- Dreamcast (jp only) - 2002
Reviewed by Rodrigo
don't die not to live. I don't yield if my wish is not fulfilled.
I never die with regrets." The mighty Dreamcast also lived
and died under this oath, and, even near the end, it was blessed with
one more among many masterpieces - a truly special game, one of the
best shmups ever.
Ikaruga, the "spiritual
sequel" to Radiant Silvergun, is an unusual game. It
is not colorful or upbeat like most shmups; instead, it looks, sounds,
and plays like a shmupping epic war drama. Solemn, oppressive, overwhelming
at times. Expected anxiously by Dreamcast fans and shmuppers everywhere,
this was seen then as the final blast for Sega's little white box
Its original version was a NAOMI-powered
arcade, with a vertical screen. There are three ways to play the Dreamcast
port: with black borders on the sides (a bit like Truxton
on the Mega Drive), as a side-scrolling shmup, or with the TV turned
to the side, for a pixel-perfect arcade experience. Which reminds
me, it is time for the...
I never had any problem, and this
is the best way to play. Still, according to some people, flipping
your TV may damage it. There, you have been warned, so, in
case things go wrong, do not expect me to give you a dime. Now, on
with the review.
GRAPHICS - 10 of 10
Ikaruga is probably
the best-looking shmup of all time. Even Psikyo's excellent Zero
Gunner 2 is no match to it. Everything in this game is polygonal,
designed with amazing attention to details; the sceneries are fantastic,
the players' ships are as beautiful as StarFox's arwings,
and the reward for defeating the bosses is to witness the most awesome
explosions ever seen on a videogame.
SOUND - 10 of 10
The beautiful pseudo-orchestral music
(actually synthesized, not that anyone will notice a difference) fills
the stages with dramatic power, and the sound effects are subtle and
pleasant - although the robot-like voices are a bit hard to understand.
STORY - 9 of 10
Very good, especially taking in account
that shmups are not known for plot depth...
The small nation of Hourai has unearthed
an artifact of unknown origin and nearly unlimited power. They called
it "the power of God". With it, they have started a military campaign
to take over the whole world. A resistance group called Tenkaku tried
to fight back, but their struggle was useless. All of them were annihilated.
All except one young soldier called
He somehow managed to escape and crash
land by a remote village called Ikaruga. The people there helped him,
and he rested to heal his wounds. Along came Kagari, a Hourai mercenary
who was defeated by Shinra but had her life spared, and decided to
change sides on this war.
They could just hide for the rest
of their lives, but they would not. Shinra still had a mission to
accomplish. Kagari wanted redemption from her dark past. They would
fight for freedom, no matter what the cost might be.
Kagari still had her ship, the Ginkei.
But what was Shinra to fly? The village elders had the answer; they
gave him a new ship, their best - and last - weapon. Just like the
village, it was called Ikaruga.
CONTROL - 8 of 10
The directional is very responsive,
and buttons are fully customizable. The only gripe is the lack of
analog stick support (yes, the exact same flaw as Zero Gunner
2), but that is no big deal, actually. The digital pad is
better for this kind of game, anyway.
GAMEPLAY - 10 of 10
A little ship blasting its way through
waves of enemies and bullets, that is what people expect from any
shmup. But never expect Treasure to do something that has already
been done a thousand times; they always seem to add some magical spice
to whatever genre in which they work. Hence, the polarity system.
All enemies are of either "black"
or "white" polarity, and players can switch their ships' polarities
any time. Everyone fires according to the polarity. Being the same
polarity as an enemy means being able to absorb its attacks to charge
the special attack. Being the opposite means delivering double damage,
but being vulnerable. The enemy fire patterns quickly grow complex,
so dodging is impossible, and polarities are the only way to survive.
Too complex? Well, that is just the
"easy" level. On "normal", destroying an enemy with equal polarity
makes it release "suicide bullets", which makes polarity switching
more dangerous. On "hard", every enemy releases them, so even experienced
shmuppers will have a hard time. Of course, the jam is even more intense
with two simultaneous players.
And there is also the chain system.
A group of three enemies of equal polarity is a "chain"; blast chain
after chain, and score big points. Chaining is fun and challenging,
even if not necessary for beating the game.
Finally, the power-ups... or, more
precisely, the complete lack of them! This game has only a regular,
non-upgradeable shot, and the special attack mentioned above. This
is, surprisingly, a very nice touch, as this one weapon is adequate
for all levels.
This is a mature, challenging and
amazingly well-designed game, with fast action, loads of fun, and
a lot of replay value. It is not merely on par with classics like
Taito's Gunlock and Yumekobo's Blazing Star,
it even surpasses them with ease; Ikaruga has set a
new standard for shmupping.