Click here to switch polarity.
"WARNING: The big enemy is approaching at full throttle. According to the data, it is identified as Butsutekkai. NO REFUGE"
—Warning screen before each boss in Ikaruga
In Ikaruga, 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 double damage to targets of an opposite polarity to your own, 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 (obviously, Your Mileage May Vary, especially when it comes to the sheer difficulty of the game). All five levels are Scrappy Levels 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 Gamecube systems around the world in 2003. In 2008, it was ported to Xbox Live Arcade.
- 2½D: 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.
- 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.
- The Atoner: Kagari, as she used to be a mercenary for the Horai.
- Battleship Raid: The whole of Chapter 4.
- Bigger on the Inside: The arcade version of the game takes up only eighteen megabytes. Trust us, that's impressive.
- 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...
- 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 weaker beams (and possibly less of them) 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: Chapter 4 boss and Mini Boss.
- 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.
- Or Bittersweet Ending. Though you will have to consider the last chapter is called Metempsychosis, or "moving from one life to the next."
- The Empire: The Horai.
- 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.
- Heel Face Turn/Defeat Means Friendship: Kagari in the prologue.
- 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: The final boss fight 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 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.
- La Résistance: Tenkaku, which was defeated before the game even starts.
- 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.
- 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. Good luck unlocking most of the secret content though, which usually requires 1-credit clears of different game modes.
- 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"!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spiritual Successor: To Radiant Silvergun, often recognized as one of the best shooters of all time. 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 Radiant Silvergun.
- 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.
- Unreadably Fast Text: Seen (very briefly) at the start of each stage.
- Yin-Yang Bomb