Ikaruga (Review) Nintendo Switch

Ikaruga (Review) Nintendo Switch
Review Score:

Initially developed by Treasure and released in Japanese arcades in December 2001, Ikaruga is a puzzle-based, vertical scrolling shmup that has received critical acclaim for its polarity system (a mechanic that sees the player swapping between two different shields to adsorb enemy bullets) and harder than nails gameplay.

During its early inception, Ikaruga was eventually ported to the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube, and then later for the Xbox 360 and PC on Steam. Each release had its own features that were exclusive to the console(s) it was ported to. The Nintendo Switch release is no different. For example: the Switch version supports single-player and two-player (local) cooperative modes, accompanied by global leaderboards that can be accessed online for tracking high scores. Additionally, Ikaruga can be played in either (traditional) horizontal mode or vertical mode for arcade-style ‘TATE’ mode action.

The gameplay is just as addictive and frustrating as it was 13 years ago. Spanning five knuckle whitening stages of bullet hell, the player is sent headlong into each stage ripe with hazards, enemy spacecraft and massive, hulking bosses armed to the teeth with weaponry. The enemies – like most bullet hell shmups – immediately take front and center, as they overwhelm the playfield with an unpredictable amount of bullets.

Dodging these projectiles can be difficult, especially during later levels. The player must always be conscious of the type of enemies and bullets that appear on-screen. By the time level 2 starts, pressing the B button (which swaps between shields) becomes second-nature; an impulse in fact. The only issue is making sure that a stray bullet of the opposite color doesn’t strike by surprise. (It happens more often than not.)

The game wastes no time in ramping up the difficulty. The levels (starting from level 3 and onward) feel very claustrophobic, as movement is restricted by large, floating blocks; numerous enemies; and countless bullets. Even a hardcore shmup fan will be hard-pressed to complete a level without losing a few lives.

Ikaruga doesn’t feature any power ups. The player must rely on their ship’s main weapon and a homing laser to survive. The homing laser will not function until the player’s ship absorbs enough bullets. The attack power of this weapon increases one level for every 10 bullets absorbed. Each level is the equivalent of one laser, thus 12 can be stored. The homing laser is a powerful weapon that should be used sparingly. The best strategy is to save it for boss battles.

Ikaruga for Nintendo Switch is an entertaining shooter that harkens back to Treasure’s heyday as a developer. The gameplay and 2D graphics have aged exceptionally well over the years. And the action itself never skips a beat, no matter how cluttered (or intense) it gets on-screen. This is one shooter that fans of the genre shouldn’t overlook.

Mike Pittaro
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: Nicalis
ESRB: E 10+ (Everyone 10+)
Price: $14.99

Ikaruga Official Website: https://www.nicalis.com/games/ikaruga

Review Score
The 2D graphics have aged exceptionally well over the years
Classic arcade explosions.
Intense gameplay from start to finish.
Ikaruga is a classic that should be owned by anyone who enjoys shmups.
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