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Ikari Warriors (NES) artwork

Ikari Warriors (NES) review


"I first encountered the plodding Ikari Warriors at the local Spaghetti Warehouse, tucked between Stun Runner and some random football game. In those carefree days, I thought Ikari Warriors was good, and I mean "good" in a sense other than for killing time while waiting for the linguini with garlic butter sauce to arrive. Guiding a bandanna-coiffed Rambo ripoff through grimy Vietnamese jungles is every little girl's video game fantasy (or at least it was mine), and Ikari..."



I first encountered the plodding Ikari Warriors at the local Spaghetti Warehouse, tucked between Stun Runner and some random football game. In those carefree days, I thought Ikari Warriors was good, and I mean "good" in a sense other than for killing time while waiting for the linguini with garlic butter sauce to arrive. Guiding a bandanna-coiffed Rambo ripoff through grimy Vietnamese jungles is every little girl's video game fantasy (or at least it was mine), and Ikari Warriors featured not one but two suitably swarthy commandos.

Truthfully, the game was never good. It's the concept that I loved, and my brief experiences with the excessively-difficult arcade version never allowed enough time for my starry eyes to dim. I eventually played the eight bit NES port (lacking the arcade cabinet's cool rotary controller) and discovered how repetitive, irritating and poorly-constructed the game actually is.

Although later entries in the series put forth dumb and nonsensical plots, the original keeps it simple stupid. From the instruction manual: "Paul and Vince are warriors with secret orders to invade an enemy nation." The covert operation begins when Paul and Vince's pudgy airplane is shot full of holes and crashlands in the middle of a densely-populated jungle, crushing a few dozen trees in the process. Swarms of blue-pantsed soldiers with blue jackets and blue helmets bear down on the shirtless heroes, dispelling any pretense of top secrecy. Tanks approach, helicopters descend, mayhem ensues.

Not quite. Two, perhaps three or even four blue soldiers dart for Paul (or Vince), threatening less with their weaponry and more with the inconvenient angles at which they approach. In most top-down shooting games, overhead perspectives allow for a great deal of mobility, but in Ikari Warriors your dog of war's scissor-like legs (two frame animation at its choppiest) tread water, land and concrete at an inexorably lethargic pace. Every now and again, a blue soldier (indistinguishable from the other blue soldiers) charges feetfirst without firing a shot. Beware, for this is no ordinary soldier; this is a ninja soldier, a master of Musashi's Jitsu of Mijin! If he gets too close, this diabolical villain suicide bursts himself into a poofy mess of silver smoke that covers a diameter of around five full body lengths . . . and your eyesore of an ultimate warrior is caught in the explosion because the Ikari Warriors are slow. Very slow.

Sometimes the game glitches and you get stuck inside a wall and have to reset the console.

The warriors overcompensate for their leaden feet with equally irritating ambidexterity, a trait to be cursed and not lauded. As your shirtless alter ego ducks behind an olive stone for cover and then turns to the left to zero that perfect shot in on the man-sized tank, he inexplicably and inconveniently switches his rifle from right arm to left, shooting the rock instead of shooting around it. There is absolutely no way to use boulders, pillars or any other inanimate object for cover; no matter which way you turn, the rifle shifts into the most inopportune hand, showering harmless objects with bullets. Fortunately, like every other run-and-gun throughout the history of gaming, your standard-issue assault rifle carries infinite clips.

Not. Ikari Warriors ignores the most basic of shooter tenets and limits the standard rifle ammunition, compounding an already overly difficult game's level of irritation. Expend all 99 bullets (it won't take long) and your neutered dog of war won't be able to bite anyone. At least you can admire his uselessly muscle-bound body during the inevitable "spinning death animation", reminiscent of mortally wounded Sunday afternoon martial artists. Admire one hundred and four times over. Rambo blew up Afghanistan by himself, but it takes two hundred listless Pauls and torpid Vinces to clear out a single fortress. Fortunately, SNK included a dirty trick. When you run out of lives, quickly input the secret code "ABBA" for a second (and third . . . and fourth . . .) shot at victory.

SNK played an even dirtier trick on those foolish enough to waste their money: the four levels are comprised almost entirely of unmasked filler, stretching the game to excruciatingly repetitive lengths. The most irritating of all are the "water" segments; while the idea of crossing rivers sounds intriguing, the act of listlessly sludging through entire screens of blue fails to strike a pleasing chord. In a ruthless act of barbaric cruelty, SNK crafted an entire stage around the "water makes you move very slowly while bullets easily kill you over and over" concept. By including such a sadistic level, SNK has proven the obvious: even underpowered opponents become legitimate threats when the player can't move.

Sometimes the music stops and you have to reset the console to restart the soundtrack.

The graphics are just as repetitive as the level design. The ground is brown. Walls and fortresses are gray. Tanks are guano. The enemy soldiers are painted either blue or occasionally pink, proving that SNK may be guilty of shoddy artistic design, but they're not guilty of chauvinism. The third level leader provides the bulk of Ikari Warriors' visual creativity; a drooling gorgon who sits behind a sturdy desk, the chin-drippingly fearsome Torquemada pushes pencils while swarms of blue soldiers flank the doomed Ikari Warrior from both sides. The idea of a rigidly desk-bound boss proves mildly entertaining in a "can this game get any dumber" kind of way.

Between the absurd difficulty and mundane gameplay, it's a question that you'll likely not attempt to answer. The game's only prominent positive is that it's one of the few NES action titles that allows two-person cooperative play. You can play Ikari Warriors with a friend . . . but I can't because none of my friends like it. They would probably laugh if I even asked. For a stout Rambo clone fix, either check out Guy Kazama in the far superior Last Alert or revisit the ever-classic Commando.

Rating: 3/10

lilica's avatar
Community review by lilica (September 21, 2004)

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