Ikaruga is a top-down vertical scrolling shooter developed and published by Treasure, but the later ports were published by Atari, Xbox Game Studios, and Nicalis. The game first released in Japanese arcades on December 20, 2001. The game acts as the spiritual successor to Treasure's previous vertical shooter Radiant Silvergun.
Several years ago, the ruler of the island nation of Horai discovered an incredible power deep underground known as the Ubusunagami Okinokai. The leader and his followers used the power to conquer other nations, but soon, a rebel group challenged the Horai. Despite many battles, they had lost every fight and were almost wiped out, except for a young pilot named Shinra, who had set out to battle the Horai, but was shot down and crashed in a small village. The people who lived in the village cared for him, but Shinra was determined to continue fighting the Horai. The villagers then provide him with a fighter craft they developed named the Ikaruga. Now only Shinra can save the world from the devastation of the Horai.
Why It Rocks
- The game is a very unique shooter and is an example of great game design. In the game, the enemies shoot black and white bullets. Your ship can also switch its color from black and white. When your ship is the same color as the bullets, it will absorb them, but will be destroyed when it hits bullets of the opposite color.
- The levels are expertly designed around the mechanic, making the ability not just a gimmick. For example, in level 3, the player must navigate a corridor of lasers of both colors being swapped, forcing the player to swap between colors while also memorizing the patterns of the lasers. Levels like these in turn give the game a more puzzle-like element that isn't commonly seen in most shooters.
- Well designed scoring system. If the player destroys three enemies of the same color in a row, they will gain bonus points. If they keep it up, their score will increase dramatically. This design makes for smart memorization to get a high score.
- Decently designed risk/reward system. If the player fires at enemies of the same color, they will do normal damage, but if they risk shooting at enemies of the opposite color, they will deal double damage.
- Each of the five levels have their own unique playing style. For example, the first level works as a sort of training level, while the forth level is an endurance test of quick dodging and swapping.
- Many different enemy types, with new ones introduced in every level. These range from small ball-like enemies that swarm the screen, foes that fire beams left to right, and large ones that fill the screen with small bullets of one color.
- Masterfully designed boss fights. Each of the bosses (known as the Butsutekkai) have their own unique pattern for the players to follow. For example, the first boss (Eboshidori) has players absorb many bullets of the same color while less frequent bullets of the opposite color swarm toward to the player. In addition to a main way to beat a boss, you can finish them off in different ways. You can even beat a boss fight without destroying the boss, and can instead endure the bullet patterns.
- Not only is the soundtrack great and very unique sounding with its eastern-style, it even helps you play. The game uses a design approach were the music somewhat syncs up with the action. This can be somewhat helpful in timing the color swaps.
- Excellent 3D graphics that still hold up well today, even on the oldest versions. The graphical color scheme is more muted than most other games and fits the design of the world. Along with colors of the red/black and blue/white bullets, the game overall looks very pretty.
- The game has a lot of replayability. This comes in the form of figuring out the best path for high combo chains to gain a high score. You can also try different ways to finish levels, such as making it to the end without shooting.
- The home console ports have additional gameplay modes. Some of these are good for practice, like being able to practice certain stages or playing with reduced speed. On the other end, some are made for challenge, such as Prototype Mode, where you have a limited amount of bullets to fire and gain more by absorbing enemy fire. The more recent versions even have online leaderboards to share your high score on.
- With the game being very difficult, it may be hard for anybody but hardcore fans of the shooter genre to get into.
- Not all ports have the same features, such as the Switch version not allowing the players to select specific sections of a stage.
When Ikaruga originally released in Japanese arcades, it received mixed reception, with players more or less expecting a standard fast paced shooter, only to find a more puzzle like game. As time went on, Ikaruga was more positively received in retrospect and is now considered on the best shooters ever made.
- Memorize the levels so you can be familiar with the patterns of hazards and enemies. It may not seen like much, but it can go a long way to mastering the game.
- When practicing each of the levels, it may be a good idea to set gameplay at slower speeds in the options so you can better understand some of the faster enemy patterns.
- Remember, you can't beat the game without switching your color.
- The game was originally meant to act as a sequel to Radiant Silvergun rather than a sequel. As a matter of fact, Radiant Silvergun was meant to be the first in a trilogy. However, this idea was dropped midway through Ikaruga's development.
- Interestingly enough, despite the two games now being unrelated, the final boss of Ikaruga looks a lot like the final boss of Radiant Silvergun. The names of the two bosses are the same as well (The Stone-Like).