Ikaruga Review (Switch)

Fans of shoot-em-ups will instantly recognize Ikaruga as the spiritual successor to Radiant Silvergun. Originally released in arcades in Japan in the year 2001, the game has been a cult classic ever since. Developer Treasure has strived to innovate the genre with fresh ideas. With Radiant Silvergun, it aimed to ramp up the arsenal available to the player, removing the hassle of collecting upgrades and giving players the opportunity to focus on the actual gameplay and the choice of attack strategy.

Similarly, with Ikaruga, it puts the focus on the perception of action and the speed of reaction with the introduction of the concept of polarity shift. The idea was previously experimented with by the Japanese developer the PSX game Silhouette Mirage. Ikaruga has been hailed as a reimagining of the genre, with an added layer of intellectual depth missing from other shoot-em-ups.

The game’s mechanics are easy to get into, yet difficult to master. You take control of an airship that fires blue shots in one polarity and red shots in the other. During the course of the game’s five levels, you will encounter enemy ships that fire shots of either blue or red polarity towards you. Incoming shots of the same polarity as the one you have triggered for your airship get absorbed and accumulate towards a special attack. On the other hand, if your airship comes into contact with enemy fire of the other polarity, your ship will get taken out. It’s possible to switch polarity at any point and for as many times during the course of the game. This is where the aforementioned attack strategy comes into play, as the game’s encounter design encourages you to think up different possibilities of taking on enemies.

What is otherwise a typical bullet hell game on the surface is transformed into a much deeper experience thanks to one simple mechanic. It is this single mechanic that is the absolute focus here. There are no other complications with respect to mechanics and no element of chance where a power up will suddenly boost your airship’s firepower. Ikaruga is all about concentration and muscle memory. You own your mistakes and your accomplishments feel all the most rewarding as a result. As levels get more challenging and complex in design, the element of strategy plays a far more pivotal role in progression.

There are a number of additional modes for bullet hell purists, such as the prototype mode, which puts a limit on your available bullets, in turn forcing you to primarily rely on absorbing incoming fire instead of rapidly firing at everything on-screen. The game can also be played in local coop, and it’s plenty of fun provided both players can attain a state of synergy. There’s even a double play mode, should you wish to take control of both ships all by yourself. It’s probably the toughest challenge of nerves that the game has to offer.

What makes the Switch version great is the ability to play the game the way it was meant to be played with the proper aspect ratio in vertical orientation on console’s portable screen with both joycons detached. As such, it also makes for a great on-the-go local coop experience.

Visually, the Switch port is faithful to its Steam counterpart, which was a port of the Xbox 360 version. It’s no Resogun or Nex Machina, but it holds its own with an appealing art style. The soundtrack is decent and does its job of accompanying the tense gameplay.

Ikaruga is a classic, but it’s not a game for everyone. It confidently dwells in its genre and is designed to cater to a specific audience. It won’t alter the perception of those who aren’t thrilled about shoot-em-ups, and neither is it meant to.

Ikaruga Review (Switch)

Game Reviewed on: Switch

Game description: Ikaruga is a shoot 'em up developed by Treasure. It is the spiritual sequel to Radiant Silvergun and was originally released in Japanese arcades in December 2001.

Summary

Ikaruga is a classic, but it’s not a game for everyone. It confidently dwells in its genre and is designed to cater to a specific audience. It won’t alter the perception of those who aren’t thrilled about shoot-em-ups, and neither is it meant to.

8.0/10

Muhammad Ali Bari

Reviews Editor at GearNuke

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