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Q2 2003



- Gorgeous 2D graphics

- Innovative gameplay

- Great boss battles



- Makes other games look anemic

- Could stand to be a few levels longer



Review: Bangai-O (Dreamcast)

Review: Cannon Spike (Dreamcast)



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Score: 9.5/10

If I only had one paragraph to write this review, it would look something like this:

If you like shooters, go buy Ikaruga now; if you like twitch gameplay, go buy Ikaruga now; if you want to support Treasure in its effort to keep old-school gaming alive, go buy Ikaruga now.  Actually, no matter who you are, go buy Ikaruga now.

ikaruga-1.jpg (24617 bytes)          ikaruga-2.jpg (23570 bytes)

Luckily, I don’t have to finish the review that quickly.  The above can instead serve as both an introduction to and a summary of the full review.  If you have absolutely any interest in 2D, top-down shooters, Ikaruga is an amazing experience and a must-buy game.

Treasure has been blessing gamers with brilliant shooters since the days of the Sega Genesis.  On that system, Gunstar Heroes really stood out as a gem and gets my vote as the best shooter of the 16-bit era.  A generation later, Treasure gave the world the best shooter of the 32-bit era—Radiant Silvergun.  Unfortunately, not 




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too many in North America got a chance to play RS as it was never released on 

these shores.  I imported the game just after it was released and played through it at least 200 times before finally selling it on EBay for a considerable profit.  That game took the entire shoot’em up genre and blew it up to reform it in all new ways.  Ikaruga is not quite that innovative, but it might actually be the better game; I’ll let you know after 150 more plays.



Some readers might realize that Ikaruga appeared first on the Dreamcast near the end of that system’s life.  Anyone who played this gem on that system can pretty much skip the newer version as not much has changed.  Hardcore gamers, though, might still want to pick up the Gamecube version as the graphics are rendered at a higher resolution and slowdown is virtually non-existent.  In fact, the GC Ikaruga is a smooth-playing gorgeous game that should remind everyone just how far 3D games have to go before they catch 2D games as far as sheer beauty goes.

Those that didn’t catch the game on the Dreamcast are in for a real treat.  Ikaruga, though not as innovative as Radiant Silvergun, is every bit as action-packed and challenging.  As with all great shooters, the gameplay of Ikaruga is mostly about dodging hundreds of “bullets” while trying to, in turn, blow the crap out of dozens of enemies.  Having successfully done that, the game sends some great, huge “bosses” the player’s way to cause even more mayhem.  The boss battles here are so cool they are worth the price of the game all on their own.

The cool gameplay innovation this time around for Treasure involves allowing the player to control the polarity of his ship.  Enemies are built on either light energy or dark energy.  The player is able to shift his ship between light and dark (think Treasure’s PS2 masterpiece Silhouette Mirage and you’ll have the right idea).  .  While light, the players weapons do extra damage to dark enemies, and while dark, the weapons do the same to light enemies.  Of course, the opposite applies:  while light or dark, the opposite colored weapons of the enemies drain your energy quickly.  Just that, combined with the great graphics and cool boss battles would have made Ikaruga a great shooter, but there is more.  Whether in light mode or dark mode, the ship in Ikaruga is immune to the attacks of the same color.  In fact, the ship absorbs said attacks which fill the light and dark meters respectively.  At any point, the player can release the absorbed energy as an attack that damages all enemies on the screen.  The more full the energy bar, the greater the damage of the attack, and, like the normal attack, the super-sized attacks do more damage to enemies of the opposite color.  All of this adds a level of depth to the gameplay not seen in most shooters.

ikaruga-3.jpg (25341 bytes)          ikaruga-4.jpg (26758 bytes)

It is hard to explain how vibrant and exhilarating the gameplay of Ikaruga is, but I’ll try.  Imagine a screen absolutely full of light and dark “bullets”.  The player must constantly switch back and forth between light and dark to absorb the different “bullets”, while at the same time killing the enemies on the screen.  When things get too hectic, or when the light or dark energy bars are maxed out, the players can release a huge burst of light or dark energy to clear the screen and then things begin again. 

The only thing more hectic than a level of Ikaruga is a boss battle in Ikaruga.  The bosses here are huge, screen-filling creatures with amazing weapons and defenses.  When a player beats a boss in this game, it really feels like he has accomplished something.  Now, how many games is that true for these days.  Heck, how many games even have huge honking boss battles to fight?  Not enough for me.

So, I’ll finish this review the way I started it.  If you love shoot’em ups, or even just love great games, go out and buy Ikaruga now.

- Tolen Dante

July 5, 2003

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