Treasure’s got a reputation for making great shooters. And rightfully so. The company's 1998 Saturn release, Radiant Silvergun, is considered by many to be one of – if not the – greatest shooters ever made. Of course, a sizeable amount of western gamers have never actually played that one because it only came out in Japan. However, the spiritual follow-up, Ikaruga, is arguably just as good, if not better than its predecessor. And now, we get another chance to experience it, this time in glorious high-definition.
Upon first glance, Ikaruga looks like one of the “bullet-hell” breed of shooters, where the screen literally fills with deadly projectiles. But it’s really so much more than that. Everything in the world of Ikaruga is based on white or black, and your justice-dealing ship is capable of switching its polarity from black to white in order to compensate.
What that means is, if you’re black, you can absorb black projectiles as well as deal double-damage to any white enemies. If you’re white, you can absorb white projectiles and deal double-damage to black enemies. It’s a simple yet effective play mechanic that makes Ikaruga unlike any shooter you’ve ever played before.
The difficulty curve in Ikaruga is quite steep, but not insurmountable, even for the greener pilots among us. Yes, chances are you won’t make it past the first level on the regular difficulty at first, but as you learn to switch polarities at the proper time and make your way forward, you earn the right re-start your games at the last level you unlocked. And chances are the game will offer a decent challenge for the hardcore shooter fans out there as well.
Plus you get to bring along a friend if you need extra help. Two can play on one system, on linked systems, or over Xbox Live. And even though there’s a bit of lag, the play testing we did online ran pretty smoothly, which is no mean feat considering all that’s happening on the screen.
Ikaruga is the best Live Arcade release in recent memory. Here’s hoping Microsoft and its Arcade publishers will use this as a turning point for the service and start giving us some more exciting titles in the coming months.
Apr 10, 2008