If you have a passion for vertical shooters, the news of Ikaruga landing on Xbox LIVE will raise an eyebrow of nostalgia. This particular shooter has found home in the arcades over recent years, and later in homes via SEGA’s Dreamcast and Nintendo’s GameCube.
So why should you be flustered over this shooter in particular, well this reviewer classes this title as one of the best you will ever play (oh dear, there I go raising the hype flag). Let’s be honest, the Xbox LIVE Arcade has already seen its fair share of vertical shooters, most of which have been pretty dated and to put it bluntly, terrible.
Ikaruga rides a similar wave found in most shooters today; you control your spacecraft within a vertical scrolling environment, shooting oncoming enemies that enter the screen from various angles. The difference that puts Ikaruga in a new light is its main polarity mechanic in the game. Each enemy craft comes in two polarities types – black (red) or white (blue). In most traditional shooters your enemy’s fire will damage or destroy your ship on contact. With Ikaruga only the bullets of the opposite polarity can cause damage to your craft. Bullets of the same polarity colour as your craft will be absorbed and turned into energy to power your crafts special weapon attack – a homing laser that spits out up to 12 blasts at your foe.
The enemies are not the only ones that get all this polarity fun, oh no. Your craft can also switch polarity, and in turn its bullets. Shooting the enemy with the opposite polarity of bullets will cause double damage to your enemy, although you must be careful while facing a ship of the opposite polarity, as you will have to dodge their oncoming threatening fire. So as you can gather here, successfully switching polarity is crucial to getting through the game without breaking a sweat. Even more so once you face one of the many bosses in the game, who will fire out multiple polarity bullets in your direction, creating various patterns where you must master the art of successful polarity switching.
For a first timer to the genre or for a novice Ikaruga will pretty much chew you up and spit you out on a regular basis – this game is not a causal pick up and play game. To get the best out of it you must practice, time and time again, learning when to switch polarity and where to be on the screen to avoid oncoming fire and obstacles. To help with this torment fun you can partner up with a friend, locally or over Xbox LIVE – which is great fun while being free from hardly any slow down or lag. The usual Arcade handful of achievements are rewarded to players of both single and two player modes and will still count whether you are playing locally or over LIVE. Arcade fanatics will love the online leaderboards where you can compare scores as well as share replays of your dodging skills.
With its futuristic soundtrack and compelling 3D graphics Ikaruga has arrived on Xbox LIVE Arcade without any threatening alternatives. If you are a fan of the genre, and have not seen or played Ikaruga before, then I strongly recommend you try this game out. The trial gives you the first of five chapters in the game, which is enough to get a feel of the concept and an overall impression of the game. In later levels you will find more intense fighting and incredible bosses that will leave you with a loss of hair as you make multiple attempts in beating the game. If you have the patience to put the effort in, Ikaruga will reward you in spades, As is the case in all shooters of this genre, Ikaruga features only five chapters, so once the game is complete (no matter how many credits, continues and game restarts you use) you will probably not be returning to it after you have conquered the game. With that said though, at the end of it all you will have already justified the cost of this game, and had some great fun in the process.