Ikaruga – PC
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Proto Joe
Ikaruga is a 2001 vertical shoot ’em up originally created for arcades by Treasure, the same Japanese development team behind classic titles like Radiant Silvergun (Reviewed by Nerd Bacon’s Nike Halifax!) and Sin & Punishment. This critically lauded but incredibly challenging game managed to spread to several consoles since its birth, and it was recently released on the Steam client to frustrate the next generation of gamers. Being a fan of shoot ’em ups myself, I decided to give this new PC port a try and see if this version lives up to the game’s reputation.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ikaruga, the mechanics of the game are simple. You need to mow down swarms of enemy fighters using a ship that can switch between two polarities, black and white. When you’re black you absorb black bullets and deal double damage to white fighters, and vice versa for when you’re white. Absorbing enough energy lets you fire a devastating homing laser, and killing three enemies of the same color in a row grants you “Chains” that earn you bonus points and lives.
That’s pretty much everything you need to know about Ikaruga. There aren’t any super complicated scoring systems, power-ups to collect, or weapons to choose from like other games in the genre. It just takes a deceptively simple concept and turns it into a surprisingly strategic shooter that tests both your reflexes and your quick thinking skills. You can cut through waves using the opposite color but leave yourself open to attack, or play it safe by matching colors with incoming bullets but deal out pitifully weak hits. You can even beat the entire game by doing nothing but absorbing enemy fire, no shooting required. Ah, the wonders of color-changing.
The PC port does a fairly good job at bringing Ikaruga over to computers. The sounds and graphics haven’t been touched up for the PC release, but Ikaruga’s audio and visuals are still amazing anyway even after so many years. The gameplay remains as fluid as always, and features like TATE mode, which allows players to flip the game by 90 degrees and rest their monitor on the left side for an authentic arcade experience, are kept in. It even adds a new feature called Double Play that allows anyone crazy enough to control two ships with one controller.
Speaking of controls, the keyboard and mouse are decent enough for controlling your ship, but players who are more accustomed to arcade sticks or controllers will definitely have trouble adjusting. Luckily the port supports Xbox 360 controllers, so you can always use those if you have them lurking around somewhere.
Perhaps the only downside to Ikaruga’s PC port is the lack of additional gimmicks present in the consoles. If you wanted the GamCube’s slow motion training mode or the XBox 360’s online co-op play, you’re out of luck. While those console add-ons are, of course, just add-ons that aren’t required to enjoy the game, it’s a shame that the PC Ikaruga isn’t the definitive one. I suppose we’ll have to wait another decade for that to come around.
Still, this port does deliver the vanillia Ikaruga experience in a solid, inexpensive package ($10.00 as of this review). If you’re looking for an excellent shoot ’em up and haven’t given this game a try yet, go ahead and grab it off Steam. Just remember one thing.
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