Ikaruga (Dreamcast) review
"A collage of emotion pours from your body the first time you witness an insurmountable wall of bright, glowing bullets looming closer and closer to your ship. The bullets are so packed together, the metallic background disappears, and all you can see is a school of menacing bullets. "
A collage of emotion pours from your body the first time you witness an insurmountable wall of bright, glowing bullets looming closer and closer to your ship. The bullets are so packed together, the metallic background disappears, and all you can see is a school of menacing bullets.
The first feeling is one of anger at the unfairness of its difficulty. It almost seems Treasure produced a game that didnít include the tools necessary to beat it. It seems Ikaruga is stark raving mad, and decided the best way to punish players is to bombard the lowly ship with wave after wave of sheer bulletry. Then the anger slowly fades into disbelief. How on earth can you possible dodge all these bullets? When you realize they really did have the balls to shoot so many bullets, and you really DO have to find a way to dodge them all, a feeling of wonderment emerges from that rage. The game is evil.
But the bullets fly through the air so.Ö..gracefully.
The enemy rocket ships fire their bullets in beautiful arrangements, causing you to pause for just one second to absorb their prettiness. You'll forget the bullets destructive power when they slip through tiny gaps of a rotating a circular wall, like some ancient Incan sun artifact. The scene resembles something found only in the deep depths of our Galaxy. Sometimes the enemy ships will position themselves a few millimeters apart and shoot continues rivers of vertical bullets causing you to sit in a small pocket and watch the bullets stream by. They even DIE gorgeously. Bosses explode with a thunderous roar, and the wash from the explosion bathes the screen in a blinding white light, then slowly fades as the smoking ship starts its battered descent towards to the earth. Weaving through the destructive beauty until you reach the boss remains the essence of this top-down, 2d shooter and simply enjoying the elegance of the enemies gives gamers an aesthetic experience.
Your ship, however, doesn't shoot so gracefully. For the entire game, you fire meager twin lasers and a few homing missiles that can target up to 8 ships. Thatís it. No power ups. With this limited arsenal, coupled with the hundreds of enemies and thousands of simultaneous bullets, the game has a very high difficulty level.
Even aside from the walls of inescaple bullets, there are rocks and other stone objects that impede your ship and cause it to crash. You have to navigate the bullets AND the surrounding scenery with precise movement, just like the enemies who behave similar to ballet dancers. But the d-pad on the dreamcast simply does not allow for such minute maneuvers. Sure, up, down, left, and right work fine, and moving directionally functions well, but itís not fine-tuned. Instead of a straight directional move, the d-pad (and this goes for all dreamcast controllers, whether new or old) will move laterally for a brief moment then down.
For instance in a moving wall stage with huge beams of laser fire pouring through sliding rocks, the only way to escape some of them is to move down and to the right: i.e. diagonally. But often, the ship will only move down, even with the diagonal pressed and cause your ship to crash.
This only effects dodge movements around boulders or other scenery, as firing remains solid. The twin lasers shoot straight and only upward so most of the time will be spent towards the bottom of the screen sweeping back and forth, eliminating enemies and dodging their WALLS of inescaple ebony and ivory bullets.
Thatís right. Black and White. The world of Ikaruga is in black and white. Comprising the main element to this 2d shooter, the ying/yang of colors plays contrast to each other but forms a deadly pair of strategy and destruction. All enemies shoot either black or white bullets, and the shade of their ship indicates which color they're more sensitive too. If you shoot a black ship with black bullets, that will perform normal damage, but if you shoot it with white bullets it will double it. This element of matching up colors opens up the game immensely and provides ample opportunity to intelligently wipe out differing enemies but also provides opportunities for the enemy to construct gorgeous schemes of white and black destruction.
Remember the walls of fire? The devious enemies will unload a bucket full of white bullets, but then another black enemy will shoot its own bucket of bullets that will create a nexus of bullets directly in the middle where it is impossible to switch colors and dodge. Imagine the entire screen a checkerboard of white and black bullets. At times, youíll simply drop the controller in awe and watch your ship die.
Youíll drop your controller because your brain simply cannot process the information needed to dodge all the bullets. As a final point to the ebony/ivory, black/white gameplay, you can absorb bullets depending on the bulletís color. A simple press of the B button flips your ship over to its opposite color --- in real time. The change is nearly instantaneous therefore itís possible to switch back and forth many times in the space of a few seconds. The rush is amazing when you navigate a series of colored bullets, flipping over beautifully and dodging bullets while wiping out enemies. Youíll feel like youíre putting on a show. But the cruelness of Ikaruga displays its meat by overwhelming you with bullets, and you can almost sense the electric neurons sparking in your brain, trying desperately to find a safe passage. But itís just too much. Your brain will overload.
After performing all that work, narrowly escaping death while flipping and shooting your assortment of black and white bullets, Treasure concludes each harrowing level with the culmination of difficulty rivaling any other 2-d shooter game. The dodgy d-pad of the dreamcast controller becomes fully evident in these tough boss battles as they usually force you into mere crevices of space, where youíre expected to destroy certain parts of the boss. One boss has two trap like doors that must be shot repeatedly to open, wherein lies his weakpoints. However, the door closes quickly into its mass and will crush you if you stay in its doorway to long. And while you're worrying about the door closing, streams of bullets are being fired.
Perhaps due to the creativity of the levels and enemies and the excellent bosses, the game lasts only 5 levels. And during these 5 levels the enemies fly the same beautiful patterns, therefore itís easy to recognize the trouble spots and some of the WOW loses its muster after repeated plays. In fact, the only reason to play it after initially conquering the game is the high scores, where you can chain up groups of enemies and gain bonus points. Its still a fantastic ride and a must play for action aficionados.
Community review by hepatitisx (May 13, 2005)
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