Ikaruga (GameCube) review
"If a white attack hits you while you're white, you don't receive damage--in fact, you absorb power which can then be stored for a special attack. However, if a black attack hits you while you're white, your ship explodes, and you lose a life. Obviously, this system works the other way around as well. What sounds like a fairly simple concept makes for some of the most intense gaming moments I have ever come across. "
2D space-shooters are becoming somewhat of a rarity these days, especially with the onslaught of incredibly complex, 3D games which were never possible before the ''next generation'' consoles came around. This being said, I don't think that anyone really even wants a 2D top-down space shooter in the vein of old SNES and arcade games. However, those passing off Ikaruga as just another one of these should probably look again, because it is actually one of the most ingeniously crafted GameCube games I have ever seen.
In most 2D space shooters, the object is to dodge all the enemy attacks, while collecting a series of powerups that make your ship stronger. This is not the case with Ikaruga; allow me to explain. There are two colors of enemies and attacks which you will need to worry about, black and white. Your ship can shift between these two colors, instantaneously, at the push of a button. If a white attack hits you while you're white, you don't receive damage--in fact, you absorb power which can then be stored for a special attack. However, if a black attack hits you while you're white, your ship explodes, and you lose a life. Obviously, this system works the other way around as well. What sounds like a fairly simple concept makes for some of the most intense gaming moments I have ever come across.
There are no powerups of any kind in the game--only the energy you can gather by absorbing attacks of the same color. It should also be noted that if you attack an enemy ship of the opposite color, you will deal twice as much damage. What usually happens in the game is there are almost exactly just as many black-colored enemies on screen as there are white ones. Therefore, you will be switching between the two colors frantically to keep yourself from being damaged. It takes a very quick eye, and even quicker reflexes just to make it through this game on easy mode. Though there are only 5 ''chapters,'' you'll likely spend several hours just practicing certain areas so you know exactly what to do.
Boss battles are generally very challenging, with dozens of color-particles floating around the screen for you to dodge and alter your polarity, accordingly. As there are only three buttons in the game (attack, change polarity, special) you'll catch on fairly quickly, but will soon realize that there is a lot more to this game than you might initially imagine.
As if the game weren't already fun enough, a two-player co-op mode has been incorporated, which fits perfectly with this game. My friend and I wittled away the weekend helping eachother through this unimaginably challenging game.
Though the gameplay in Ikaruga is strictly 2D, the graphics are anything but. As you blast your way through the game's chapters, the 3D background is constantly changing, much like in Super Smash Brothers Melee. All the game's effects are very impressive, and the visuals possess a certain clarity which gamers will be thankful for in a game of such precision. I wouldn't expect any more from a game that is 2D in nature.
The selection of music found in this game is actually interesting, as it is symphonic, sweeping, and quite soothing. The sound effects are also much less abrasive than in the average shooting game, seeing as your gun only makes a sound when it hits an enemy, and the usual explosive sounds are replaced with sophisticated beeps and robotic murmurings. If nothing else, you'll be intrigued by the game's sound, but probably not blown away.
Like most games in this genre, the only replay value is found in playing through the same game again and again, on different difficulties. It will likely take you a good 5 hours to complete, with all the continues and re-tries, and my guess is that you'll pick it up again sometime with a friend to do it again. The game itself is fairly short, but I'd like to see someone try to beat it in one sitting.
Do not take this game lightly. It is one of the most well-designed games I have ever seen, its genius being in its simplicity. Who thought switching between two colors could be so damned stressful and challenging? There were dozens of moments when I found my heart racing and my hands sweating as I let my gut reflexes tell me when to switch between black and white. This game is an ideal rental, as it can be beaten in a short amount of time, and may not appeal to everyone. I, however see no problem in buying Ikaruga, as it is one of the most unique and innovative games to hit the market in the last year. You absolutely cannot pass up the opportunity to play this game, even if its just a rental.
Staff review by James Gordon (December 07, 2003)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Ikaruga review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!