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Ikaruga Review - Gamecube

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Treasure are a staple of the gaming industry, a Japanese company devoted to making the best old school games available, and their opus, Ikaruga, ranks among the most highly polished and flawless games ever made. Aside from some poorly translated bits, and some glaring omissions, the English version is still a classic in its own right.

As an old school shooter, story was never the most important aspect of the game. With the English release, what story elements there were have been removed. There is a brief story overview in the manual, but other than that, there's not much here.

A top down shooter, Ikaruga is simple to play, but hard to master. The controls are simple, with the control stick and d-pad for movement, B button for shooting, A button for changing polarity and the R button for firing your charge missiles. Your ship, named Ikaruga, has the ability to flip between polarities, white/blue and black/red. Enemies also come in two flavours, black and white. While your ship is in its white state, it can deal double damage to black ships and absorb white bullets (called bullet eating) and vice versa for black, a simple concept that is pulled off flawlessly by the master craftsmen at Treasure. Absorbing bullets, aside from not getting you killed, will also build your super meter, which can be used to launch a homing missile attack. The game doesn't use power-ups, instead focusing on the black/white thing and the missile attack for sheer fire power.

Also included in the game is the Chain Combo system. Simply put, killing three of the same polarity enemies in a row will give you a point bonus. Kill three more in a row and the bonus will double, until you're getting 25 600 points for every third enemy you kill. Getting chains goes a long way to getting a high score, but for your first couple of runs through Ikaruga, you're sole goal will be your own survival. Once you've mastered chaining, you can start building up some impressive high scores and for old school junkies this adds a great deal to the game's replay value.

Each of the games five stages are so well tuned and developed, that at first they seem nigh impossible to overcome. Give it time, however, and let yourself adjust to the games take on polarity, and you'll find yourself weaving in and out of enemy fire with ease. Make no mistake, this game is tough. Ikaruga is one of the toughest games available, but it is a fair game, and you are left defeated with the knowledge you can do better. For each hour you play, you get another continue added to your initial three. Once you've been playing for seven hours, you get unlimited continues, so if you haven't finished the game by then (which is possible, even likely) you are now assured of victory (though not of a high score). Finishing the game is ... (continued next page)