TWiG 2008-04-07

Rediscovering Bullet Hell

by Mike Schiller

7 April 2008


This week’s release list looks a lot like last week’s release list.  That is, it’s pretty sparse.  There are, once again, no huge games coming out this week, and a solid half of the week’s releases are on the PC (and half of those are re-releases of things that most fans will have been playing for months already anyway), games that are still readily available elsewhere.  Portal, as a matter of fact, could be the best three hours you ever get for 20 bucks, but it’s a game whose time has come and gone, one of the defining games of 2007, a year when our faith in the FPS was challenged and renewed.

As it turns out, my pick of game to watch for the week is a re-release as well, though this one’s been awfully tough to find for quite some time; that’s right, this is the week that the long-promised Ikaruga will be re-released in HD form for the Xbox Live Arcade.

Words can barely express how excited I am about this.

Ikaruga, for those who see little more than a seven-letter, four-syllable Japanese word (which, incidentally, means “spotted dove”) in the name, is a variation on the “bullet-hell” style of space shoot-‘em-up that has come to prominence in the last few years.  While it retains the property of throwing massive amounts of tiny little bullets at you, this version of the game gives you a defense:  Each bullet (and each enemy) has a “light” or a “dark” polarity.  Your ship can switch between the two.  If you are the same polarity as the bullet that hits you, you’ll absorb it, building energy that you’ll be able to use for a special attack.  The downside is that enemies of the same polarity will take more shots to destroy.  Conversely, switching to the opposite polarity of your enemies allows you to kill them quicker, but also leaves you open to death.

Master developers Treasure (who I’ll hold a candle for ‘til my dying day thanks to Gunstar Heroes) take this mechanic and run with it, often forcing the player to switch on a whim from one polarity to another just to stay alive.  This gameplay style makes the game slightly easier than the traditional bullet-hell shooter, but “slightly easier” translates to “reasonable” when you’re talking about this much stuff on the screen at once.  Add in a bonus-producing combo system and some of the most intimidating bosses out there, and you’ve got a classic.  If you have never played the GameCube or the (Japanese import) Dreamcast version of Ikaruga, a slow release week like this one is the perfect time to give it a go.  At a mere 800 Microsoft points ($10), there really is no excuse to stay away from it, unless shmups cause you to break out in hives.

Honorable mention this week goes to Baroque, whose distinct art style and vaguely gothic storyline will show up on the Wii and PS2 this week thanks to those geniuses at Atlus.  Those of you waiting for a dungeon crawler for the Wii, well, your time has finally come.

As always, the full list of this week’s releases is after the jump…
Nintendo DS:

Fab 5 Soccer (08 April)
Plushees (08 April)


World Championship Cards (08 April)


Arcana Heart (08 April)
Baroque (08 April)
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2 (08 April)


Baroque (08 April)
MiniCopter: Adventure Flight (08 April)
Summer Sports: Paradise Island (11 April)

Xbox 360:

Ikaruga (09 April)


Nancy Drew: Double Dare 5 (07 April)
Overclocked: A History of Violence (07 April)
Assassin’s Creed (08 April)
Civil War Mysteries (08 April)
Half-Life 2: Episode Pack (08 April)
Portal (08 April)
Team Fortress 2 (08 April)
Escape from Paradise City (10 April)
Sam & Max Episode 205: What’s New, Beelzebub? (10 April on GameTap, 11 April for download)



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