I missed out on many games growing up and Ikaruga (for Dreamcast and Gamecube) was one of them! Like many others in my collection, I recently had a chance to sit down and play it for the first time and was pleasantly surprised! It’s damn hard but has some really interesting mechanics! In terms of story, there really isn’t much here (or maybe I missed it because of how challenging the game was) but it nevertheless had little impact on how much I enjoyed the game.
In terms of gameplay, this is a vertical shootemup where you take the role of a space ship and need to blast your way through waves and waves of enemies big and small. What makes this game separate from many other shooters is the unique battle mechanics. The game is dominated by either “black” or “white” modes of attack and defence – and you can switch on the fly between them. For instance, when you are in “white” mode, you shoot white energy beams which do serious damage to “black” enemies, but also allows you to absorb white attacks. The gameplay always has you constantly alternating between these two modes to be able to successfully attack enemies and absorb the damage they are trying to inflict on your.
The gameplay is really tight and responsive – which is good because the game is exceptionally hard and requires players to switch regularly between the different modes in order to even have a chance at surviving. The first few times I played, I wasn’t even able to beat the first level, but after repeated attempts, my skills increased and the game became a lot more fun and rewarding.
In total there are five levels – and this might seem like a small amount, but in all seriousness, I wasn’t even able to get to level 4. Each stage has a distinct look and feel, and continues to push the boundaries of what players need to do in order to survive. At the end of each stage is a large boss – I found these battles particularly engaging (and overwhelming) because of how much was actually going on on the screen. I also really liked how many of the bosses had two sides that needed to be destroyed with each of the two weapon modes. Despite these challenging encounters, it never really felt cheap as I was the one responsible for switching fast enough between the different attack modes.
In terms of graphics, the game still looks decent and employs dynamic 3D backgrounds with 3D models overplayed on a 2D field. The game has somewhat dull and grey looking backgrounds, but I think this worked to its advantage because it allowed the black and white energy weapons and enemies to really “pop” out, which was crucial for gameplay and dodging attacks. The bosses also looked particularly menacing, and I didn’t notice any slowdown despite the amount of action occurring on-screen. The music was a bit forgettable but was high-energy, which matched the fast-paced nature of the gameplay.
In summary, Ikaruga is a challenging shootemup on the Dreamcast and Gamecube that still looks half-decent, and employs some really great game mechanics that keep the player engaged. The game is fun and gets more enjoyable the more you engage with it! Overall, I give this game a final score of 8/10.
Final Score: 8/10