Video Game / Ikaruga

Click here to switch polarity.

Ikaruga is a modernized take on the "Bullet Hell" school of Shoot 'em Ups, developed by Treasure. It's widely regarded as one of the best examples of the genre, and a Spiritual Successor to Radiant Silvergun.

Here, everything comes in one of two polarities: black or white. Black ships fire black shots, and white ships fire white. Your ship is unique in that you can switch between the two polarities at will. Your ship's Battle Aura can absorb bullets of the same polarity, but is destroyed by shots of the opposite polarity. However, your shots do damage to both polarities, with double damage to targets of the opposite polarity, giving you the option to fly with your defences down to increase your offensive power. Absorbed bullets charge up your special attack, a homing Beam Spam. Finally, the scoring system allows you to accumulate "chain" multipliers by destroying three enemies of the same polarity in a row.

That's all there is to the game: no other gimmicks, no other features. Just five levels of careful design, switching polarity, and more bullets than you can shake a stick at. Ikaruga is a work of art that way: it takes a simple idea and plays that idea to its most logical extreme. All five levels are That One Level in one way or another, but there is something to be said for elegance.

Released as an arcade game (using the Sega NAOMI platform) and on the Dreamcast in Japan in 2001, it was later ported to the GameCube around the world in 2003. In 2008, it was ported to Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. In 2013, a port of the game was released for Android smartphones. A Windows PC port based on the Xbox 360 version of Ikaruga was greenlit for Steam, and consequently released on February 18, 2014.

WARNING: The big list is approaching at full throttle. According to the data, it is identified as Tropes. NO REFUGE

  • 2˝D: Almost everything in the game is 3D, but the game, being a Bullet Hell shooter, plays out on a 2D plane with some cutscenes shown on a full 3D plane at the start of each stage and boss, as well as at the end of the entire game.
  • Action Girl: Kagari, pilot of the Ginkei.
  • Advancing Boss of Doom: Chapter 3's Boss in Mook Clothing near the end.
  • All There in the Manual: In the true tradition of shoot 'em ups, the only place you will find anything remotely resembling a coherent plot for the game. And not even then, in the GameCube version.
  • Animal Motifs: Ikaruga and Ginkei, the two ships, are named after birds. Ikaruga is also the name of the village where it was built.
  • Arc Words: Ikaruga departs.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Stone-Like.
  • The Atoner: Kagari, as she used to be a mercenary for the Horai.
  • Battleship Raid: The whole of stage four.
  • Big Bad: Horai Tenro.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The arcade version of the game takes up only eighteen megabytes. Trust us, that's impressive.
    • The XBLA version is no slouch either; for a game enhanced for 720p, it squeezes by at fifty megabtyes, which is saying more than other shooters on the service enhanced for high-definition.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Subverted in Chapter 5 with the huge ships that fire massive sprays of bullets...except the bullets are all in one color, allowing you to safely rapidly soak up bullets for a counterattack.
  • Boss Warning Siren: In the same vein as Radiant Silvergun: "WARNING: The big enemy is approaching at full throttle. According to the data, it is identified as "Butsutekkai". NO REFUGE"
    • Contrary to popular belief, that message never changes; "Butsutekkai" is referring to something else and is not the name of a boss. Eboshidori (the chapter 1 boss) gets misnamed frequently.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted in the console-exclusive Prototype Mode. Firing a shot uses one bullet, and firing your Homing Lasers uses 120. If you run out of bullets you'll be downgraded to a short-range attack. Bullets can be replenished by absorbing enemy bullets, and you can store up to 999 bullets.
  • Bullet Hell: While its difficulty has arguably been eclipsed by some of the more recent entries in the genre, the game will still throw some truly intimidating patterns at you. Perhaps the most infamous example...
    • Though this game allows you to fly straight into enemy attacks so long as your color matches what's being shot at you. The real trick is knowing how to flow seamlessly between the polarities in times when both colors are staggeringly close to one another (you might be absorbing a black laser but as you are, tiny white globs are making their way towards your ship and you need to figure out how to either dodge them or safely switch polarities without getting yourself blown up by the black laser).
  • Cast from Hit Points: Simply piloting the Ikaruga and Ginkei prematurely ages the pilots' brain cells.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: A lot of of the bosses do that when killed.
  • Charged Attack: The "collect" kind. Notably, you can use the attack even if the meter isn't fully charged; you just get less homing lasers from your Beam Spam.
  • Computer Voice: The Ikaruga and Ginkei fighters. Their voice is somewhat hard to comprehend though especially during the epilogue.
  • Cores and Turrets Boss: Stage 4 boss and Mini-Boss.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: The Xbox 360 port slightly changes some of the enemy formations, which can trip up players who are used to previous ports.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The final attack, which involves releasing all the ship's restraining devices and has a very good chance of blowing it up.
  • Darker and Edgier: Treasure somehow took the incredible bleakness of Radiant Silvergun and make it darker, in particular with the nearly monochrome watercolor artwork and dysfunctional heroes.
  • Death Seeker: Kagari.
  • Downer Ending: Your ship's Heroic Sacrifice at the end.
  • The Empire: The Horai.
  • Eternal Recurrence: Spelled out as such in the final chapter and then defied with the destruction of the Stone-Like.
    Tageri: It is impossible to cut off this metempsychosis forever. You can also see it, can't you?
  • Evil All Along: The Stone-Like, in contrast to its Blue and Orange Morality nature in Radiant Silvergun, is shown to be downright evil here, being the driving factor that motivates the Horai to begin their conquest of the world in the first place.
  • A God Am I: Horai Tenro and her followers, once they found the The Power of the Gods and started calling themselves the Divine Ones.
  • Gratuitous English: A few Ikaruga-related art pieces can be seen with the phrase "I'm not regret."
  • Heel–Face Turn / Defeat Means Friendship: Kagari in the prologue.
  • The Hero Dies
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Knowing the exact position of your hitbox is vital to getting the Dot Eater rank. You have to be very precise in your positioning in order to get past walls, blocks, and enemies you're normally suppose to shoot to safely progress.
  • Hold the Line: Just like Radiant Silvergun, the Post Final Boss disables your weapons. The only objective is to survive for 60 seconds.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: After defeating Tageri, the Stone-Like appears and attacks you with several different patterns of bullets for 60 seconds. You can't even shoot, much less damage it. After you dodge and absorb the Bullet Hell, the Ikaruga performs a Heroic Sacrifice with the energy charged up during that time. Shinra ascends to a higher plane of existence according to the storyline in the Japanese version.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: Any time a boss is destroyed.
  • Kaizo Trap: When the boss of Stage 2 dies, the second plate-like object that protects its weak points gets blown off. If your ship is directly below it, you can still die from getting hit by it, like so.
    • If you defeat the final boss but fail to survive the Stone-Like, whose battle takes place after the final chapter, you get No Ending.
  • La Résistance: Tenkaku, which was defeated before the game even starts.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Radiant Silvergun. The story is somewhat more positive in tone, and ends with a Bittersweet Ending rather than one where nothing gets fixed. The game is also easier.
  • Meaningful Name: Ikaruga is the name of the Japanese Grosbeak (and a village where said birds are found). All the mooks, the bosses, and the Ginkei (Player 2 ship) are also named after a bird in Japanese. The Sword of Acala and the Stone-Like are references to Vajrayana Buddism.
  • Mickey Mousing: The musical score is synchronized to the progression of the levels.
  • Minimalism: In contrast to Radiant Silvergun's complex weapon scheme and weapon levels, Ikaruga only gives you a basic rapid-fire blaster with constant firepower and a homing laser Charged Attack.
  • Nintendo Hard: Good Lord, though this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the console versions give out more credits as you log in more game time, and that even on the harder difficulties, it is relatively tame when compared to its predecessor, Radiant Silvergun. Good luck unlocking most of the secret content though, which usually requires 1-credit clears of different game modes.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: From the Ikaruga right after its restraining device is turned off.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder
  • Pacifist Run: It is perfectly possible to complete Ikaruga without ever firing a single shot. Doing so for an entire level earns you the rank of "Dot Eater!"
  • Power Limiter: The Ikaruga and Ginkei have these to prevent their ships from blowing themselves up with excess power. Turning this off allows the pilot(s) to use the Dangerous Forbidden Technique and destroy the final boss in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Playing Tennis with the Boss: The final boss. Even better, the boss's health is scaled so that if you hit every return shot it'll die exactly at the end of the musical phrase.
  • Rank Inflation: Good luck getting those elusive "S++" rankings, buddy!
  • Recurring Riff: Certain riffs are present in the majority of the songs.
  • Reverse Polarity: The main gameplay mechanic.
  • Roboteching: Your homing lasers and some of the enemies projectiles will arch and bend to their targets.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The chapter titles- Ideal, Trial, Faith, Reality and Metempsychosis- represent Man's struggle towards enlightenment, with the aura-enveloped Ikaruga craft symbolising the human soul. Apparently.
  • Sequel Difficulty Drop: The game, as notorious as it is for difficulty, is still easier than Radiant Silvergun. The game is shorter, your weapons do not require scoring well (or even at all) to maintain effectiveness throughout the game because they don't power up, and even if you do play for score, you can now change enemy color after each chain, allowing you to play for score and still destroy most of the enemies.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Radiant Silvergun. The real last boss' very definitely final form, and what happened to those that came across it is extremely similar to what happened to the researchers in Silvergun.
    • Spiritual Antithesis: Simultaneously. Silvergun featured a large assort of weapons and power-ups, Ikaruga has none. Silvergun has a bright, colorful environment and anime-esque cutscenes, Ikaruga's confined mostly to red/blacks and white/blues and uses much more realistic character designs. Silvergun's story starts comical but swiftly becomes an impossible struggle against an omnipotent godlike entity which ends with everyone's death and the cycle beginning anew, Ikaruga's story starts with the sole survivor of a failed resistance movement charging off to face an unstoppable army's entire force alone and winning, even managing to destroy the entity from Silvergun in a Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Suicide Mission
  • Theme Naming: The levels are named after the stages of enlightenment in Buddhism.
  • Time-Limit Boss: Every boss battle, though you don't lose if time runs out... the boss simply moves on to other, more important things, leaving you free to go on. Apparently. Eboshidori will even Face Palm!
  • Title Drop: In the weirdest sense. The birds that are flying in the credits? Japanese Grosbeaks. Ikaruga literally means "Japanese Grosbeak."
  • Touched by Vorlons: The ruler of the Horai was a beautiful woman who came across the Stone-Like God via excavation. She turns into a powerful, insane old hag bent on conquest.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: Seen (very briefly) at the start of each stage.
  • Yin-Yang Bomb