It’s easy to look at Ikaruga from the stand point of “it’s just another shmup title” as I said the same before jumping into it myself but once I got more and more into it I found a deep and beautiful game that deserves the high praise it gets. Ikaruga was developed by Treasure and published by SEGA back in 2001. It wasn’t until 2002 that we saw Ikaruga start reaching consoles such as the Dreamcast, Gamecube, and even the Xbox 360 and it’s not surprising, the game is regarded as one of the greatest shoot em’ up titles. The game will be hitting the Nintendo Switch eShop with Nicalis as it’s publisher on May 29th and I would strongly advise you to pick it up to experience its bizarre and complex story.
When it comes to the gameplay, the game gets a resounding 10. The game mechanic works like an average shoot em’ up but adds a new feature where each character is black or white with your ship having the ability to switch between colors as well. Switching colors help keep combos when destroying enemies with the same color and also deals double damage. There’s also something very complex with switching colors during boss battles or larger enemies as well, it’s very rhythmic as if you’re trying to find your way out of a maze at times. I loved some of the situations I was in during some segments, constantly switching between colors to avoid moves, it’s a very satisfying feeling when you have a heads up against your enemy who’s giving it their all only for you to realize that this was just the first phase of the boss.
There are different settings and modes, a lot of them having to end with the leaderboard. The leaderboard is one of the larger pieces in this game and gives the campaign an even deeper purpose. All the difficulty and pain goes towards being on top of the arcade style online leaderboard which gives the switching between colors and playing recklessly a whole new meaning and adds another tiny notch in this games belt.
There are different modes to choose from, you can choose between an arcade perfect mode that gives you exactly what you want or Prototype Mode that gives you a set amount of shots with the only way to get more ammo is to take down characters of the corresponding colors, yet again, giving the game more of a challenge than ever before.
There are also several options to tweak such as continues, default color to start the game with, among others. One thing I found irksome was how you have to go back to the entire main menu to restart a game, which means once you click on what mode you’d like to play your sticking with it unless you go all the way back. You think it wouldn’t be too much of an issue but it wears at times given the daunting, challenging, and sometimes mentally exhausting nature of the game.
The music is fantastic giving plenty of these levels an identity, bringing a sense of urgency and struggle. The soundtrack is only 10 songs but what happens during those 10 songs is really a testiment to how much can get done back in the early days of gaming when it was tough to pack content into a small amount of space. The art got a bit of a touch up compared to it’s older versions, making it look fantastic on the Switch whether you find yourself playing horizontally or leaning your Nintendo Switch gamepad vertically. I enjoyed the vertical gameplay although I used a random assortment of knick knacks to hold the gamepad up I would say that it is definitively the best way to play it while on the go.
The game also comes with an appendix menu that gives you an in depth look at concept art, character models, unseen artwork, music, and everything else in between. I am an absolute sucker for games that offer conceptual galleries as a reward for those who play or even purchase the game, it gives more of an intimate experience, as if the company actively wants you to explore the game more.
Ikaruga may seem simple on the surface but after a few playthroughs you will find an overabundance of things to do in the game. The game may be incredibly difficult at first but after a few tries you will find yourself memorizing enemy patterns, taking down enemies in succession while also transferring between colors effortlessly. The package itself offers a few modes, a conceptual gallery(thank you), a 2 player mode to play with a friend, and a leaderboard to try and top. All in all, for $15, this is a must get for anyone wanting to find something old or new worth exploring.