Ikaruga (Xbox Live)

by Joe

December 19, 2008

Ikaruga is a 2D vertical-scrolling shoot-em-up, or shmup, from developer Treasure. Having already been released on Dreamcast, Gamecube, and in the arcades, Ikaruga is not a new game by any means. This will be less of a review on the game, and more on the quality of the port itself.

I put a lot of time into the game on Gamecube a few years back. I ended up getting some extremely high scores, and was pretty pleased with myself. The entire time I was playing, though, I wished they'd release a port for the Xbox, because I thought that the Xbox controller would be better suited to the game than the GCN's. Therefore, when I heard about the XBLA release, I was overjoyed. However, it turns out that this isn't the case - the 360's controller is actually pretty bad for Ikaruga, or at least, it is using the button scheme I used before. You can assign any of the buttons on the pad for any of your actions - shooting, switching polarity, and releasing a large homing energy blast. The layout of the four face buttons on the GCN made it extremely easy and comfortable to hold down the fire button and simply slide your thumb slightly to switch colors. On the 360 pad, however, it's a little more awkward. The 360 D-pad is also godawful for this game, though the analogue stick works well enough. Then again, the D-pad on the GCN was probably even worse, so I've always just used the stick anyway.

Visually, the 360 version is by far the best. The aliasing found in previous versions is gone, and the game plays in a higher resolution this time around. The sound and music is, as far as I can tell, unchanged. Although I've only really put an hour or two into it this time around, I have noticed a few small differences in gameplay. I'm almost certain that the color order of Shigi (the level 3 miniboss)'s orbital laser things have been switched around, which led to a few 'wtf' deaths. Also, I'll have to further playtest, but I'm sure there are a few more seemingly random changes, like a timing change in 4-1. I dunno, maybe I just don't remember the chapters very well. I'm extremely rusty. Ikaruga is very much a game of memory and patterns, not simply holding down the fire button. Getting a high score is about chaining. It can be a very technical game sometimes, though it's always compelling.

My biggest gripe with the port is probably the removal of Conquest mode. That was a very handy mode where you could not only play individual parts of individual levels at various speeds in order to learn the patterns, but also watch helpful, but not exactly perfect, videos of developers playing those sections. The art gallery and music player are also gone, which is actually a shame because this game has nice art and music. However, despite the nagging flaws, it's still pretty much the same Ikaruga I know and love. While I'm unlikely to put anywhere near as much time into it this time around, it's still an extremely fun, challenging, addicting, and rewarding game to play. The addition of saveable replays and leaderboards add another reason to keep playing, and they included the almost nonsensical Engrish story fragments, in the form of text on the screen inbetween chapters. These were in the Dreamcast version, but not the GCN. They don't really add to or detract from the game in any way, but they're kinda funny.