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Ikari Warriors (NES) artwork

Ikari Warriors (NES) review

"Swedish pop is one thing. Doing nothing but entering the same cheat code over and over is quite another..."

There are times when it works to port an arcade title to a home console, and there are times when it does not. The NES hosted plenty examples of both possible outcomes. Unfortunately, Ikari Warriors is definitely one of the latter.

At first glance, the game appears to represent an accurate conversion of the 1986 run 'n gun shooter you might have found at the local arcade. One or two players advance along a jungle path, shooting with one button and lobbing grenades with the other, as they face a seemingly endless horde of enemies. Power-ups dropped along the way provide a welcome boost, and sometimes the heroes get to ride in a stray tank and enjoy vastly improved firepower for a while. Graphically, the experience is true to the source, and the music represents a typically fair approximation. The gameplay, however, is missing a lot.

For starters, the speed at which everything takes place has significantly decreased. Your character wanders slowly at even the best of times, and once the screen fills with moving baddies and projectiles, he'll move at a crawl while the NES does its best to render every moving object.

Then comes the fact that the bullets you fire reach only a limited range, must impact an enemy precisely to register as a hit, and very often don't. Even most grenades have no blast radius to speak of, hitting only a short distance around the very precise position where they land, which is to say they rarely hit anything at all.

The assorted limitations render your soldier mostly ineffective. And you can get away with being a toothless wonder while you're facing off against enemies that don't even fire back, provided they don't collide with you and kill you by brute force. Your rate of survival diminishes severely, however, once enemy goons realize that they also are carrying guns. Theirs aren't any more effective than yours in a one-on-one battle, but the odds are seldom even. Soon, the screen is virtually covered in projectiles. Enemies spawn indefinitely, leaving you without the opportunity to clear a safe path. You either advance or you don't, but either way, you're under constant fire. And when you combine that oppressive gauntlet with the fact that a single hit means instant death, the end result is that you'll spend most of your time dying.

The power-ups I mentioned a moment ago do mitigate some of the game's issues. Grenades can be traded in for more effective variations that actually stand a chance of hitting their targets. Bullets can be fired more frequently and at a greater range, and it's even possible to produce a spread shot with the proper upgrade. You start to get a real taste for power. The problem? One hit strips everything away. You are allotted three lives, but once you get past the first minute or two of play, taking a hit might as well drop you on the "Game Over" screen. I found it impossible to ever get back into the game once my goodies were taken away, and subsequent deaths always followed very quickly. Any upgrade I found was lost mere seconds later.

Once all lives have been exhausted, you can press the A and B buttons to spell "ABBA" and gain another three of them, but you're still without goodies and that means they won't last long. I would use the code to advance the screen a bit more and tackle a few more enemies, but it wasn't long before I would have to enter it again. And again.

With a game like this, I'm honestly satisfied if it offers even just the equivalent of a "popcorn movie." Let me mindlessly blow stuff up and you've got an experience I might enjoy. But here, I get interrupted so often with basically unavoidable deaths that the fun never really has a chance to start. And if I play with a friend, the primary difference is that now two of us are constantly entering the continue code to add another minute to our torment. Yes, there are those rare moments when you can enter a tank and roll over the battlefield while firing more effective projectile bursts (assuming you get to the vehicle before your friend does). While that lasts, the game finally feels the way it is supposed to. Then you get hit by a stray cannon shot or a grenade and all that power is gone in an instant. You're left to return to the old grind. It feels like a taunt, that brief moment when you realize that the game actually could have been fun.

Advance long enough in spite of the handicaps and you'll recognize minor changes to the enemy resistance, including mines that show up when you get close, pools of water to wade through at an even slower speed than normal, enemy turrets, and even a horde of aggressive insects at one point. None of that changes the fact that basically, all you're doing is punching in a cheat code every so often, then advancing a little further before you're stuck using it once more.

If, like me, you are crazy enough to keep slogging through the campaign at length (assuming your fingers never mess up and enter the wrong code), you will eventually find that the third stage suffers from graphical glitches. These prevent you from even really being able to see where you're going. Eventually, you run into a wall of sorts, with no apparent way to proceed, and thus ends your game. But realistically, you'll have thrown in the towel well before that point. Ikari Warriors on the NES fails to enthrall the player even briefly. In short, it faces its Waterloo within the hour...

sashanan's avatar
Freelance review by Peter Butter (December 10, 2015)

Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.

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