First, let me start with apologies for the lack of posting last week, things have been a touch crazy, but hopefully starting with this and tomorrow’s review, things will get back on track. Onwards to the game!

Ikaruga is a Japanese sh’mup that was released in 2001 to arcades, then released for Dreamcast, and eventually the Nintendo Gamecube. This is where i got my first taste of this brutal game. It has since been released on the Xbox Live Arcade, and this is what the following is based upon.

Ikaruga seems so simple; black vs. white. In essence, there are 2 colors of enemies, black and white, which fire bullets that match their color. Your ship is either black or white, and you have the ability to change it at will, with 2  very distinct advantages: first, you absorb bullets of the color of your ship, which in turn powers up your special attack, and you deal extra damage to the enemies of the opposite color. Simple enough right? Think again.

While it would seem that only having to worry about half of the projectiles on the screen at one time, one still needs to heed the position of enemy ship of both colors, as touching them will make your ship explode. The enemies are fast moving and sometimes unpredictable, but that is only part one of the challenge. Part two comes from the sheer number of bullets fired on screen at any one time. Players will often be taken aback as they look at the shots filling their screen, coming from all angles, closing in on your ship, only to be avoided by a deftly maneuvered turn, or a timely polarity flip. The game consists of 5 fairly short stages, each with a prologue, a title, and a boss battle. The player is graded on performance during each stage, based upon the number of enemies of the same polarity they killed in a row, the number of times the player died, as well as other things.

Those people who think this is strictly a shooting game are sadly mistaken, however the game may seem on the surface. I think it safe to say that the real challenge is becoming a “bullet-eater”, or finishing the game without shooting. Since you are able to absorb like colored bullets, players can progress through the stages as the enemies fly by them, arriving at the boss of the stage. There is a timer for each boss, and after the time is expired he wil fly away. This provides another strategy for those who have quicker reflexes than i to play with.

There is nothing wrong with this game. The graphics are stellar (no pun intended), the controls are simple, fly, shoot, and change polarity, and special attack all assigned to their own button. The length of the game, while it appears short, lends itself well to multiple plays (if you can finish it), and is just right to make you want more, but still be satisfied with what you got. The difficulty is way up there, but well worth the frustration. As this is an Xbox game, there are the requisite Achievements, which include killing the bosses, and achieving good stage grades, and these give you something to attempt to refine your technique for.

-The graphics are killer for a 8 year old game.
-Multiple strategies with a simple interface.
-Very challenging.

-Difficulty could be offputting to some.
-Only 5 levels, but at 800 Microsoft Points, ($10 USD) it is well worth it.



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