Video review to follow shortly
Release Date: March Out Now
Price as of Article: $14,99 USD, £11,99 GBP
Game code provided by Nicalis for review
Ikaruga was originally released back in arcades in 2001 and subsequently made it onto the Dreamcast in 2002 and onto the gamecube in 2003.; It has also made an appearance on the Xbox 360, PC and now onto the Nintendo Switch. The story is about a a rogue pilot named Shinra who battles an enemy nation using the ship Ikaruga.
Lets get two things out of the way about Ikaruga. Its one of the most difficult shmups you will ever play and will certainly appeal to the hardcore gamer. This is not a traditional shooter or bullet hell game, here you can absorb many of the bullets as long as the polarity of the ship matches the colour of the bullets being fired at you.
Your ship can be flipped between black and white and your ship will fire the corresponding colour of the ship. If the bullets being fired at you are white and your ship matches the colour then you can absorb all of those bullets and debris without any issue filling up your laser blast meter. However, there will also be black bullets mixed with the white ones and those are the ones you would have to dodge or of course vice versa. If an enemy ship is white and your ship is white then your bullets will do damage but this damage will be doubled if you flip to the opposite colour, the danger here though is you got get killed by absorbing the wrong colour bullet.
Then there is the scoring system which is another thing you have to master if you want to get on those leaderboards. Hit three enemies of the same colour and you will create a chain, you are then able to either shoot another three white or black enemies to extend the chain – the catch is the sequence always has to be in threes. Create a max chain and keep it going and you can amass some incredible scores. Collecting debris fills up your laser beam homing meter which is invaluable to continue those chains just when an enemy is getting away from you or to kill something larger like a boss.
Ikaruga therefore, to me anyway, is a game that you will spend many hours mastering not just to beat the levels as for me it’s not what this is all about. This game for me is taking each level and putting in many hours to master the art of scoring highly. Make no mistake it’s one of the most difficult things to do in itself. Beating the levels and the bosses are also very challenging so whilst this game is a masterful shooter many will just not get to grips with it and I would say even with the options it will prove inaccessible to many. The mechanic of switching polarities can often lead the brain to confusion as you’re having to think of too many things at once. I often think of it like playing the drums, I always found it really hard to use my foot to keep the beat while using my hands to hit to do the work at the top end of the drum set at the same time. However, with practice you get better and better and thats what this game is like.
With most bullet hells you think about just dodging bullets while killing whatever is shooting them at you. Here you have to worry about what polarity you are and creating chains so it’s a game I can already see that if you have no experience of then the game will split many of you or have a mixed opinion about it and I think that’s totally fair. Personally I think the game is very good but many will think it’s super frustrating which again is going to be a fair point.
In order to leave a high score on the servers you must have the game set to it’s default settings which allow for three lives and no continues. if you want to see the whole game then you can change the settings to allow, unlimited continues or set it to a number you feel comfortable with. You can also change the amount of lives you have but again if you make these changes you will not be allowed to record any high score or replays. If you want to see every level and every boss then you are best off changing the settings. Playing the game in easy doesn’t give much respite as it’s still hard. This game requires a huge investment in time and an unquestionable will and determination to succeed.
You cannot rely too much on reflexes only here, this is about knowing whats coming and it what sequence. It’s about perseverance and a willingness to learn, some of the narrow corridor parts on level 2 for example will drive you mad so do you have what it takes to learn each part of the level to beat it? The game asks a lot from you and not everyone will be able to cope with this demand that’s for absolute certain.
A really cool feature is the replay feature, you can save anyone’s replay and then watch how they got their high score. This can then create learning for other players to get better. Watching some of the reviewers who were better than I was, was honestly a joy. This is a real game of skill and those who master it and are able to get those s ranks I suspect will be few and far between which is why it’s so impressive to watch.
You can play the game with a friend locally but for me it just isn’t as fun as playing alone. The reason for this is you really need someone of equal skill to play with or it becomes frustrating. Much like watching synchronised swimming only the the swimmers are not synchronised.
This game is best played loudly due to its awesome soundtrack which just gets you hooked right from the beginning and also plays a very significant part in learning the levels. It’s very possible to listen out for audio cues as to which enemy is coming from where next. Explosions are grand and bullets sound awesome firing from your ship. the music ad sound effects for this game are just epic.
Visuals and Performance
Ikaruga runs at a smooth 60 FPS on the Nintendo Switch and looks superb still today. Everything moves in the game so effortlessly and even though the game is well over 10 years old it still looks great. You have the opportunity to play both in vertical and portrait mode on the switch which of course is cool. you have the options to flip the screen whichever way you like. My only bone of contention as always with these ports is I just wished it used the whole screen but I understand this would mean re developing the game.
For $15 you are getting one of the best shooters on the Nintendo Switch if you are into hardcore games. Make no mistake going into this that it’s one of the most difficult games you will ever play. It takes great dedication and mastery and for that will demand your iron will, determination and many hours. If you have not got that in you then stay clear but if you have then there is nothing better than mastering this wonderful game.
Visuals are still great today
Tight gameplay and mechanics
Inaccessible for most