One of the most sought-after games on the Sega Saturn was a game not even released in the US. The game, Radiant Silvergun, is considered one of the best shooter games ever released. While it hasn't been played by many people, its spirited sequel, Ikaruga, has been played by many more people. Released initially in Japanese arcades, it made its way to the, by that time dead, Dreamcast, then ported to the Gamecube and finally to Xbox Live Arcade. Developed by Treasure, it continues the tradition of innovative 2d gameplay.
Shooters have always been games that don't have a lot of plot in them. In the case of Ikaruga, there is a plot but you can easily play the game without even knowing about it. Anyways, the story goes that there is this small island nation, Horai, where an object called Ubusunagami Okinokai - The Power of the Gods. This nation began taking over other nations. A federation rose up to challenge Horai but they were wiped out. One survivor, Shinra, was shot down near a village called Ikaruga where exiled people live. The people created their own ship, called Ikagura, to battle the nation of Horai. Shinra is given the ship in hopes to destroy the Horai nation.
The innovative gameplay is what really makes the game so much fun. While the basics of a shooter are there, move a ship back and forth on the screen destroying other ships, the color of the ships is where the innovation comes to play. This system, called the polarity mechanic, lets you switch your ship from black to white. When your ship is black, it will absorb black bullets; it will cause extra damage to white enemies, and will cause minimal damage to black enemies. The opposite is true so what we get is a shooter with a bit more thinking involved. More traditional shooters have the screen filled with bullets while you have to carefully move between them. In Ikaruga, you can go through those bullets but you have to constantly think about what bullets are coming next. The game actually rewards you for absorbing those same color bullets since they power up a laser that helps you destroy multiple opponents at once. Not only that, but you can progress through the game without killing enemies or bosses but instead constantly absorb bullets. It's that extra layer added which makes the game so much fun.
To rack up the high points, a player has to master the chain system. By destroying enemies of the same polarity in sets of three, extra points are acquired. Once again, having the ability to absorb bullets makes this possible, and also once again, you will have to do some quick thinking to decide whether or not you'll go for those points. To add some extra spice to the game, co-op mode was added which you don't see that much in shooters (Gamecube version is offline co-op while Xbox Live is online).
I did say this game was a 2d shooter but it has some 3d elements. In the background, there are 2d object moving in three dimensions and at certain points, your ship will change direction moving into that third dimension. It'll stay 2d but it's a nice effect. Even though the enemies are restricted to black and white, they're designed so well that you almost forget the restriction in color palette. Hell a screen full of bullets of both colors has a remarkable beautiful effect to it. These graphics are accompanied by a great score that adds a great touch to the shooter experience. Combined the two create a presentation that most shooters cannot compare to.
The two versions of the game, Xbox Live and Gamecube, are basically the same with only some very small differences. The Xbox Live has updated visuals for high def TVs and online Leaderboards as well as co-op. For the Gamecube, there is an additional mode called Conquest mode which is a variation of the Training mode.
Although the game is short, about an hour or so, this is an arcade shooter which isn't meant for long hours of play. The game is full of addictive fun and difficult levels making it a good game. Its innovative gameplay is what makes this game truly great.