Ikaruga - How to Separate Death by Colors

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Ikaruga is a shoot-em-up (shmup) title designed by Treasure and produced by Atari. The game was first released as an arcade, then ported to the Dreamcast, Gamecube, and most recently as a download on XBox Live Arcade.

Ikaruga is a curtain-fire style shmup, which is to say there are many bullets in intricate patterns on-screen; with the added dynamic of polarity. You can align your ship to light or dark, and absorb bullets of the color whose affinity your ship matches. Bullets of the opposing affinities will destroy your ship. The way the game manages to challenge you despite being able to absorb at least half of the bullets on-screen at any given time is impressive, with consideration to clever level design and beautifully scripted bullet patterns.

It's easy to forget which affinity I am on the fly.
It's easy to forget which affinity I am on the fly.

Graphically speaking, the game feels dated by modern standards, but it's still visually appealing. The bullet patterns in battle are often less elegant than other Shmup titles, but the level design and other aesthetic elements make up for it during normal level progression.

Unlike most other top-scrolling Shmups, Ikaruga has elaborate level designs, which provide a sort of haven from the usual elements found in games like these. Because of this, it provides unique gameplay that is refreshing to progress through in regard to design elements and atmosphere.

As well as level design, Ikaruga uses the polarity system interestingly. Because the entire game is polarity-centric, there is a lot of strategy involved with how the player progresses through the level. The enemy's polarity also deals a large part in how players may need to approach the game from a strategic standpoint. It's a great mechanic that performs well, and doesn't make the game too easy.

Co-Op provides another interesting layer of gameplay.
Co-Op provides another interesting layer of gameplay.

The music is very fitting for this game. It's in my most highly rated soundtracks for gaming, and certainly lends something beautiful to the play experience. The sound is sometimes whimsical and sometimes tense, which works well with the light and airy feel of certain levels as well as the harder, grittier combat sections.

Although, this game can be frustratingly difficult. Even after many hours of practice, simple mistakes and extremely challenging situations can make even millimeters the only distance between you and death. Despite this, the difficulty is never quite enough to make it worth quitting, but will be frustrating.

Simply put, Ikaruga is not for everyone. There's almost no way to play Ikaruga casually, so it's all-or-nothing. The difficulty makes this a strange title to recommend because there's so much opinion variance from player to player. The difficulty curve is also rather steep, which challenges the player's patience many times throughout the experience.

Bottom Line: It's a great game that has many fantastic concepts behind it, a strong following, but it isn't the type of game that many casual gamers will enjoy.

Recommendation: Rent it/Download the Demo. That's not to say it isn't worth keeping or playing in full, but it's a game that appeals to a niche-community. If you like shmups, then don't hesitate to buy this game immediately.

For me Ikaruga is the best vertical scroller there is.

But I'm really only posting to say that rather than rent it you could always download the free first level demo from XBLA.

Nice review though - if perhaps a little list-esque for my personal tastes.

Great to see you back to reviewing games after the victory at the Review Arena. Very good summation of this game, concise, clear and well-written. The first and second paragraphs might need some cleaning up to change those sentence fragments into complete sentences.

NewClassic:

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Ikaruga is a shoot-em-up (shmup) title made by Treasure and produced by Atari. First released as an arcade, then as a port to the Dreamcast, then Gamecube, now on the X-Box Live Arcade as a downloadable game. (There should be some sort of word like "it's" or "it is" before the "now" in the Xbox Live part of the sentence.)

Ikaruga is a shmup that is highly reminiscent of curtain fire (or "Bullet-Hell" if you prefer the term), with the added dynamic of polarity. You can align your ship to light or dark, and absorb bullets of the color whose affinity your ship matches. Bullets of the opposing affinities will destroy your ship. The way the game manages to challenge you despite being able to absorb at least half of the bullets on screen at any given time is the (Unnecessary. Needs to be removed.) very functional. Especially considering the well thought out level-design, and very well-scripted bullet patterns. (This is strictly speaking a sentence fragment.)

Apart from these nitpick issues, the rest of the review is very strong. Well done again.

So that's where nilcypher's picture comes from.

Anyway, it's a quick and punchy piece, but you pull that sort of thing off very well. Great job.

Good stuff dude. Very informative, and makes me now want to download the demo, having never played the game.

I really should get this for the 360, so I can prove to the world how bad I am at it...

A good review, but the language itself needs an editor. Repeated sentence structure is a constant nagging feature of the piece as are repeated words. Just a matter of you getting an editor to be honest. Well done anyway.

NewClassic:

Bottom Line: It's a great game that has many fantastic concepts behind it, a strong following, but it isn't the type of game that many casual gamers will enjoy.

Recommendation: Rent it/Download the Demo. That's not to say it isn't worth keeping or playing in full, but it's a game that appeals to a niche-community. If you like shmups, then don't hesitate to buy this game immediately.

Thats a nice thing to put at the end of a nice review.

I agree with Labyrinth. Also, on a similar note, you mention "level-design" several times without ever giving it a narrow definition. Otherwise great review, though I couldn't really tell you if someone who never played a shmup before would understand the game.

Another good review, but I don't think the term "Graphically speaking" works very well, and in the penultimate paragraph "However" would have been better than "Although".
Other than that, good stuff, I like your style.

One of the first things I downloaded from Xbox Live when I signed up to it. Amazing game. And bloody hard.

 

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