I'm not proud to say that when I first heard of this game, the thought that came to my mind was "wow, I won't play that game. Shooters like that have been done to death." James would ask me "Is Infogrames sending IKARUGA?" and my reply would be like "I don't know, who cares, the game is yours." Little by little, the more I read about the game the more interesting it sounded. So, a few days ago the game arrived here. And that's when I played it.
"Oh yeah, James, I'm keeping IKARUGA." Between my time of playing STAR WARS GALAXIES (when the servers are online), the rest of my time is devoted either to my girlfriend or IKARUGA. I've only had the game for a few days, and while I haven't been able to play it as much as I wanted to, I really sat down with the game today and just went at it. And boy, did I get frustrated. But that is really the whole fun of the game. Read on.
To really appreciate this game, you really need to know how IKARUGA plays. If any of you remember GRADIUS, RAIDEN, or TWIN EAGLE, you'll understand how the game plays). For those of you who don't, the game is a top-down shooter. In IKARUGA, there are no power-ups or anything like that. There are only a few, simple buttons to learn - one button fires, one is the Homing Laser, and the third button switches your shields from dark to light and vice-versa. The last part might be a bit confusing so let me explain.
In IKARUGA, you will encounter two types of enemies - light and dark. Whatever type of enemy they are, that is what type of weapon they shoot. Your shields come into play here, and if you can't get this down, there is no way you'll succeed in this game. When your shield is light, you absorb light enemy fire but can be destroyed by dark enemy fire and vice-versa. In other words, be prepared to switch back and forth almost constantly as you'll face swarm after swarm of groups of fighters that fire both. To play this game, you will need to be really quick - most of the time, you won't have time to think about switching shields; you'll just have to do it on instinct.
Once again, the game is really difficult, and if you think the beginning is really hard, just wait until you get to some of the later levels. You'll argue with the game a lot of times about whether the shot that hit you was dark or light depending on what shield you have up. Trust me, I did.
For a shooter of this kind, IKARUGA is gorgeous. While the game obviously plays like a 2D shooter, the backgrounds are 3D rendered and the game just combines the technology of today with the old-school gameplay perfectly. While you won't see a lot of bright colors (especially with ships, which are basically two colors), the backgrounds are colorful and provide a break in the monotony.
While not for kids or people who get frustrated easily, IKARUGA is one addicting game. Older games will surely get a kick out of this game and bring back great memories of the arcades, and hopefully IKARUGA will show younger games what all the commotion was about back then.