Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: May 28, 2003
Originally a popular Japanese arcade title and then ported to Dreamcast, Ikaruga almost never saw the light of day outside the land of the rising sun. The 2D shooting genre isn’t exactly in its prime anymore, though dedicated loyalists who used to spend days on end in arcades could care less. Having passed on a Dreamcast version, Atari finally stepped up to the plate and gave fans something better, an enhanced version of Ikaruga on GameCube. What’s more, Atari gave western audiences a chance to view a most unique offering from one of Japan’s legendary development houses, Treasure.
The story begins in the past, with a man named Tenro Horai uncovering an ancient artifact that grants him near omnipotence. Gathering a legion of followers, Horai conquered several nations with frightful ease. A group of freedom fighters led by a man named Shinra valiantly gave their lives in numerous failed attempts to end the assault. Shinra was one of the lucky few that survived; he crash-landed in the exiled village of Ikaruga. After nursing him back to health, the inhabitants entrusted Shinra with a special fighter named after their village, one that would give the rebels an advantage over the invading army. Ikaruga is composed of five chapters: Ideal, Trial, Faith, Reality and Metempsychosis. As you would expect from an arcade shooter, the game rarely allows itself to become bogged down by narrative or cinematics, so the plot is more or less implied.
Aside from the standard single- and multi-player quests, Ikaruga features several additional gameplay types. Both the Practice and Conquest modes allow you to revisit completed missions, with the latter slowing down the gameplay to half its normal speed. The Challenge mode is almost identical to the standard quests, though it records your score in a rankings menu, while the Prototype mode must be unlocked, and offers an added challenge to Ikaruga veterans: It limits the number of bullets that you have and forces you to “restock” by absorbing enemy fire.
After successfully completing a level in the Challenge mode, you’re assigned a score and code. Aside from being a personal benchmark, you can use the special password to submit your results to the official Ikaruga website. If it’s good enough, you may even qualify for the leaders board and have your score seen by the entire world. Atari has even set up a competition for GameCube owners that runs through July 31st of this year to, hopefully, give everyone more reason to raise those point totals.