A benchmark for the shoot em' up genre; the best the genre has to offer!
Gameplay : 9.5
Ikaruga's gameplay is unmatched in almost every way compared to other entries in the shoot em' up genre. This overhead shooter requires absolute precision and focus to dodge the plethora of bullets being fired at you from enemy ships. This provides a sense of excitement and fun, especially when you've just dodged what seems like an endless supply of enemy fire and somehow managed to survive, assuming that you do survive. However, the overwhelming amount of bullets coming your way also provides a level of difficulty that is unmatched by most games belonging to the genre of shoot em' ups and otherwise. The extreme difficulty of Ikaruga can certainly be a turn off for some, but for others it is a more then welcome challenge. In fact, the only reprieve you seem to get, if it can even be considered such, is the innovative polarity change system, This polarity change systems allows you to change your ship's polarity and absorb oncoming bullets that match your ship's polarity; when your polarity is black you are able to absorb the black bullets, and when polarity is switched to white you are able to absorb white bullets. Absorbing the enemies projectiles is crucial, not only for the sake of managing to avoid being obliterated, but also to charge your ships super-weapon, which allows you to destroy multiple enemies at once. Speaking of enemies, there are only a few, which can make the game seem a little repetitive at times, however this minor issue is ameliorated by the unique boss battles which each require you to adopt a different strategy to beat them, beyond dodging the countless projectiles that will be flying at you. Another complaint can be made about the length of this game; only spanning 5-levels of fast paced gameplay, this game can be beat from start to finish in about an hour. However, the shortness of this game can be easily forgiven by the fact that you will want to replay each level many times and on different difficulties to hone your skills and become better then you were the last time you attempted a specific level.
Graphics : 9
This is a very pretty game, even for a shoot em' up which aren't typically renown for their innovative or aw inspiring graphics. The models of the ships, both yours and your enemy's, are very well designed. This is especially true for the boss ships, which are very unique in themselves and have are highly manifold from one another. Perhaps more impressive then the various craft that litter this game are the ever more impressive backgrounds which are in flux with the rate of gameplay as you blast through each level. The only issue with the backgrounds is that you will have little time to appreciate them because your focus is almost always in the maelstrom of bullets flying at you. Even the bullets look good as they each have a radiant glow about them, which provides a very cool feel to the chaos of each battle situation.
Overall : 9.5
Without a doubt, Ikaruga is one of the best, if not the best the shoot em' up genre has to offer. While this game is ridiculously difficult, the game rewards you incrementally the more you play; that particularly difficult spot you once thought impossible becomes a sheer delight on the 20th or so try when you blow past that part with the precision of a seasoned pro. The more you play, the better and better you will become at this game, and the satisfaction that it provides is unmatched by most games out there. And while this game isn't the best looking game out there, it certainly is no slouch when it comes to appearance. Whether you are looking for an amazing shoot em' up game, a worthy challenge to your gaming skills, or just a really fun game overall, Ikaruga is right up your alley.