Ikaruga (Switch) Review – Arcade Greatness
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Release: 29th May 2018
It´s truly fascinating how more and more Shmups get exclusive releases on the Switch. Now, even Nicalis joined the mix. With their partner Treasure, they bring the 17 years old classic Ikaruga to Nintendo´s portable console, along with all kinds of improvements. Luckily, the game itself was great, to begin with when it first released in arcades more than a decade ago.
Typical for older Shmups, Ikaruga doesn´t change up the base formula a whole lot. There are 5 missions in total, each with their own boss and high score. At the start of every run, you can select your lives. Once all your lives are depleted you will have to retry from scratch. Since the screen seems to be clustered with bullets at every time, dodging and surviving this hell for longer than 10 minutes seems to be an almost impossible task for some, to begin with though.
Naturally, it´s not an easy endeavour, so those unwilling to spend their time improving their Shmup skill have the grat option to just start with unlimited lives, in order to see the full content but won´t be able to present themselves on the leaderboards. Otherwise, at first glance, there´s not much separating Ikaruga from other titles which were released decades ago, right? Quite the contrary because the game actually rocks some of the most up-to-date mechanics of our time. Namely, colour switching, the most important thing of the whole game. With one button press it´s possible to switch either to white or black, nullifying any damage from projectiles of the same colour.
As a result, the whole dynamic switches from dodging bullets to planning and reacting to enemies. Especially due to the fact your special meter only fills by absorbing orbs the same colour as your own, it becomes an essential tool, that can´t be ignored even if tried. Itßs still a great way to offer a complicated, strategic gameplay without relying on thousdands of buttons. Actually, there only are three: Shoot, switch and special attack.
Despite all this, Ikaruga is one of the most challenging Shmups I played since quite a while. Combined with the easy to pick up, almost child-like controls though, I always found myself coming back to it, motivated by the fact every failure was cause of me, not the game. Combined with the tight controls, playing it is both highly motivating and challenging all the good ways. Yet, the one thing I don´t quite get myself to like are the hitboxes, the player one in particular. In other Shmups, they´re often tinier than the model, to ensure you can dodge some projectiles better. Here, they´re not, making everything seem way more precise but also unfair at times when a bullet hits the ship by just 1mm and you still die.
Where Treasure´s Switch version excels is its new features. While it´s entirely possible to play Ikaruga like any other Switch Shmup, you can also flip the Switch and experience the game like you would be in an arcade! Naturally, also possible in docked mode. The fact it runs like butter on the console, without burning the battery like other titles, is really neat as well. Yet, the full HD remaster, as great as it may be, doesn´t really show, mostly because it was such a cool looking game to begin with! Despite the age, everything about it still looks like a gorgeous arcade title.
Okay, Ikaruga isn´t a marvellous new Shmup everyone should play but for 14.99 it´s a treat no one should miss. Especially if you already played it in arcades and what not, the still fresh polarity system, tight controls and bullet hell challenge presented here easily create an amazing experience, just amplified by the Switch improvements.
[A Review Code was provided by Nicalis]