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Video Game / Ikaruga

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"I will not die until I achieve something.
Even though the ideal is high, I never give in.
Therefore, I never die with regrets."
— Proverb that appears on every startup of the game

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 follow-up 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 difficult 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. A version for Nintendo Switch was released on May 29, 2018, followed by a PlayStation 4 port on June 29 of the same year.

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.
  • Airstrike Impossible: Several of the levels hew closely to this trope, with the Ikaruga flying through incredibly tight corridors to reach its target. The high-speed trench run in Level 3, and the boss of Level 4, are particular stand-outs.
  • 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 in that for the GameCube version.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Horai Tenro.
  • 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.
    • I will not die until I achieve something
  • Arrange Mode: The console and PC ports include the Prototype Mode, where both normal fire and the Beam Spam consume ammo, but absorbing bullets will give it back. Firing with no ammo leaves you with a weak short-range weapon.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Post-Final Boss, the Stone-Like.
  • The Atoner: Kagari, as she used to be a mercenary for the Horai.
  • Battleship Raid: The whole of stage four.
  • Belated Happy Ending: To Radiant Silvergunwhereas that story ends with the revelation that the events of the game are all a "Groundhog Day" Loop, Ikaruga ends with the heroes destroying the entity that was causing it.
  • 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 Dreamcast version's disc image, when compressed, took up around 20-100 megabytes depending on the compression method, and the size of an average CD-ROM (around 650-700mb) uncompressed.
    • The XBLA version is no slouch either; for a game enhanced for 720p, it squeezes by at fifty megabytes, which is saying more than other shooters on the service enhanced for high-definition.
  • Bio-Augmentation: This is Kagari's Informed Ability, which in-universe makes her more resistant to Combat Breakdown than a normal human like Shinra.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Shinra and Kagari destroy the Stone-Like, breaking the cycle from Radiant Silvergun, but they die in the process. However, it's implied (according to the Japanese version) they Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • 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"
    "There is no refuge: unable to avoid firing."
  • 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 Lifespan: Simply piloting the Ikaruga and Ginkei prematurely ages the pilots' brain cells.
  • Challenge Run: At least in the Xbox 360 version, there's a scoreboard for "Dot Eater" play - meaning you don't fire a single shot, collecting points by surviving and by using your shield to absorb every last bullet you can. This is much harder than you may think, as there are points throughout the game that are literal walls. Without the ability to fire and destroy these walls, you have to align the Ikaruga just right to slip through the single pixel holes in them.
  • Charged Attack: The "collect" kind. Notably, you can use the attack even if the meter isn't fully charged; you just get fewer 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: Misago, the 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 Ikaruga's and Ginkei's 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. However, it has a Lighter and Softer ending.
  • Deadly Walls: Half of the stages are filled to the brim with these. Sometimes, avoiding these and Collision Damage is harder than avoiding the bullets.
  • Defector from Decadence: Kagari defected from the Horai because she wanted to see the "freedom" Shinra and the villagers were talking about.
  • Determinator: Shinra is stated in the backstory as someone who, despite being cool-headed, is also very adamant in his beliefs. This, combined with his goal of wanting to have absolutely no regrets when he dies, sometimes makes him look like a Death Seeker in the eyes of others.
  • Emergency Weapon: The console ports offer a "Prototype Mode" that averts the genre-standard Bottomless Magazines trope. If you run out of bullets, you can still fire weak short-range shots.
  • The Empire: The Horai
  • Eternal Recurrence: Spelled out as such in the final chapter and then defied with the destruction of the Post-Final Boss.
    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.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Amanai is the Ikaruga village's chief engineer who built the Ikaruga for Shinra and (reluctantly) gave Kagari's Ginkei the same abilities that the Ikaruga has.
  • A God Am I: Horai Tenro and her followers, once they found the Power of the Gods and started calling themselves the Divine Ones.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Averted, as the heroes switch between Light Is Good and Dark Is Not Evil, while the villains switch between Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Evil (in fact, the bosses use both tropes simultaneously), befitting the game's polarity mechanic.
  • Gratuitous English: A few Ikaruga-related art pieces can be seen with the phrase "I'm not regret."
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Stone-Like, which was responsible for corrupting Horai.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Shinra is attacked by Kagari in the prologue. After he defeats her and stops her from committing suicide, she decides to help him out instead.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: The Stone-Like from Radiant Silvergun is once again the cause of Ikaruga's troubles, this time having corrupted Horai into a power hungry dictator and granting her unimaginable powers, and is later confronted as the Final Boss after Tageri is destroyed.
  • 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 supposed 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.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: Any time a boss is destroyed.
  • Ironic Echo: Kagari uses the game's opening proverb to convince Amanai to drop the Ikaruga's and Ginkei's restraining devices.
  • Kaizo Trap: When the boss of Chapter 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.
    • Inverted with the Stone-Like, which is destroyed by the last volleys from your ships after your own self-destruct.
  • La Résistance: Tenkaku, which was defeated before the game even starts.
  • Lighter and Softer: The story is somewhat more positive in tone, and ends with a Bittersweet Ending rather than one where nothing gets fixed.
  • 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 Buddhism.
  • Mickey Mousing: The musical score is synchronized to the progression of the levels.
  • Minimalism: In contrast to Radiant Silvergun and its complex weapon scheme and weapon levels, Ikaruga only gives you a basic rapid-fire blaster with constant firepower and a homing laser Charged Attack.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Kagari, although this is not apparent beyond the back-story. After meeting Shinra, as well as the villagers who gave him the Ikaruga and outfitted her Ginkei with the same Reverse Polarity technology that exists on the Ikaruga, she found their idea of "freedom" to be something that could possibly surpass Horai's goal of conquest, and wants to see it for herself before she dies.
  • Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode: 2-player mode is overall a worse experience than 1-player. First, players don't overlap each other's ships, they will push one another, potentially into an object and killing each other. Second, the game's scoring system heavily emphasizes precision shooting, and chains are separated by player, meaning that both players will have a very difficult time trying to score well due to accidentally or otherwise shooting each other's targets. The only real reason it exists is to allow the second player slot to be filled on an arcade cabinet (and thus allow the operator to make more money).
  • 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.
  • Not-Actually-Cosmetic Award: Only if you're playing the Xbox 360 port and also have Radiant Silvergun on the same platform — unlocking any achievement in Ikaruga unlocks its scoring system for use in RSG.
  • Not Completely Useless: In Prototype Mode, if you run out of bullets you'll be switched over to emergency bullets that have barely any range. However, given that the game's scoring system relies heavily on precision shooting, it is very useful for picking off specific enemies without accidentally destroying other ones, and indeed many superplays of Prototype Mode rely on this weapon in places.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: From the Ikaruga right after its restraining device is turned off.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The Ikaruga and Ginkei can absorb unlimited hits from shots of the same color as their current polarity. Take one hit from a shot of the opposite color, however, and...boom.
  • 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!"
  • Post-Defeat Explosion Chain: Most of the bosses do this when killed, with parts of them breaking away and blowing up with smaller accompanying shockwaves just before their central part explodes violently.
  • Power Limiter: The Ikaruga and Ginkei have these to prevent their ships from blowing up from storing too much excess power. Turning this off allows the pilot(s) to use the Dangerous Forbidden Technique and destroy the Post-Final Boss in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • 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.
  • Scoring Points: The game uses the chaining system from Radiant Silvergun, but with a few twists to make it more beginner-friendly - after every three enemies, you are allowed to change enemy color, and the chain bonus maxes out sooner at 25,600 points for your 9th chain and above, meaning screwing up once won't completely wreck your score. Additionally, since scoring is not tied to your ship's firepower, it is possible to complete the game in a reasonable timeframe without any regard to scoring.
  • Seemingly Hopeless Boss Fight: After defeating Tageri, the Stone-Like emerges from the remains 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, your ship performs a Heroic Sacrifice Beam Spam with the energy charged up during that time. Shinra and Kagari ascends to a higher plane of existence according to the storyline in the Japanese version.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Radiant Silvergun featured a large assortment of weapons and power-ups, while Ikaruga has two. Silvergun requires learning how to score in order to keep weapons powered up, but Ikaruga can be reliably completed without learning how to score and, in fact, recognizes Pacifist Runs. Silvergun has a bright, colorful environment and Anime-esque cutscenes, but Ikaruga is confined mostly to red/blacks and white/blues and uses much more realistic character designs. The story of Silvergun starts off comical, but swiftly becomes an impossible struggle against an omnipotent god-like entity which ends with a Eternal Recurrence; Ikaruga begins with the Sole Survivor of a failed La Résistance 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.
  • Stealth Sequel: The appearance of the Stone-Like as the Post-Final Boss implies that Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun are set in the same Continuity, albeit Ikaruga occurs in the final cycle of the Eternal Recurrence set-up from Silvergun.
  • Taking You with Me: On Normal difficulty, enemies that match your current polarity will fire a cluster of same-polarity "revenge bullets" when destroyed, potentially getting you killed if you switch to the opposite polarity immediately afterwards. On Hard difficulty, all enemies will fire bullets of their respective polarities when destroyed.
  • Tennis Boss: Battling Tageri can provide shades of this as both it and you trade homing lasers with each other. Even better, its health is scaled so that if you hit every return shot, it'll die exactly at the end of the musical phrase. However, given that Tageri has 30-odd life bars, which are progressively depleted each time it takes a hit from your weapons fire, this trope is ultimately a subversion.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Stone-Like is this to Horai, and it's confronted right after defeating Tageri.
  • Theme Naming: The levels are named after the stages of enlightenment in Buddhism, and the ships (including bosses) are named after birds.
  • 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 during an excavation. She turns into a powerful, insane old hag bent on conquest.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: Seen (very briefly) at the start of each stage.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Horai and the Divine Ones paint themselves as this, claiming to conquer one nation after another “in the name of peace”.

"Is this what we wished for?
Don't worry, we will understand each other someday.
And the life is succeeded into the distant future."


Video Example(s):


Ikaruga (Stone-Like)

After beating the final boss of Ikaruga, Shinra has to survive a 60 second onslaught of absolute bullet hell without firing, before he can release the last attack and destroy it for good.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HoldTheLine

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