Review: IKARUGA (DreamCast)

Background

Cult producer Treasure rolled out approximately 50.000 copies of this spiritual sequel to Radiant Silvergun, still regarded as the greatest shoot'em up of all time, so there was little doubt that unscruplous importers and collectors horded most of the stock with hopes of auctioning later at similarly high prices to it's predecessor..

Unfortunately this game is not as collectable as RS for the fact that it later saw a worldwide release by Atari on the GameCube. Ikaruga also made it to XBOX Live in 2008, although the DC version is still the tightest being that it's the original canvas this masterpiece was created on, even if the X360 incarnation bought HD graphics to the party.

The game itself is a horizontal shooter allowing players to tilt the screen (if they desire) to play as the developer intended. This is a nice feature as industry standard LCD/Plasma panels are lighter than previous CRT models. I must confess the vertically cropped option is satisfying enough without having to wrestle a state of the art 52" upright at the risk of it toppling over and killing your family outright!

Gameplay

Ikaruga uses no power ups, rather it introduces a unique light and dark phase style of play where you switch the colour of your aircraft to become impervious to attacks of that colour. As you progress each chapter (level) hitting a light phase enemy when in a dark phase mode and vice-versa allows you to generate higher points, making this is alot more interesting if you partner up with a friend in two player mode to tear apart the CPU with your strategic attack formations.

In later stages you will find yourself gunning and negotiating the light and dark puzzle element rather like a nail biting game of chess, struggling to blend under enemy fire, then rapidly switching back to counter alternate attack patterns.

Ikaruga engrosses you to such the extent that one play becomes ten as you inevitably fall deeper and deeper into this addictive switch'n gun formula.

The two player game is a real lesson in comaraderie as you battle side by side to victory.

Graphics

Testament that the DC was a far practical machine than the PS2 to get results, what we have here is a fast paced, smooth and lush piece of programming with 3D backdrops and special effects that could pass as PS3 material.

If you are lucky enough to have a VGA set-up for your DC then Ikaruga really comes to life with smooth 480p rendering that adds to the overall genius and eye candy.

Developer G-Rev's input in this game is evident as graphical effects and lighting resemble Border Down which came along two years later. Explosions, light beams and futuristic buildings look familiar, although the enemies and bosses are definately RS territory, just alot better looking!

Sound

A fine example of the Yamaha sound processing abilities of the DC, Ikaruga has a pumping techno soundtrack that builds the pace as you progress further into the game, steering away from Treasure's usual orchestral compositions.

Explosions are satisfying and the robotic commentator who announces each individual number of a chained hit works well.

Arguably one of the best audio examples on the DC that's up there with Street Fighter Zero 3 and Daytona USA 2001 for arcade quality sound.

Lastability

Like the maiden voyage of Star Trek, this one will fly around your DC for quite some time with it's sci-fi charm and high score chasing.

Admittedly you have to be a hardcore shmup fan to get the most from this title but novices will find enough to hone their skills as Ikaruga does away with power-ups and endless weapon choices to defeat enemies.

The difficulty curve is just right to keep you hooked, yet tight enough to reward players who dedicate around 30 hours to master this game and dazzle on-lookers.

Collectability

Do not expect this game to fetch vast sums of money upon a large investment to secure one of the many sealed copies currently in circulation (2008)

It would appear that the horded copies from 2001 are now out for sale by the unscruplous types who can make around 50% profit over what they initially paid back in 2001.

This has turned out to be no Radiant Silvergun, although the DC copy will become more scarce in time, demanding higher prices for mint copies on the weight of it's hardcore reputation among shmup fans.

Once again, games collecting should be regarded as a passion, not a business opportunity. If you want to watch your money grow, buy shares! - If you want to own one of the finest import only DC games then add Ikaruga to
your list.