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Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road (NES) artwork

Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road (NES) review

"Divinely tolerant cheaters who persevered to the end of the original Ikari Warriors rescued “the Colonel”, forever sealing that game’s fate as a cheap Rambo knockoff. With Victory Road, SNK shattered their protective shell of mimicry and pieced together a genuinely original story. They also crossed the bounds of good sense. "

Divinely tolerant cheaters who persevered to the end of the original Ikari Warriors rescued “the Colonel”, forever sealing that game’s fate as a cheap Rambo knockoff. With Victory Road, SNK shattered their protective shell of mimicry and pieced together a genuinely original story. They also crossed the bounds of good sense.

After heroically extracting “the Colonel” from his Vietnamese prison, Paul and Vince flew their pudgy aircraft straight into a swirling interdimensional vortex. From deep inside the cosmic gulf, a thoroughly ridiculous alien being (somewhat resembling a Klingon reborn as stocky midget) addressed the Ikari Warriors in annoyingly shrill Morse code.

“Warriors of Earth! You must save my world from Zang Zip, the war dog!”

We certainly can’t let a vicious scoundrel like Zang Zip run free. Macho sorts that they are, Paul and Vince seized the opportunity to do some good for an alien world and left their beloved Colonel behind to fend for his crippled self. Personally I wouldn’t assassinate someone based on the word of a single ranting goofball, but far be it from me to stand in the way of two buffoons on a quixotic quest to save all inhumanity.

Like the original, the second episode travels the vertical “walking man” shooter road. Unlike the original, a plethora of enhancements have been made to upgrade the action from sloppy to playable. For example, there are no game-crashing glitches; no longer are Paul and Vince arbitrarily slammed into concrete walls. It’s sad that such a thing would even need to be cited as a positive, but SNK is building on a pretty pathetic legacy. Second, the Ikari Warriors walk more quickly than before. They’re still not nimble enough to reliably avoid enemy bullets, in particular the explosive homing bullets that look suspiciously like bumblebees, but it’s a definite improvement over the original’s frustratingly murderous pace. Third, holding the gun button down now allows the warriors to strafe. Consistently shooting straight ahead is an enormous advantage; I wish SNK had thought of that the first time around.

The most notable improvement is a substantial one and deserves more than a passing mention. In Victory Road, an intricate weapon and item system supplants its predecessor’s gas-powered vehicles. No longer limited solely to a machine gun, the Ikari Warriors now heft bazookas, boomerangs or radiant silver swords, each with four degrees of upgrades. The enhancements keep coming; mines serve as an intriguing but mostly useless alternative to grenades, and a monetary system has been implemented. With Valentine’s hearts serving as currency, additional items such as protective armor, jars of Vaseline (?), flaming arrows and thunderbolts become available. Paul (or Vince) can even purchase a pair of cybernetic wings, enabling speedy flight across rugged terrain. The additional equipment is useful, intuitive and diverse.

If only the otherworldly opposition were so diverse. Close your eyes and imagine . . . as Paul sloshes through a stagnant pool of water, a trio of cocoon-born beasts buzz into view. These hive-mind creatures, somewhat resembling green wasps with Wilford Brimley heads, snake through the air to perform their master Zang Zip’s bidding. Paul deftly slaughters the insectoid cormorants in three juicy bursts of machinegun fire. A gelatinous green something bounces across the ground, briefly hesitating at the transparent pool’s edge. Pop! The indistinct blob explodes into a spray of jelly, leaving behind a pulsating red heart.

That doesn’t sound so bad for a first level, but that’s every level. Replace “a stagnant pool of water” with “muddy plains” for the second, “bleak plains” for the third or “a bridge hovering above the stars” for the final. Without even so much as a palette swap, the same enemies crop up throughout every stage, leaving the destructible environments to provide variety (which they do). One level takes place within an enormous alien citadel that was almost certainly constructed by Zang Zip’s legions of slave laborers. Mysterious obelisks and trapezoidal monuments cast dark shadows across the ground’s silver surface, obscuring nothing because every enemy is bright green. Enclosed by concrete walls, Paul hurls grenades to blast his way through to the boss: a lobster-like alien that swings its chainlink arms around the screen. It would all be very cool if this weren’t a boss that had already appeared and died three times prior. Perhaps Zang Zip the war dog is a master of genetic engineering.

Every plot-driven adventure needs its perfunctory twist, and Ikari 2’s shocker tops Sly Stallone’s own Assassins for head-smacking stupidity. The true identity of the final boss elicits a quizzical “huh?” and proves beyond a doubt that the entire adventure was completely pointless. Don’t let that stop you; even my cynical inner bitch has to admit that Victory Road, despite its absurdity, is a somewhat decent game. Although they didn’t push themselves as far as they could have, SNK made enough cool additions (dueling bounty hunters in the interstellar bars) and ridiculous additions (centipedes with moustaches) to cleanse my mind of its mundane Ikari memories.

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Community review by lilica (October 24, 2004)

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