Hard4Games presents Awesome Sauce Productions' Ikaruga Review
Hey Gamers, what's up? GameXmasteR here today with yet another review.
I'm pretty much a fan of Bullet Hell Shmups (or Danmakus, as they are properly named), So naturally one day I had to review one, right? But before i get going with the best ones of the genre, let me start out with the most popular one, ikaruga, for the GameCube, Dreamcast and XBOX 360 Live Arcade. Now bear in mind, I've only played the GameXube Version of it, so if i miss any details you may know about the other versions, just overlook it (if you know the other versions why the hell are you reading this? joke! :D ). So, let's get started, shall we?
To begin, let's Talk about Plot for this game.
Main Characters, for player one and two, respectively.
Most Shmups have a pretty basic storyline, that's a no brainer. But Ikaruga? Fuck no, this is from JAPAN.
SERIOUS GODDAMN BUSSINESS.
Allright, so, Bear in mind, all these events take place Before the game, Allright?
Well, the official explanation taken from the game's manual goes like this:
Several years ago in the small island nation of Horai, the leader of the nation, Tenro Horai, discovered the Ubusunagami Okinokai—the Power of the Gods. This energy emanated from an object she dug up from deep underground and granted her unimaginable powers. Soon after, Tenro and her followers, who called themselves "The Divine Ones", began conquering nations one after another. "The Chosen People" carried out these conquests in "the name of peace".
Meanwhile, a freedom federation called Tenkaku emerged to challenge Horai. Using fighter planes called Hitekkai, they fought with the hope of freeing the world from the grips of the Horai - but all their efforts were in vain. They were no match for the Horai and were eventually almost completely wiped out. Miraculously, however, one young man survived. His name was Shinra (森羅).
Shot down near a remote village called Ikaruga, inhabited by elderly people who had been exiled by the Horai's conquests, Shinra was dragged from the wreckage and nursed back to health. Shinra regained his health and pledged to defeat the Horai, and the villagers entrusted him with a fighter plane that they had built themselves, called the Ikaruga.
The Ikaruga was no ordinary plane, designed by former engineering genius Amanai (天内) with the help of Kazamori (風守) and the village leaders. Hidden in a secret underground bunker and launched via the transportation device called the "Sword of Acala", it is the first fighter built that integrates both energy polarities, and is capable of successfully switching between the two.
In a two-player game, Shinra is joined by Kagari (篝), a mercenary of Horai defeated by Shinra. After Shinra spared her life, she decided to change sides and join the resistance. Her ship, Ginkei, is modified by the people of Ikaruga to give it identical capabilities to Shinra's ship
...Tohou Shrine Maidens, it your heart out.
To put it simple, Guy funds amazing power. Guy conquers the world. Ace Pilot gets shot down, Lands on a village whose name I can't remember (this is a joke people, no need to rectify me on the comments), and they basically add said power to his ship, with no explanation on how or why that happened or how they got it to begin with, and then they do it to some other pilot who got shot down by the main character. That's the shortest i can make out of it.
The plot develops throughout the game via a series' of small text in between the stages. Sadly, this was cut from the GameCube's version, and so we don't get to read Shinra's Marvelous Rants about... randomness. In the original version and the XBOX Live Arcade one, we do get to see them. They either appear next to the title of the chapter or in any given moment throughout the stage. Thanks to some Googling Extensive finding, I Managed to find them all. Here's for your viewing pleasure:
Chapter One: Ideal:
"I am not alive, thus I can't die.
I won't give up even if my Ideal isn't fulfilled.
My will, just as my regrets, won't ever end"
"Alas, the Ikaruga departs.What could make those people move,
Who were secluded against their will?
This is probably none other than
The very basic will to live"
Oh goodie, another Emo-ish Cloud strife wannabe deep character. So original... well, at least this one has a good reason for it... i mean, have you seen his face? It's like--
GAH! Jesus christ, shinra, you scared the hell out of me. Moving on...
Chapter 2: Trial:
"The more stubborn your own will is,
The more Trials you will be blessed with.
Of course, if you can avoid the Trials
before your eyes,It is also possible for you to flee them.
But the real purpose of a Trial
Is to make your soul stronger."
Chapter 3: Faith:
"In this world there is nothing absolute,
One may someday feel unsure
And sometimes even feel lost.
In order to overcome this
One must have a strong Faith
And know how to take action."
Chapter 4: Reality:
"And then Reality reared it's ugly head.
What did you seek...
What did you see...
What did you hear...
What did you think...
What did you do..."
Chapter 5: Metempsycosis
"And then the Karma will go back
To the will it belonged to before,
And will shake awake the First One,
The first conscious being still present
At the deepest corner of one's memories.
And so, the Ikaruga departs..."
"You can't feel what you see...
but you can feel what you don't see.
Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
"You are aware of this, too, aren't you?
Until the very end of Time, you won't ever escape this Metempsychosis"
"And so... walk that path until the End, so you don't regret anything.
'I am not alive, thus I can't die.
I won't give up even if my Ideal isn't fulfilled.
My will, just as my regrets, won't ever die... '
We should all have known this!
Do you think we will ever see the Freedom?"
"Restrain devices are disactivated, you can't shoot anymore"
"Release the restrain device. Using the released power may result the
possibility of destruction of the ship."
"You did your best. Was I helpful for you?"
"I am deeply grateful to you."
"Do you think... we did the right thing?
It's alright... I'm sure that sometimes,
The day will come where we understand each other.
And then we'll walk together into the far future...
Because Life is given from one generation to the next one"
Those are the Text sequences that appear in between chapters during the game. It's important to know that these only appear for a few seconds, so you're better off reading them from a FAQ online (the one i used for this review is going to be linked at the end)
Also, the Dreamcast Version's GD-ROM came with a file called "Prologue.txt", where you could find a series' of prologues about the game... In japanese.
Nonetheless, this awesome FAQ I found provided me with these prologues, for your reading pleasure, however, this is way to long to be put on a simple blog review, so You can read it from the FAQ listed in the lowest of the document. It's a long read, but if you're interested in the plot of the game, And you don't want to read the manga, have a read.
But The only problem I have with the plot is that it's so Damn complicated! this is a game where you shoot shit and shit blows up. Oh, and it's hard. None of the aforementioned characters are ever mentioned or even appear on the game, none of the locations do (well, some do in the levels, but that's another thing), and none of the events are eve mentioned in the game itself. It's like if they forgot at the last hour so they just decided to add it in the manual. And of course, if you're playing on the XBOX Live Arcade version, good luck, because all you get is those confusing pieces of text.
But overall, the storyline and plot are "O-K" considering that, Japan or not, this is a Shmup. So having any kind of storyline is a good thing. Now moving on to Gameplay...
OH MAH GAWD SOMEONE HALP ME!
This is one of the most forgiving Danmakus in existance. That being said, it's still insanely hard.
First off, you've got your little ship, the Ikaruga or the Genkai, depending on wether you're player one or Two. This makes no difference whatsoever besides the obvious change in the model.
We all know what makes this game unique: The polarity system. But we'll get to that later.
In the Arcade, and all following releases, you have only 3 buttons and the movement stick. The first one is the classic Rapid Fire button, the Second one changes your polarity from Black to White and Vice-Versa. The last button is the Missile button. When you kill an enemy of the same polarity you can absorb the bullets it fires at you, just like you can catch anu other projectile of the same colour. That adds a little difficulty to the game, since only half the bullets on the screen can kill you, however they always get mixed up, and when trying to change polarity to avoid death, a bullet can come from any general direction and kill you without you noticing. How is this possible, you ask? well because THEY'RE TOO FUCKEN SMALL! Like, look at this picture:
See what i mean? the bullets are small and get mixed together, and when you don't see it they can get to you without you noticing. And one hit kills you, but that's just standard in these games.
The bright side of things? your ship is also an insanely small target. The wings won't get any damage to your ship, and a bullet must go to the central area of it to kill you. That means, you can dodge bullets and enemies in really small and tricky places.
The GameCube and Dreamcast versions allowed to make various changes to the game, like the number of lives per credit you get, number of credits you get, and how many points are needed to get an extra credit. These options are actually really nice to have, since you'll be cranking up lives and credits to finish this game.
This is the kinda game that is hard in a good way. It's insanely hard and will beat your ass to the ground many times, but it still gives you all the chances and tools you may need to win.
Now talking about movement, your ship moves smoothly around the screen, just fast enough so that you can get out of sticky situations and slow enough that you won't slip and end up dying.
The game consists on 5 chapters, each one with one Boss and Some with a Sub-Boss, but not mostly. Before the Boss, a message will display saying:
"WARNING, the big ennemy is approaching at full throttle. According to the data, it is identified as Butsutekkai"
And then the boss arrives. Unlike common thought, every enemy has a name. and since i did my googling homework, here's the list of them for you:
- Utatsugumi: Round, weak enemies.
- Toratsugumi: Very small, they never shoot. Come in sets of 3. Weak.
- Renjaku: They look a little like you. Some shoot, some don't.
- Torafuzuku: Big. Shoot bullets or laser beams. Resist 12 homing lasers.
- Ajisashi: The big cruisers of Chapter 1. Resistant.
- Isuka: Triangular ships, their moves are erratic. Are suicidal.
- Misosazai: Only appear in Chapter 2. Shoot lasers straight down.
- Toki: Slightly bigger, they shoot as fast as you. Resist 2 homing lasers.
- hougenbou: The lords of Chapter 5. Resist 24 homing lasers.
No, i mean it, those are all the enemies in the game, minus the bosses. Each boss gets more and more difficult on the go, and even bigger (hell, there's this one boss fight where you fight 12 bosses AT THE SAME TIME) That being said, let's go to the Graphics department:
This depends mostly on the version. The Arcade and Dreamcast versions (shown in the picture) have pretty much regular graphics for its time, nothing overly spectacular. the GameCube and XBOX versions, however, were the shit. The graphics rehash they saw was amazing. the background looked more detailed, the ships looked better drawn, there were less small rough corners, it was great.
The one problem i have with the graphics tough, is this thing that happens when there's fog in the screen. When the ship ascends, the fog doesn't ascend with it, so you see some weird semi-transparent texture going through all objects.
This game has actually a pretty good visual harmony to it. Every stage has its own theme. But the themes are actually hard to describe in words. Let's just say, every stage has its own mechanics in graphics development
Obviously the best out of the bunch is the XBOX version, since it's HD and all.
The models for the ships, both yours and enemy, are pretty cool, detailed and well made. Looks like the developers took their time making the game look like it's supposed to be: A Cyberpunk styled sky high story.
Now on to the music!
European OST cover
Mixing Orchestral and Electronic sounds, The music in the game, composed by Hiroshi Luchi, provides a really immersing atmosphere into the game. It's intense when the game needs to, it's calm when it wants you to relax (only to kick your ass. a lot). Not the best soundtrack ever, but still very nice and involving.
I know the word "Epic" is vastly overused, specially in the Internet, But goddamn, this is the very definition of epic. There are a few orchestrated version of the original soundtrack, which, to my opinion, do justice to the original concept of the game just fine.
Now obviously, and as i mentioned before, the music adapts to the stages. Since the stage is always moving, and you can't stop It, the music, rather than being a loop, just plays the track once. I mean it, even happens with bosses, with the exception of the final boss, after a while, they just leave if you don't kill them. Like "Fuck you, I'm too old for this". This is, truthfully, just a gimmick to avoid the music from looping or stopping at a certain point (which is stupid, since the music is made out of loops, anyways).
overall the musical development of the game Is pretty great. Adapts the sound to the situation nicely and helps with the game's overall experience.
Ikaruga is an absolute classic. If you're into shmups, or just looking for a good and challenging game, pay it a visit. In easy mode, that is.
Now, of course, what if you're NOT a fan of shmups? well... just don't play the game! But you're missing out, you're missing out.
Play this game, play it. You won't lose anything... Except for a million lives.
This is GameXmasteR saying Good night, and Good game.
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