There are just some games out there just seem to stand the test of time, and one of them is Treasure’s timeless masterpiece, Ikaruga. Not only has this game transcended many decades in the gaming world, having surpassed even some notable franchises that are now in the passage of time, Ikaruga has transformed a genre into something magnificent. For years, the shooter genre, or better known as the shmup genre, has had its fair share of hits and misses leaving a lot of people questioning its longevity. Then comes Treasure, a company which was formed by former Konami employees back in 1992, and they took the world by storm with its action packed titles which employed a great deal of innovation. Before Ikaruga was Radiant Silvergun, which Ikaruga took a great deal of inspiration from and went on to become its spiritual successor once it released. What made Radiant Silvergun such a thrill of its own was how it combined fundamental mechanics which many became familiar with in the shmup world, but also innovative ways in which players could traverse through each level and take out the enemies in front of you.
Ikaruga took all of that and not only helped to revolutionize the shmup genre, but kept the burning desire to succeed alive in every way possible. So who does Ikaruga cater to? It caters to those who love a great deal of depth, truly challenging levels that force you to stay in control at all times, and simply reliving a nostalgic adventure that can only be found in this game.
What to Expect
Ikaruga has made its way around to various consoles over the years but initially found its success in the arcades, much like all other shmups that came before it. As we stated earlier, the core of its immense success came from the ingenuity of the team at Treasure, to create an experience unlike any other. It found its way onto the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube, Xbox 360, Windows, and now right back to a Nintendo console this time the Switch. They say if it ain’t broken then don’t fix it, and it’s quite evident that Ikaruga is a game that requires no adjustments because of how well designed it was made from its conception.
On the Nintendo Switch, however, it actually feels like the right home for Ikaruga because of its portability, which allows you to take the game with you just about anywhere you go. Unlike its past versions which all had you sitting on your sofa or say in front of a arcade cabinet, Ikaruga on the Nintendo Switch allows you the freedom to engage with the game at any time, with no restrictions whatsoever. All the wild and crazy action you enjoyed in the original is still very much in tact but what really stands out is that you can turn your Switch into the classic arcade “TATE” style, by flipping your Switch vertically! So it’s like taking the arcade with you and never having to worry about placing a token or quarter on the cabinet and wait your turn.
Additionally, the Nintendo Switch version comes equipped with both single player and two-player local co/op modes, along with global leaderboards that can be accessed through its online features to view high scores. So what you’re getting right here is not only the perfect shmup, but a total package that’s worth every penny. Let’s dive more into the gameplay!
The core beauty of Ikaruga comes right down to its unique style of gameplay, which has you using a polarity-switching mechanic in order to successfully take down the enemy. You control rebel pilot Shinra, as he embarks on an adventure with the powerful Ikaruga, in hopes to bring down a corrupted nation, and to do so his ability allows him to attack in two ways. The bullets you shoot from out your ship are black and white, with every enemy you encounter matching in those respective colors. So unlike in most shmups where you just simply pick up the joystick and shoot at whatever moves, there’s a great deal of depth and skill that’s required to really get the best out of Ikaruga. Shooting the same color at the matching enemy will net you higher points and make killing the enemy much easier, while also taking into consideration the attacks that come toward you. So the game starts to become more about concentration and paying close attention to the color swapping happening constantly on screen. To avoid being shot down by the black enemy you’ll need to swap into your dark mode in order to stay alive, and the same idea is followed with the white enemy. While it does sound a little intimidating as you read, this the game starts to feel a lot easier once you get the hang of things. Sometimes not switching at all is one strategy in of itself, since you can focus primarily on one color for most of the level. However that always isn’t the case and so you’ll need to keep your mind engaged for as long as possible, to overcome any pitfalls that may surprise you.
There will be lots of surprises, mind you, because every stage comes with different waves of enemies, all of whom will behave differently than the last. So it’s also about paying attention to enemy patterns and knowing when to shoot, use your special homing laser attack to take out a large group of them, or simply save your high powered attacks for the boss. Now bosses in this game are unforgiving a lot of the time because they’ll often throw white and black orbs your way, and it’ll be up to you how to properly evade them and stay alive. We encourage you to die a lot in the game because it will surely provide you with more awareness of how to properly control the situation, but also it takes a lot of the stress off your shoulders when playing. It’s very easy to find yourself growing ever so tense when moments like the one we explained above come at you, and there’s very little to do in that exact moment.
That’s where having improv skills come in handy because from time to time, your strategies may backfire and the enemy gets the upper hand. Knowing when to switch things on and off in your mind is imperative to truly getting to the high ranks in Ikaruga, but also to have the most fun. Take the game too seriously and you lose, but come off too lax and you’ll suffer the same fate. Ikaruga is all about balance and once you find your footing, this game is a timeless masterpiece that you’ll never want to let go off.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Ikaruga just has so much potential and words really can’t express just how incredible this game is. It really requires you to pick the game up and play hands on, because at that very moment, you get to experience something unique, pure, and truly refined that you’ll never get anywhere else. The only issue we found with the game was its sound, which seemed to sound lower than usual despite the master volume being at maximum. Even with our headphones on, it still sounded a bit soft and so perhaps that’s something the team could easily fix should others find the issue to be strange. Other than that, there’s really nothing negative to say about this game because the game has lasted this long and still kicks a ton off ass. You know a game is this good when it outshines other games in not only its genre, but other genres as well and still provides that depth that we enjoyed while playing on our Dreamcast.
A timeless classic that will continue to stand the test of time.
Amazing gameplay that’s full of depth and skill.
Really requires the player to think about their actions and how it can help them stay alive.
Just some sound issues.
Honey's Final Verdict:
That about does it for Ikaruga on the Nintendo Switch. If it wasn’t evident already, we’ll say it again: please buy the game. You’re getting your money’s worth from start to finish. There’s no other game out there like Ikaruga, especially one that’s lasted this long in the very tempestuous game industry. Be sure to leave a comment if you enjoyed the article and of course, stay up to date with all the latest gaming news on our Twitter channel! If you’d like to watch us play these games live then hit us up on Twitch, where you’ll get to see a live impression of the games you enjoy plus more! Lastly, if you’re in search for a community where you can chill out and talk about otaku life, then be sure to hop into our official Honey’s Anime Discord channel!
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!