforts were in vain and lost battle after battle and were wiped out completely. Miraculously, one young man survived and his name was Shinra. Refusing to accept defeat (sounds familiar to gamers), Shinra set off again for Horai to wage another battle. But this time he was shot down and crashed in a remote village called Ikaruga, inhabited by a group of aged people who had been forced into exile there as Horai’s conquests. The village leader and the other inhabitants pulled Shinra from the wreckage of his plane and nursed him back to a healthy man. Once he regained his strength, Shinra announced that he was determined to continue battling Horai. The villagers entrusted him with a fighter plane that they had built themselves called the Ikaruga.

The Ikaruga is the plane the gamer should control till the end of the game and it’s the first fighter plane which integrates the two energy polarities, black and white. It is also capable of successfully switching between the two. This changing is necessary during battle as the enemies are “spitting” black and white energies (bullets) at you. If the enemy is shooting with white energy, you should switch your plane to white, to be able to absorb the white energy. If you stay in the black polarity, make sure to avoid the white energy attack as it will destroy your ship. In the meantime you try to destroy every enemy ship on screen in a certain game feature. Three A couple of gaming modes are included, from practice to conquests to ranked online play. A tutorial is included as well to give you an impression of how the game should be played. In total five levels containing 18 stages, needs to be cleared to finish the game including some amazing styled end bosses. If you conquered them all you can play the game over and over again to become an Ikaruga mistress, in your imagination…But there’s also a possibility to play the game in slow motion to spice up your skills. Multiplayer game mode is also possible if you’re not capable of clearing the levels by yourself and need the help of a co-player which takes the role of Kagari ( see female gaming angle)

In writing the controlling is actually pretty simple. To move your ship you use the control stick or the control pad and the B button is to fire. With a single A button press, you can change the polarity from white to black and visa versa. As you can absorb enemy bullets, your energy release power will increase. Once the power gauge reaches a certain level, you can release all of this energy at once in the form of homing lasers. It may sound simple but while playing it’s much more difficult and quite confusing with all the action presented on screen. The screenshots hopefully indicates the chaos visualized on screen.

The graphics in this game are great. The ships and stages all have great lighting, great coloring (neon), and a sleek look. The enemies all have their specific details and sometimes don’t even look like a ship. The bullets and gun effects all look flashy, with beams and blasts and all kinds of that. You can also change the screen display in several vertical and horizontal modes, whatever is preferable.

The sort of RPG background music (upbeat orchestra tune) is very nice and well suited for this shooter game. A robotic, digitized voice guides you through the menus and the game itself, explaining you what to do or which stage you’re in. But the sound effects blows you away during the battles. The amounts of blasts and explosions that occur are excellent, especially if an end boss has been conquered. Most of the time though, you will “ignore” the sounds as you totally need to concentrate on the game.

Female gaming angle

Although the story is the lowest important factor in the game, it includes a lady called Kagari. She’s Shinra’s new partner and was once a Horai assassin. But she decided to fight along with Shinra. She only becomes available in cooperation mode (2nd player). Another female gaming angle is the question raised how many girls have ordered this game and how many made it to the end … I guess that the more older female audience which have played equal games in the arcades in the early years will find this game appealing or worth giving it a chance.

Stress, pulling hair out of your head, smashing the controller to the TV and screaming “I don’t get it, this is way too difficult” are normal reactions while playing Ikaruga. It is indeed very stressful and if you think that the easy mode is an option for a newbee, you’re partly wrong. The difference between easy, normal and hard is the number of bullets you have during a level. Easy has for example 500 shots available, Normal 300 shots and hard contains 100 shots to fire and destroy your enemies. It is very important to switch your polarities in time to save your ship, to build up energy for extra power and to use the homing lasers. If you have enough experience, knows how to conquer the enemies and the levels and are very handy with the switching of polarities, you’ll certainly get disappointed about the length of the game. It’s not a long game when you have practiced a lot. It contains only five levels with 18 stages and if you know you’re way you could play it within two or three hours! But don’t forget that a lot of game time needs to be invested before you actually finish the game and the difficulty is very hard. Most gamers won’t even make it to the end due the difficulty level, no matter how motivated you’re to finish it. Patience, perseverance and progress focused are the three main abilities a Ikaruga gamer should have, otherwise it’s just not the shooter game for you!

Review by Wencke
Thumb Bandits European Correspondent & manager of GGU.

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