Ikaruga is a shoot ‘em up game that was originally released by Treasure on the Dreamcast. The game was ported over to the Nintendo Gamecube and eventually onto Xbox Live Arcade where it received a boost of HD visuals.  As a spiritual successor to Radiant Silvergun, the game was well praised by critics as one of the best and most difficult “shmup” games in the market. Now in 2014, shoot ‘em up fans now have another reason to rejoice as the game has been officially released on Steam.

The plot takes a back seat as the gameplay is mostly in the limelight. In the small island nation of Horai, the leader, Tenro Horai, discovered something called the “Ubusunagami Okinokai” which is translated as the “Power of the Gods”. This was encased in a small object that granted destructive power and as a result, the nation of Tenro or the “Divine Ones” used to conquer and decimate nations. Tenkaku, a resistance freedom federation fought back against the Tenro Horai with an Hitteki fighter force but were almost completely annihilated in battle. A pilot named Shinra was the lone pilot who miraculously survived and after being saved by villagers, he was given a special fighter plane known as the “Ikaruga” to defeat the Horai once and for all. A Horai mercenary, Kagari, was shot down by Shinra but after her life was graciously spared, she defected and joined the resistance against the Horai fighters.

The gameplay involves the Ikaruga, which is capable of switching polarities to destroy enemy fighters and to survive their deadly attacks. You can absorb enemy fire and bullets of the same colour but the opposite polarity will kill you instantly. Much strategy is involved as you switch from offensive and defensive tactics as many bullets will fly on screen at once as you engage multiple targets. Quick reflexes are needed especially when fighting bosses as they will throw everything your way that will put your shooting and maneuver skills to the ultimate test. Having a second player assist you in battle is often paramount to your survival as the game has a very steep difficulty curve.

Visually, the game looks appealing after receiving an HD upgrade while retaining the feel of a genuine arcade shooter. The soundtrack is engaging and will fill the player with adrenaline as they fight for survival in the heat of battle. In the Steam release, there is an option to play the game horizontally which adds a twist to the usual vertical scrolling game that fans have come to recognize and love.

Ikaruga is a punishing and difficult shoot ‘em up game that will challenge your wits, reflexes and strategic skills. The game is easy to pick up but very difficult to master as hardcore fans will find themselves replaying many missions to achieve higher scores and destroy bosses with flawless victories.  Those who missed out on it earlier should buy Ikaruga right away as it belongs in every fan’s “shmup” game library.


PROS – Sharp Visuals, Beautiful Soundtrack, Solid Gameplay

CONS – Steep Difficulty Curve


SCORE – 92%

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