Hands-onIkaruga for the GameCube

We imported the new GameCube version of this awe-inspiring shooter and are here with all the details, and we've got lots of new media inside.

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Today GameSpot got its hands on the newly released GameCube version of Ikaruga, an action-packed space shooter from developer Treasure. Published in Japan under Infogrames' Atari Games label, Ikaruga was originally released in Japanese arcades and then faithfully ported to the Dreamcast last year. Though the game has never actually been published in this country, it nevertheless garnered a cult following in the United States on account of its extremely intense action and impressive production values. Currently, however, Infogrames has not firmly committed to publishing the GameCube version of the game in this country, despite evidence on online game retailer EBGames' Web site that an American version of the game would, in fact, be shipped later this year. At any rate, we enjoyed Ikaruga on the Dreamcast so much last year that we named it Best Japanese Import of 2002 in our recent awards. So of course we were eager to import the GameCube version and see how it has shaped up.

In short, we're pleased to report that the GameCube version of Ikaruga for the most part is indistinguishable from the Dreamcast version--that's definitely a good thing. The extremely smooth frame rate, sharp 3D graphics, excellent musical score, two-player mode, and highly responsive gameplay have all been brought over to the GameCube exactly. Ikaruga is a vertical-scrolling shooter, so like the Dreamcast version, it gives you the option to play in a vertical letterbox or in a full-screen mode that requires you to tilt your TV on its side. Numerous other gameplay options exist, a number of which are new to the GameCube version, like a challenge mode that lets you practice every leg of each of the game's five jam-packed levels.

One or two players can play Ikaruga simultaneously, and their ships, which can absorb like-colored enemy bullets, have the ability to quickly switch between light and dark modes. This adds a unique twist to the action and a real element of strategy to a type of game that typically demands quick reflexes and little else.

Ikaruga demands and rewards skillful play and offers an immense challenge and a complex combo-based scoring system. To support this feature, Infogrames has created an Ikaruga Web site where players can enter a special code they get from the game and post their best records against those of other players from around the world--or mostly just from around Japan, at this point.

We are very hopeful that Infogrames will opt to bring this remarkable game stateside, even if the market for traditional scrolling shooters is not what it used to be. If you've never seen this game in action before, check out our new gameplay movies, and we think you'll quickly see what makes Ikaruga special.

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