Ikaruga: Double Deuce
2D shooter games are a dying breed.
In the past, every arcade company churned out several variations of shoot-em-up (SHUMP), either vertical or horizontal. Things started simple enough: Space Invaders, Galga, 1942, but before long players were asked to navigate seemingly impossible swarms of enemies and a blistering array of bullets streaming in every possible direction. Cooperative play was added as well so that playing with friends became a social event. Each player played to assist the team yet they competed to achieve the highest score as well.
The modern incarnation of the shooter is often a 2D playing field inhabited by 3D objects. The result brings all of the modern 3D flash and presentation to the classically untouched foundation of 2D gameplay, a welcome combination. Yet even with these innovations to the classic controls and play mechanic, fewer and fewer SHUMPS are born each year.
Perhaps the decline of the shooter is due to over-specialization. As SHUMPs have gotten more difficult to keep the shooter audience challenged, they have also been more and more intimidating to newer players. Even watching some of the newer shooters is difficult to the untrained eye as the action on the screen is intense and alarmingly fast. Naturally, fewer people are interested in purchasing a game that will take time and effort to master instead of picking up a more accessible title. Yet as it is with most things, you get out of a game what you put into it.
Ikaruga is an insanely difficult shooter with an interesting twist. The ship you maneuver through the blinding patterns of bullets and sprays of electrified beams, always has a shield around it. It can absorb any of the enemy’s bullets and even turn them into energy. Yet, with a single hit, your ship is destroyed. How is it that your ship, protected by a shield can be destroyed with a single hit?
The bullets in Ikaruga come in 2 variety, dark and light. When your ship is surrounded by a light shield, it absorbs light bullets. When your ship is within the protection of a dark shield, dark bullets do you no harm. Switching the polarity of your ship’s shield is as simple as pressing a button. Instantly the shield flips to the opposite polarity, protecting your ship from all like bullets.
How on earth can this be challenging if one has the ability to absorb every bullet on screen? For starters, there are now twice as many bullets. The patterns and sprays of enemy fire spread out in overlapping displays of electrical pyrotechnics. At every moment, the player needs to be aware of the polarity of the ship. The instant the polarity switch occurs, the landscape of the screen is vastly different. What was, a split second ago, a stream of enemy fire is now a series of candy-like energy beads ready to be absorbed. What was, a split second ago, safe territory on the screen is now certain death. The player’s mind needs to switch the perception of the screen just as the ship’s shield changes polarity. It isn’t easy but is extremely rewarding.
Recently, some videos have been parading about the Internet showing off those who are particularly skilled at Ikaruga. One in particular has grabbed my attention.
This gentleman not only manages to play a great game of Ikaruga, he manages to play two great games of Ikaruga at the same time.
With his left hand, he controls the player 1 ship. With his right, the player 2 ship is under his command. Playing Ikaruga is usually a 2-handed affair as all of your senses are bent on your little ship, protecting it from harm and navigating through the swirling Charybdis of enemy fire. Yet this person can manage to focus on both ships, their polarity and the intense swarm of potential destruction, all at the same time.
What ensues is a ballet of video games if ever there was one; each hand, protecting the other, covering each other and lashing out to cut through the endless horde.
The video is hosted on Google Video. You may have to install their player to see it, but the player is a small, unobtrusive download, after which you can quickly watch the video.
For more information on Ikaruga, check out the Gametab page or watch the GameStop video review.
Watch Ikaruga: Double Deuce!!