Ikari Warriors Review—Ikari It Fun

IkariTitle

Ikari Warriors is a “run and gun” arcade game from SNK, originally released in 1985, and now ported to the Minis platform by G1M2. The gameplay consists of controlling a soldier that slowly marches upwards through a battlefield landscape, complete with dozens of enemy soldiers, tanks, pill boxes, forts, traps, and so forth. You start off with only a gun and grenades, but as you move through the terrain, you come across tanks you can enter.

This sort of game was popularized by Commando from Capcom (also from 1985), but as far as I know, the basic gameplay dates to Taito’s Front Line of a few years earlier (which received a Colecovision port that was a favorite of mine as a kid). I’ve always called games like this “Rambo” games, because that movie created something of a fad in popular culture, which also spawned the Chuck Norris Missing in Action movies, popularized Soldier of Fortune magazine, and inspired a myriad of other things, including games like this (and Guerrilla War, also from SNK, a couple years later).

First major obstacle in the game

First major obstacle in the game

In the arcades, for these types of games, you had a joystick, controlling the movement of your guy, and either a dial or joystick to control the direction of the aim, with buttons to fire the gun or throw a grenade in the aimed direction. Since the PSP has only one stick, you need to use buttons to move the aim around—in this case, it defaults to the shoulder buttons. You can also pick an option where it aims in the same direction you are moving.

I found both methods to be a little awkward, but since it allows you to remap the controls, I got the best results using the O and Square buttons to aim, with the X firing the gun and the Triangle button to throw grenades. But, I’ve always found the shoulder buttons on the PSP to be a little awkward, and my remapped setup fits what was used in the Colecovision port of Front Line, which used special controllers that had 4 triggers. So your experience will vary. It’s just one of those things that doesn’t translate well when a game is taken from the arcades to modern consoles/portables.

The difficulty starts off manageable, if a bit tricky, fighting off a half dozen soldiers, and it ramps up quickly, getting quite hard. Besides the soldiers and tanks, you end up facing mines, guided missiles, and helicopter gunships. It even has suicide bombers. And to further complicate matters, when things explode, they explode in a burst of shrapnel, which you need to dodge.

Woohoo! In the tank!

Woohoo! In the tank!

It seems to be one of those games that wanted you to constantly put in more coins to continue. Thankfully, here it doesn’t cost you anything. I think I passed the purchase price of this game after about fifteen minutes. The first few credits’ worth of lives isn’t so bad, but after a certain point in the game, I was continuing every other minute. Sooner, in the really hard spots.

Unfortunately, though, SNK made continuing a little tricky. Instead of just hitting the Start button again within a few seconds of the game being over, you need to hold down the fire button (defaulting to X) and the Start button. On the PSP, this is a little awkward, since they are both on the right side, but not that close. So, you need to use two different fingers to do this, and for people like me with long fingers, it’s best done with fingers on different hands.

Part of the appeal of games like this is the exploration factor, and here SNK did a pretty good job with making the game interesting. Some of the forts you work your way through get a bit repetitive, but for the most part, it’s fun to make your way through to the end, where you (slight spoiler) rescue a giant-sized Teddy Roosevelt lookalike.

Great cabinet art. I look like the guy on the left, only rounder.

Great cabinet art. I look like the guy on the left, only rounder.

I actually had no idea you were trying to rescue someone, until he appeared. Like the other SNK Minis, there isn’t any info on the game itself. The gameplay is simple enough, but I wasn’t sure how to get into a tank at first (just press the grenade lob button while on top of the tank, same to get out of it).

The graphics are quite good for the era. Lots of detail, colorful, maybe a little blocky. Once in a while, there is a bit of slowdown for a second or so. On the other hand, the sound is rather weak, really almost unnoticeable.

As before, these arcade-to-Mini ports from G1M2 give you a variety of emulator options. Stretch the screen or have it in its original resolution (and if you pick original resolution, it adds artwork to the sides, in this case, apparently the original cabinet art), how many lives per credit, adjust the controls to your liking, and best of all, save the game state. That is perhaps not so important in this game, as you have unlimited continues, but it is somewhat helpful if you want to beat the game but don’t want to do it in one sitting.

One of the few bosses in the game

One of the few bosses in the game

Ikari Warriors is a lot like an ’80s action movie. It’s fun, but it’s ridiculous at the same time. Here, though, the ridiculousness is how it plays. You move forward a few inches, kill a few enemies, then die, and repeat until it’s time to insert another coin. And then you repeat again and again until you reach the end. It was meant to be a co-op game, so presumably that helps the experience a lot, but you can’t experience that in this version.

The single-player experience is still fun, but because of the coin-eating nature of the game, it doesn’t feel like it tests your gaming skill, simply your endurance. Then again, that sort of design philosophy is common in today’s games. Ikari Warriors is very similar to Guerrilla War, but I think this has the edge on fun.

7.5/10

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Comments

14 Responses to “Ikari Warriors Review—Ikari It Fun”
  1. Paddy Murphy says:

    Ahhhh one of my all time favourite games, I seriously need to pick this up and play the hell outta it :D

  2. James Hall says:

    I hope it gets released on the UK store soon. I used to love this.

  3. FriedAttack says:

    Oh that is how you continue! Thanks. Love this game but it might be the nostalgia.

  4. FriedAttack says:

    BTW – Does anybody know how to type in their name on the high score? No button seems to work.

  5. onmode-ky says:

    I have to say I don’t understand the review’s title. Maybe it’s based around a mispronunciation? “Ikari” (meaning “wrath”) is pronounced like “E-car-E” (technically more like “E-CA-REE,” but I wanted to make the vowel sounds look in parallel).

    If I were to customize my controls for this game, I think I would map the gun to R, the grenades to L, and the turning to Square and Triangle. Sadly, I didn’t think to do that while playing Guerrilla War.

  6. JeremyR says:

    I don’t even try to pronounce names like that. It’s a play on words, based on it being spelled close to “I call”. At least in capital letters, it’s about only 1 letter off from “I KAII”, or “I call”.

  7. JeremyR says:

    And no, I couldn’t figure out how to enter my initials either…

  8. G1M2 says:

    It is great to see the review of the game and the excited post comments!!

    The challenge with entering your initials is being able to see them on screen. The resolution of the arcade game is taller than the resolution of the PSP. If you switch to the “Stretch Screen” mode, you can see the initials and hit left or right on the d-pad to toggle letters (it might be up or down). Then press one of the buttons to enter that letter and go to the next one.

  9. G1M2 says:

    The way SNK pronounces it (and the way I have always heard it pronounced) is:

    EYE – CAR – E

  10. onmode-ky says:

    Wow, that is bizarre. The Japanese title of the game is simply the lone kanji for “ikari,” so it’s definitely supposed to be pronounced like the Japanese common noun. I wonder why the American division chooses to pronounce it differently. This is similar to Xevious’ name being pronounced differently by Atari when they imported it into the US—but that’s a case of a completely different, wholly American company bringing it over.

  11. G1M2 says:

    The mispronouciation might be caused by the fact that they have heard other people pronounce the name that way and they just go with it…

  12. Joel says:

    I think the pronunciation theories should stop now.

  13. onmode-ky says:

    They stopped about 19 months ago. . . .

  14. Michael G says:

    Seems like it’d be better than Commando & Ikari if not for the lousy control scheme.. Every time I take the time to turn and redirect I’m dead!

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