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Ikaruga (斑鳩 Ikaruga, lit. Japanese grosbeak) is a vertical manic shoot 'em up video game developed and published by Treasure. It was originally released in Japanese arcades in 2001 on the Sega NAOMI platform, and is the spiritual sequel to Radiant Silvergun. The gameplay consists primarily of a polarity mechanic. All enemies and bullets in the game are either black or white, and the player may switch between these polarities at will. Bullets which are the same color as the player are absorbed while the other will kill the player. The game features both single-player and cooperative modes.
Ikaruga was developed with a core team of only three people for over two years. All the characters and enemies in the game were named after various bird species. The game was well received by critics and is considered one of the best shoot 'em up games of all time. Ikaruga was ported to consoles first in Japan on the Dreamcast in 2002, and then worldwide on the GameCube in 2003. An enhanced port was released for the Xbox 360 in 2008 and later ported to Microsoft Windows in 2014.
Ikaruga's gameplay centers primarily around the polarity mechanic. Only bullets of an opposite polarity can kill the player. Same-color bullets are absorbed and converted into energy for the game's special weapon, a homing laser. Switching the ship's polarity also changes the color of the ship's bullets, and shooting an enemy using opposite-polarity bullets will cause double damage. Thus, much of the challenge of Ikaruga comes from careful polarity-switching, choosing between high damage and (relative) invulnerability. This is especially true when fighting bosses, as they often fire bullets of both colors in overlapping patterns. The game also presents navigational challenges where the player must maneuver through continual streams of weapons fire, using their shields to absorb one color while avoiding the others.
Skilled players may also perform combination "chains" for points. A chain occurs when three enemies of the same polarity are destroyed consecutively. The more sets of three enemies that are dispatched in a row, the more points are acquired, eventually rewarding the player with an extra chance/life. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the entirely original "bullet eater" or "dot eater" strategy, wherein the player does not shoot enemies, including bosses, which retreat after a set period.
Despite the fact that only four people are responsible for its creation, Ikaruga features full three-dimensional landscapes and a soundtrack. The home console releases also feature TATE mode - the ability to rotate the game's display by ninety degrees while the player's monitor rests on its left side, for full-screen arcade size. This same mode can be used without rotating the monitor by configuring the controls, in essence changing the game from a vertical scrolling shooter to a horizontal one. When the game is played with the display in a normal orientation (YOKO mode), the sides of the screen are blank because the game field itself is taller than it is wide. If it is turned on its side, it can take up the whole screen and still have the same aspect ratio. An interesting feature of the arcade release, which is also included in the home formats, is the 'Trial Game' mode, where infinite lives are awarded for a single credit on the first level, but only the first two chapters of the game can be played, offering a good way to practice.
In addition, Ikaruga features a two-player simultaneous mode, an in-depth slow-motion tutorial mode, with stage tutorials becoming accessible to players who reach them in the main game, and an in-game art gallery featuring character and mechanical designs by Yasushi Suzuki, who did designs for Treasure's Sin and Punishment: Hoshi no Keishōsha for the Nintendo 64.
Ikaruga. (2016, January 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.