Ikaruga is one of those rare video games that seem to generate feelings of intense nostalgia and reverence whenever their names are uttered in the company of other players.
Originally released on the Sega Dreamcast (and exclusive to its native Japan), it found global fame on the Nintendo GameCube and was recently resurrected to much fanfare on Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade.
Coded by near-legendary Japanese studio Treasure and considered to be the spiritual sequel to the equally-beloved Saturn blaster Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga is a big deal. Ergo, Ikaruga coming to Android is also a big deal.
It might seem akin to other bullet-hell shooters on Android - such as Raiden Legacy and DoDonPachi Resurrection - but it's totally unique in terms of how it plays. Borrowing the colour-switching element from Treasure's 32-bit action platformer Silhouette Mirage, Ikaruga allows you to toggle between black and white polarities.Colour me confused
When your ship is white, you take damage from black bullets but can absorb white ones. You also inflict more damage on black foes, and vice versa.
Being immune to certain bullets might sound like a bonus, but once the first level is out of the way it becomes abundantly clear that even though you can absorb some of the projectiles on the screen there are still enough of the opposite colour to cause you a serious headache.
The key to success is knowing when to switch polarity, and being able to do it quickly. The scoring system is based around chaining colours together, so you're not just fighting to survive, but also post as impressive a rank as possible.
This is what made the home console editions of the game so compelling, but the lack of physical controls does reduce the appeal of the Android version somewhat.
Although the drag-to-move mechanic works well enough, the need to tap the 'fire' button (having the auto-fire option enabled makes it hard to create chain combos) and stab the 'polarity switch' button means that controlling the game is something of a struggle.
Ultimately, you have to make the conscious decision to simply play Ikaruga for fun rather than seeking out the same kind of high scores you remembered achieving on the GameCube or XBLA.
In fact, the Android version is a lot more easygoing than its forerunners. You can pick any stage right from the off, and there are unlimited continues to make use of. The pressure to perform is lessened, allowing you to simply appreciate the killer gameplay and sumptuous visuals.Chain reaction
Speaking of which, Ikaruga is quite a demanding beast. You can reduce the quality of the graphics if you find your phone is breaking into a sweat, but even top-of-the-line handsets can't do the game justice at maximum detail - our shiny new Nexus 4 was still susceptible to a bit of stuttering and jerkiness on some of the busier levels.
It's disappointing that Ikaruga lacks some of the content that was present in previous editions of the game (there are no unlockable goodies and the practice mode is absent), but the biggest annoyance is the way in which publisher G-Gee has tied the game to its social media platform.
You can't even get it to load up without registering a G-Gee account, although once you've done this it's reasonably easy to jump straight into the game from that point onwards.
Ikaruga arguably needs a proper controller - more so than the many other shooters that are appearing on smartphones these days.
The unique colour-changing mechanic and focus on score-based chains means that it's harder to play on a touchscreen, but that doesn't prevent it from being a thoroughly entertaining and attractive blaster.
The fact that such an esteemed game is now playable on your mobile phone is something to be celebrated, regardless of the minor shortcomings.