After what is perhaps years of dawdling I finally picked up Ikaruga for the GameCube today. When it first came out I saw that it was an innovative space shooter. And I love space shooters. But I wasn’t going to pay full video game price for a space shooter with so few levels. So I waited until the price dropped. Well as it goes every time I was in a video game buying mood Ikaruga either didn’t show its face, or I had something better to buy. So now that I’m super-bored I finally decide to actively seek this game out. Its not like there are any other GameCube games I’m gearing up to buy besides the new Zelda coming much later this year. Apparently, this game was much harder to find than I first anticipated. I remember seeing it all over the place back in the day, but the only place I could find it on the net was ebay. Well, today I finally got a copy in the EB in the mall. I had checked there before, but maybe I missed it or they just got it in.
So about the game, its definitely right up the center of my alley. It’s a space shooting game with an interesting twist. All enemies in the game are either black or white. Your ship can be either black or white, and you push a button to toggle the colors. All bullets in the game, including those shot by you and by enemies, are either black or white. Ships fire bullets the same color as themselves. If you are white then white bullets do not harm you, in fact they charge up your white power meter. White bullets do double damage and double points to black enemies. In normal mode a white bad guy will release a swarm of white bullets if you destroy it while you are white. All those rules work the same for black. In hard mode all enemies release bullets when they die, regardless of any color. At any time you can empty your power bar to fire super powerful homing missiles. The more power the more missiles. And lastly, if you kill enemies in triplets of the same color (i.e: 3w, 3b, 3w, 3w, 3w, etc.) then you get lots more points. More points means more extra lives and a higher score. And with Internet ranking its all about more score.
What’s even cooler is that the game has all sorts of unlockable modes that are both harder and easier than the normal mode. The easier modes are to help you practice and get better at the game. The hard modes are to show off after you get better. And even though the game is short it is also very hard. It’s what we in the business call “Nintendo hard”. But its not as hard as Silver Surfer, so don’t panic. But what I like most about this game is how it brings me back to the old days. Back in my day of video games you had to build up skill in each individual game. You would slowly advance from dying at the first goomba to beating the game thrice with no warps. Nowadays there is a generic skill-set. You no longer need to “get good” at a game, you just need to progress in a game in order to beat it. Ikaruga is a game you have to get good at. That is why I consider it one of the better space shooters ever. It will definitely occupy a lot of my time until I am satisfied with my skill in beating it. Its no Galaga, but then what is?