Ikaruga Review
Ikaruga box art
System: X360 (XBLA) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Treasure 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Treasure 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: April 9, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Casual Gamers Need Not Apply
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

If you are a casual gamer, Ikaruga is not the title for you. Xbox Live Arcade has many titles like Hexic HD and Boogie Bunnies that will give you the fun and light pick-up-and-play experience you crave. If you are a hardcore gamer, however, and pride yourself on your insane gamerscore and how many games you've beat on "insane," then Ikaruga will put you in a state of gaming bliss that you may have never even known was possible.

Ikaruga screenshot

In an age where every shooter is indistinguishable from another, Ikaruga gets back to basics. It can best be described as a Japanese third person space-shooter. But trust me, this is no Galaga. The core gameplay in Ikaruga is based on a simple concept: you can change your space-fighter's polarity from black to white. If you are black, you will be immune to attacks from black enemies. If you are white, then you will be immune to white attacks. The polarity also works offensively as well: if you attack someone with a reverse polarity, then your attack power is doubled.

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To the Ikaruga-uninitiated this may sound like a fairly uncomplicated premise. Simple, even. But let me assure you, Ikaruga is by far one of the hardest games I have ever played. The level design is so intricate and complex that each stage requires you to go through it several times and literally memorize exactly how to avoid obstacles, enemy fire, and precise moments when to change polarity. There will be several times where the screen will literally be filled with fire coming at you from both black and white ships, and it'll be up to you to get the precise second down where you have to switch your polarity. And if you get hit once, then it's sayonara for you.

Ikaruga screenshot

Luckily for those who have a hard time with this kind of all-or-nothing gameplay, there are a few built-in handicaps that you can give yourself. First of all, the only way to unlock new levels is to go through all the levels at once. So even if you have beaten levels 1-3 straight through, you won't be able to unlock level four unless you survive all the way through. But the game lets you play through any of the levels that you have already beaten in a free-play style mode where you can replay for hours just trying to fully memorize all the different nuances. This is a tremendous help if you are farther along in the game because playing through the entire game just so you can hone your skills on level three would get pretty boring.

The game also allows you to give yourself extra live and reduce the criteria for earning new lives, and it even allows you some freedom by giving you a certain amount of arcade-style continue screens (the number depends on the level you're on). And while tweaking these few elements may help you get through some of the early modes, it is fairly surprising how useless these become once you get past level 3. The gameplay becomes so intense that it doesn't matter how many lives or continue screens you have left, it becomes all about memorization and quick reflexes.

Ikaruga screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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