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Ikaruga : Old-school space shooter action with a new look

“Ikaruga”, by Atari, is a Gamecube adaptation of an Atari arcade game. There isn’t much of a plot; the whole point of the game is the traditional “there’s a bad empire and you’ve got to destroy it”. Since it was an arcade game, this makes sense. Nobody wants to have a real “plot” in a game you have to pay for each use and can’t save.


The “plot” of the game is that you are a boy named Shinra. In your world, this one empire (the Horai) becomes very powerful and starts taking over the world. As expected, a Freedom Fighter’s group (Tenkaku) sprouts up and fights the Horai. They all die except for Shinra. Shinra gets shot down and miraculously lands on this island where a fighter plane designer lives and he makes Ikaruga, the BEST SHIP IN THE WORLD!!! Which explains why they expect you to take down the entire empire all by yourself. In cooperative mode, there’s also another ship, piloted by some ex-assassin lady named Kagari. Please realize that none of these names or places is important in any way.

The gameplay in Ikaruga is the part that you buy it for. The main focus of the game is the “polarity system”. The basis of it is that every enemy is either light or dark. If your polarity is set to, say, dark, then you absorb all dark enemy shots and do double damage to light. However, if you touch light shots, you die. This is how it works for light, also, but with light and dark switched around. Every ten shots you gain (it’s cumulative between light and dark), your “Energy Release Power Gauge” goes up one bar. For every bar, you can either take a hit from the opposite element (decreasing your bar by one) or you can release energy, which shoots out a number of homing missiles, one for every energy bar. Each of these missiles does 12 times the amount of damage that a normal shot does, homes in on targets, and can pass through obstacles. You can also do “Chain Combos”, in which you shoot 3 targets of the same element in a row (i.e. light, light, light). The more cumulative combos you get, the higher the points go. It doesn’t need to be “get all lights”, but it has to be 3 of the same type in a row. It could be a light combo, then a dark, and then a light again. For lives, you have 3 lives (this number can be changed in the options menu) and 3 credits (you can set the game to get an extra credit after a certain amount of points).

There are also some extra game modes that you can play. There’s Conquest Mode, on which you can practice on just one stage (that you choose). Also in Conquest Mode, there’s Slow mode (go through the level of your choice in slo-mo) and Demo mode (watch the computer go through the level you choose). There’s also Challenge mode, in which, upon finishing, you receive a password that you can post on the Atari site to see your score compared to other people’s scores. Also, there’s the unlock-able Prototype mode, in which you only have a certain number of bullets, instead of the normally Infinite amount that you usually have. If you are really good at the game, you can try to do “Bullet Eater”, in which you go through a level without shooting at all. This is possible, since bosses have a timer of 100 seconds, after which they fly away. If you can evade or absorb all attacks without shooting back, then you get lots of points.

The Graphics in this game are superb. The ships and stages all have great lighting, great coloring, and a sleek look. The enemies, instead of looking just like non-descript “ships”, all have details depending on their type. The bullets and gun effects all look great, with beams and blasts and all that.
The sound is pretty good. The music is done rather well, and the sound is just, well, sound effects. It’s just explosions, zaps, and clangs. However, that’s all you really need with a game like this.

Buy Ikaruga on Amazon!

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