Ikari III: The Rescue Review—Ikari on My Wayward Presidential Candidate’s Son (or Daughter)
Ikari III: The Rescue is perhaps the last SNK arcade classic converted into a Mini that we will see for a while, and as such, it’s perhaps fitting that they end with the last sequel to one of their more popular arcade series, Ikari Warriors. Ikari III goes back to its roots, away from the strange, trippy Ikari II: Victory Road, which was set in a Mortal Kombat-style alternate universe—in here, once again, you are fighting your way through a jungle in order to rescue someone, this time the offspring of a presidential candidate.
The gameplay, though, is quite different from the two previous titles in the series, which played more like Front Line or Commando. Instead, the game is more of a beat ‘em up, focusing on close combat, mostly unarmed, though occasionally an enemy will drop a knife or gun. Guns really only drop right before a boss fight against a vehicle, the gun being the only way to defeat those. Most of the game, you will be punching and kicking opponents.
Rather than freely move through each stage, you have to defeat a wave of incoming bad guys, then move in the direction that a flashing arrow that pops on the screen shows you. So it’s like an old karate movie in feel, where they’d always challenge the hero one on one or in small groups, rather than ganging up on him all at once.
There’s not an overwhelming variety of opponents: guys in green uniform, guys in blue uniform, guys in red pants with a black tank top and knife who apparently are break dancers. Really, they jump and spin around. Then you have a recurring boss-like character that has white hair, who resembles the great B-movie action star Frank Zagarino. He’s actually much tougher than the real bosses that you come across, which are vehicles, either tanks or helicopter gunships.
Eventually you reach the end of a stage and are treated to a small and somewhat strange cutscene. It’s never clear just what is going on, because they use pronouns rather than proper names. Does “they” mean you (and your co-op partner which isn’t available in this version) or the bad guys? And you’re supposed to be rescuing the presidential candidate’s daughter, but characters seemingly refer to her as a “him.” Or did they mean the villain behind the plot?
The arcade game apparently used a setup like previous titles in the series, where you had a rotary dial to control the direction your guy was facing. As such, it uses the same basic controls to change facing here as in the other Ikari Minis releases, using the shoulder buttons to spin around instead of a rotary dial. That worked well enough in the previous games with their run-and-gun style, but here it’s nearly impossible; instead you have to turn on the auto-aiming, which faces the guy the same direction in which you move him. G1M2 has added this option to every applicable Mini, but this is the first one where I turned it on. It’s really a must, so props to them for adding it (and in past games).
They also have the usual options—game difficulty, number of lives, and can you continue or not. The game isn’t terribly difficult (except the white-haired boss fights), but most players will definitely need to continue to get to the finish. And it’s a fairly lengthy (or should I say, slow-moving) game, so the save/load game state feature to save your progress is very helpful.
Graphically, this is really one of the better SNK games, not surprisingly since it’s one of the newest, being only about 20 years old. It could easily pass for a SNES game, with nice, well detailed sprites. Unfortunately, there is some slowdown on occasion, pauses rather than the frame rate dropping, when boss vehicles and seemingly TNT crates appear. The music is also probably the best I’ve heard in an old SNK game—those that are fans of the retro style of music would probably appreciate this.
Ikari III: The Rescue is more playable and fun than Ikari II: Victory Road, but it’s very slow-paced. Kicking and punching enemies to death take a lot more time than simply shooting them (kind of why guns were invented), and you move through a stage at a glacial pace. There really also isn’t much in the way of enemy variety. Which I guess there can’t be, since it’s a fairly mundane setting. But if you are looking for a beat ‘em up, you could do a lot worse. Just be wary of getting a sore thumb.