Written By Shaun McCracken

I put off getting Ikaruga not because I didn't want to, but more of the fact that I think it was a little much to pay for a shooter that seemed short in length. Then again, this is probably one of those games that will become rare in a few years, and it may actually be an investment.

Still, while I think Ikaruga still has a fairly high price point, I think the game is still worth getting for a number of reasons. For one, how often does a company take a risk brining a cult game to the U.S.? If Atari was willing to bring Ikaruga to Europe and the states, and on the Gamecube, they must have known how good it was. Second, there is a surprising level of depth to the game that you usually don't see in typical arcade shooters. Third, it's hard. Very hard. You will not beat the game on the very first try, believe me. Even on easy, the game is surprisingly difficult. You'll try over and over to get further each time you go, until you finally reach the end. And for me, it took 7 hours (game time) to finally beat the game. For a game with five stages, it sure is a long road that is laid out in front of you.

Oh, I forgot the details of the game! For those who don't know what Ikaruga is, it started out as an arcade shooter based upon Sega's NAOMI hardware. In 2002, it was ported to the Dreamcast, and sold only in Japan. I guess the game had such a great following, Infogrames (Atari) decided to bring the game to the Gamecube in Japan, then later to the U.S. The game is pretty much a standard plot for an arcade shooter. You are the last hope for mankind, and you must shoot EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. But really, we don't play these games for the story, now do we?

The game design, at first seems like an ordinary shooter. Enemies approach you, and you shoot to kill. But there's a twist. Your ship has two different "polarities", white and black. You can change your ship's polarity at anytime with the press of a button. This helps and hinders in a few ways. If you are an opposite color of the enemy (which are also broken down to black or white shades), you inflict twice the damage and you get twice the score. But, if you take the enemies fire, you blow up. However, if you are the same color as the enemy, you absorb the enemies shots, which can increase a meter on the side of your screen that is meant for the use of a special homing missile attack.

Of course, you can't just go around shooting everything in sight. Well, you could, but you won't score as many points. To get a higher score, you need to go for the chain bonuses. Destroy enemies of the same color 3 times in a row for 1 chain. Keep shooting 3 enemies of the same color, and you increase your chain and your score. Your chain never ends until you shoot an enemy out of sequence. For instance, if you already destroyed 2 white enemies, and then destroy a black enemy, the chain is broken. Again, this isn't easy, as it takes perfection to master the big chains. If you think you can score big, you can go for the challenge mode, which after you're done, you'll be given a password to enter on the Ikaruga world ranking site (located at

There's also a technique called "bullet-eater", which you do not fire, but only absorb the enemies shots. I'm not sure what the benefits of the technique are, since I've never really tried it out. The manual mentions the technique, and there are some tutorials that show how it's done. It's surely a different way to play, and will challenge those who try the technique.

Graphically, Ikaruga is a nice looking game. While you're pretty much "on-rails" in terms of how you play, the action sweeps around with great motion. The backgrounds are subtly colored, but are seemingly effective, and look very sharp. I'm not sure if it's pre-rendered or real time, but it's very clean and looks great. And Ikaruga never slows down, no matter how many bullets or enemies are on screen. This is a big plus.

The sound matches the game pretty well. The music keeps up with a dramatic score, and never becomes obnoxious or irritating. The sound effects, while just mainly consisting of explosions and gun fire, sound pretty good. Theres not much to be annoyed with in terms of sound, unless you can't stand the robotic voices.

Ikaruga may be short, but it's very, very difficult. While most games today rely on huge environments and exploration, Ikaruga keeps it simple while adding as much depth as possible. I think many would have a hard time accepting the fact that this is just an arcade shooter, and this only has five stages, but trust me that once you get into this game, you will not only have your ass handed to you many times, but you'll also find yourself playing this game many times over again. While I wouldn't say Ikaruga has unlimited replay value, it will surely be played many times, and is a great game to keep around in your collection when you're looking for something simple yet tough to play when you're bored. Games like this do not come around often, especially in this particular genre. If you love arcade shooters, or just want a really challenging game, Ikaruga may be worth a purchase. It gets better each time you play.



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It's great to see a company take a risk publishing a niche game in this country, but the price could have been $10 lower.

I haven't played many side scrolling shooters this generation to compare this game to besides R-Type Final, and that game ranks almost the same as Ikaruga.

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