Published on July 1st, 2018 | by Gregory Moffett
Review: Ikaruga (Switch eShop)
Format reviewed: Switch eShop
Website: Official Website
Ikaruga attained a largely positive reception when the arcade shoot-em-up was ported to the Gamecube in 2003.
Treasure’s classic is finally back on a Nintendo platform with the recent release of a digital version on the Nintendo Switch eShop but does it live up to its ever-growing reputation?
The answer is a resounding yes; Ikaruga is awesome!
Shooting, dodging, one hit deaths and intimidating boss battles are components we’ve all come to expect from games in the genre.
All of these things are present and correct here but where Ikaruga sets itself apart is in its polarity system.
At the touch of a button, your ship (the Ikaruga) can flip between black and white, opening up a variety of gameplay possibilities.
As you scroll up the screen, enemies will appear in numerous black and white guises and in different formations, often firing off bullets of their own alignment.
If you get hit by enemy fire that is the opposite colour to your ship, you will lose a life immediately but bullets of the same colour as the Ikaruga will simply be absorbed and contribute towards filling up your energy gauge which allows you to fire off a special homing attack.
This is often best saved for when you’re overwhelmed by the chaos on screen or when you are striving to take down a boss as quickly as possible before the time runs out.
If it’s high scores you’re after rather than mere survival, though, tactical usage and even ignorance of the gauge becomes ever more important.
Many will be content to blast through foes and obstacles as they come, regardless of polarity but heavy scoring is linked into combos. An indicator in the corner of the screen keeps track of chain attacks where the aim is to continuously destroy enemies of the same colour in sequences of three. Take out three black enemies in a row, for example, will set your chain attack counter to 1 which is then designed to be followed up with the defeat of either three more black foes or three white.
With only 3 lives to play with for the duration of Ikaruga’s five stages by default, the relentless onslaught of obstacles, foes and enemy fire is difficult enough to overcome but the game strikes a beautiful balance of providing options for beginners to see everything the game has to offer and experts have the opportunity to delve into the complexities of analysing enemy patterns and building high scores to be uploaded to the online leaderboards along with replays of how the scores were achieved. Downloading and watching replays from the best players for yourself can be very eye-opening and help you improve your own path through each level.
Ultimately, the more you test yourself in Ikaruga, the more you will be rewarded.
With the sheer amount of action throughout, the visuals are, critically, always crystal clear making it easy to see what is going on at all times, whether you play with huge borders on your TV or flip the switch vertically in tabletop mode, and the audio fits perfectly.
In terms of criticism, there are perhaps only a couple of minor quibbles beyond the daunting difficulty level.
While the game is designed to be played, individually or cooperatively, over and over again to learn each level intimately to perform better each time, if you’re just playing with infinite lives to see from start to finish you may come away disappointed due to the brevity as Ikaruga is not a very long game. Having said that, the thirty or so minutes it takes to beat the game enhances the desire to return repeatedly.
There are also a few occasions where enemies or obstacles may take you by surprise on your first run through leading to death before you have enough time to react.
Slowdown is also present but, thankfully, not when it matters. The game runs smoothly but you will notice some stuttering directly after defeating a boss at the end of each stage. If anything, though, it adds to the gravitas of the situation in a satisfying manner!
All in all, Ikaruga is rightly regarded as one of the greatest shooters ever crafted and highlights Treasure at the peak of their powers. At £13.49 on the UK eShop, the price of entry is well worth it and the variety of options offers a little something for everyone.
Ikaruga (Switch eShop)
Summary: Ikaruga is rightly regarded as one of the greatest shooters ever crafted and highlights Treasure at the peak of their powers.