Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Top 50 Video Games: Number 30

Stats of Import

Platform: Originally played a demo in a store on the Dreamcast, but the bulk of it was played via Xbox 360 Live Arcade
Absurdly Specific Genre: Bullet Hell
Difficulty: 10. I suppose that could come down to a 8 or 9 if you devoted your life to playing it, but I've never played a more difficult game for any length of time*
Beaten: Nope**, I'm about halfway. I devote about a day a month to trying to beat whatever level is next, but I'm quite stuck on the 3rd level boss.

* (cue the "but... Battletoads!!" crowd. To those of you, I say, Battletoads really wasn't that fun after about twenty minutes. If they had made a full game based off of the delirious fun that the first couple of levels had to offer without succumbing to "ha, you die!" gameplay, it would've been one of the great games of the NES console. As it stands... No.)

** Technically, I suppose I beat it. On easy. With infinite continues. With a friend. That is not beating a video game.

In most games that seek to test your skills, there comes a point where you die for the hundredth time in a row, toss the controller lightly to the side, stare at the screen, and wonder just how the the hell do I beat this? Whether it's a particularly hard boss, a grouping of a particularly difficult enemies, or simply a puzzle that breaks your brain, these sections of video games frustrate and infuriate until finally, they relent, and for a couple beautiful moments, everything becomes reflex.

Ikaruga is that devilish section over and over again.

This part took an embarrassing number of tries. Now I could do it in my sleep.

Almost every segment of the game stands in stone faced opposition of you. There is no slopping your way through the game, either the waves upon waves upon waves of bullets slowly seep into your muscle memory, or you simply die. Most games of that nature become old for me after... about ten minutes (I Wanna Be the Guy stands out in particular in this matter - I'm not aware of a more masochistically difficult game in existence, but I simply cannot play it). Ikaruga has near infinite play value for me.

For me, the most interesting part of the game is the polarity switch gimmick. Your ship absorbs bullets as long as they are the same color as the ship itself. If you're white, you absorb white and vice versa. Enemies will fire shots that are the same color as they are, but will be damaged twice as much by the opposite color. Utilizing that white/black switching becomes critical to your survival.

Determining which color you need to be at a particular moment can get... difficult.

The graphics are absolutely gorgeous. Everything is shiny and smooth, the dichotomy of the game splits all the enemy vehicles into white and black (actually sort of a dark red, at least as fair as the bullets are concerned), but within that palette, the design team made a game full of vivid and unique looking machines. The bosses range from almost insectoid in nature, to large and wheel-like, and are each distinctive.

The difficulty is extreme, though, and every time I play Ikaruga, I'm left with one overarching thought: I'm probably never going to beat this game - not the way it's meant to be beaten.

I guess I'm okay with that.


  1. PSN has a lot of bullet hell games, a few of which I own, but none (that I know of) that rate a 10 on the difficulty scale. I would like to play one of that difficulty, because I'm very handy at the top-down shooter genre.

    Plus, that polarity thing kinda gives me a boner. I'm bummed that this is an exclusive. It is, right?

  2. I'd have more to say if I owned the systems you do.

  3. @ Beau - I know. It's all good. I'd like to say there's some classic PC adventure games coming up, but (spoiler alert) there really aren't. We'll always have our similar movie tastes to fall back on.

    @ Spooky - Ikaruga is unfortunately an xbox exclusive (well, for this generation, anyway). I saw some videos for DoDonPachi for the PSN, and they looked pretty difficult, it'd be hard to say which one would be harder. I like Ikaruga's black/white mechanic and it's (comparatively) clean interface (there might be a million bullets on the screen, but it's not the wave of muddy color where it's hard to tell what's going on like some of them), as opposed to a billion different weapons that the player has access to, where it can be annoying to manage them all.

  4. I also played a lot of NES, SNES, Gameboy, and some Genesis and DS.