Ikari Warriors was one of the very first top-down land-based shooters to grace the Nintendo Entertainment System. Its combination of mindless shooting and simplistic gameplay made it quite repetitive, but that didnít stop many gamers from spending countless hours blasting through the gameís seemingly infinite stream of baddies. Even today it is often referred to as one of the NESís classic titles. I must admit that I did spend a good deal time playing Ikari Warriors during my youth, but that was mostly because of the gameís cooperative mode. Though, now that I am a more ìseasonedî gamer, I have a hard time spending more than five minutes with the game because its numerous problems are much more apparent.
The gameplay in Ikari Warriors is very simple: you take your shirtless, gun-toting, commando-type character and move through the gameís levels while shooting everything that stands in your path. You have a limited number of bullets and grenades, but power-ups litter the battlefield so conserving ammunition is never an issue. In an interesting twist, you are able commandeer tanks and helicopters to help in unleashing hot death on the opposition. The vehicles canít take much damage, but they can be very helpful if only because they allow you move much faster than otherwise possible on foot. Enemies come at you from every direction with the intention of thwarting your attempt to save the world. Even in the titleís early stages you will find yourself swarmed by soldiers, tanks and projectiles, making it near impossible to get anywhere with the paltry three lives given to you. It is for this reason that Ikari Warriorsí continue code of A,B,B,A will be forever etched into my memory banks. Without that code this game is easily one of the hardest ever made, and Iím very skeptical to anyone who claims they have completed the game without cheating.
The main problem with the gameplay in Ikari Warriors is not its simplicity, but the fact that your character moves agonizingly slow when on foot. It is inexcusable for a top-down shooter with twitch-based gameplay to have such sluggish movement for the main character. Time after time you find yourself in the ëspinning animation of deathí because your limited mobility hindered your escape from a sticky situation. Compile this problem on top of the fact that levels are agonizingly long and you have the perfect recipe for frustration-fueled, controller destroying rampages. Any game that can drive you to break the extremely hearty, brick-like NES controller is definitely too difficult in my book.
As I mentioned before, the main reason I was drawn to this game was because of the co-op mode. My friends and I were always looking for fun NES games to play together and Ikari Warriors seemed to fit the bill nicely. But, because the titleís levels are so incredibly long I only remember beating the game on one occasion, and that was due to the fact that we had stocked up on enough Jolt Cola, Laffy Taffy and Atomic Warheads to feed (albeit unhealthily) an entire developing country for six months. Every other time we simply ran out of gas and switched to something else. For what itís worth, the co-op in Ikari Warriors can be entertaining if played in short stretches, as my friends and I do have some fond memories of using teamwork to get through the gameís tough-as-nails stages.
Visually, Ikari Warriors is nothing special. It was a very early NES game and looks accordingly. The main characters are very simple and feature some very poor animation. The enemies consist of palate-swapped soldiers, tanks and bunkers and are animated just as badly as the main characters. Backgrounds in the game are very bland, and offer little variation, even later in game. To top it all off, the game actually slows down considerably when the action on-screen gets hot and heavy. There is no doubt about it; Ikari Warriors is sub par looking game, even by NES standards.
The background tunes in the game are horrendous. The main song that plays during a majority of the levels repeats over and over and over and over so quickly, that you are forced to either hit the mute button or experience some serious bleeding from the ears. I canít believe that SNK (the gameís developer) thought it was acceptable to include such trash as the titleís music. The sound effects are sparse, but of better quality than the music.
Some may consider Ikari Warriors as a landmark title on the NES, and that I can agree with. It did, after all, kick off the land-based shooter sub-genre. But, for those that call it a classic, well, thatís a tough pill to swallow. Even SNKís own NES offerings such as Guerilla War feature a much more fulfilling game experience. If you are a collector of old school shooters, then I would recommend adding Ikari Warriors into your library if only to say you have it. But, if you are looking for a quality game, then definitely look elsewhere, because you will most likely not find much to enjoy about this title.