I've often seen Ikari Warriors praised as a "classic", and I have to wonder if they played the same game that I did. While it's true that the arcade Ikari Warriors is considered a "classic", I don't quite think that term applies to this ramshackle NES port.
Ikari Warriors sports an overhead, birds-eye view, as the screen scrolls vertically. However, it has one of the most repetitve design schemes I've ever seen, both in backgrounds and enemies. You'll begin in the jungle and, after what seems like an eternity, you'll move onto more space-age fortresses. The objects and characters are all rather small and flat. For the most part, the enemies are the same little blue soldiers over and over again. Occasionally, a green one or a pink one, or one carrying a shield will show up. (It's kind of funny how they float away like a leaf when you shoot them.) The player characters are meant to look like "Rambo", but they appear overweight, and the animation of their walk is stilted. When walking from left-to-right, the legs move as though they are a pair of scissors. There are many objects to blow up along the way, but it's sometimes difficult to tell what they are supposed to be. The tanks look really flat, and aren't much of a step up from the tanks in the Atari 2600 game, "Combat". The helicopters and some of the architecture, such as the stone faces, do look a bit more realistic. The backgrounds may be okay for a game made in 1986, but the stages are REALLY long, and the pattern pretty much repeats for the entire stage. By the time you reach the 4th or 5th checkpoint that looks exactly the same as all the others, you'll wonder if you've even made any progress. I also find the liberal usage of the color "pink" somewhat peculiar. The game's title is written in pink letters. The Player One commando wears a pink bandana and has a pink gun. The tanks are pink. The power-up items are pink. Some of the enemy soldiers are clad in pink. Some objects have flashing pink skulls on them. Even the explosions are pink! It's almost as though they were unable to locate the color "red" on the NES's color palette. Although its graphics may be nondescript and repetitive, Ikari Warriors does have its moments. For example, the boss at the end of Level 3 just needs to be seen, and the usage of colors in the final level is psychadelic.
Ikari Warriors has one song that plays for the entire game and only changes when you reach a checkpoint or boss. Both songs are somewhat irritating, but it probably wouldn't be so bad if the levels weren't so extremely long and the music didn't repeat so much. The sound effects are not really all that good, either. The bullets sound nothing like real gunfire, and when someone gets hit you hear an effect that goes "bump". It's not that Ikari Warriors' sound is agonizingly bad...it's just very boring.
Ikari Warriors has some of the worst play control I've ever dealt with. The characters are incredibly sluggish and unresponsive. The game does have speed-ups, but even when you have the super speed-up, the characters still move way too slow! This makes any form of dodging that there should be in a game like this completely non-existant. It's impossible to avoid taking hits, and this is a "one-hit-and-you're-dead" game. This has the effect of making the game unplayable without use of a cheat code. The screen scrolls really slowly, too. (The arcade version of Ikari Warriors had automatic scrolling, the NES version does not.) It's almost impossible to aim. My character just spins in circles as I try to line up my shots with the enemies, without much luck. The movement controls for the tanks are better, but aiming is even worse, and you never have the tanks for that long. Because of the poor control and slow movement, it takes forever to get through the immensely long levels.
There really isn't much of a plot behind Ikari Warriors. You play as a couple of commandos whose plane has been shot down by the enemy. But we do not know who these enemies are, what their motivation is, or even where this is taking place. I have heard some accounts say that the game is set in Vietnam during the war era, but that doesn't explain why Levels 3 and 4 look more space-age and some enemies in those levels appear "alien" in nature. There isn't any real atmosphere since the characters all look too silly to be taken seriously.
Ikari Warriors did not receive a low challenge score because it's easy. It received a low score because it's a bad game that's horribly unplayable. When a game is as unplayable as this, there is no challenge. You cannot dodge and can barely control where you shoot. The gameplay is the same repetitive thing throughout all four of its excessively long and boring stages. The only way to make any progress is to use the A,B,B,A code to keep continuing. And if you're going to do that, then you could just as well keep marching straight ahead and not worry about stopping to fight things.
Ikari Warriors is definitely a contender for "worst game I've ever played". The levels are too long, slow, and boring. The only things that pass for "level design" are objects placed in your way to make you go even slower. It's practically impossible to really do anything besides walk forward and die evey 5-20 steps. There are lots of different power-up things you can find, but none of them do much to help. To add further insult to injury, Ikari Warriors is very glitchy, and it's because of these flaws that it's often possible to get stuck on Level 3. In a section right before the final boss area, the commando can become stuck behind a wall, unable to move on. There is no way out of this. Even if he gets hit and dies, he reappears in the exact same spot, still stuck behind the wall. It's very frustrating to trudge through three very long levels, only to get stuck on Level 3 and have to reset. I'm also not sure why the designers made it so that you have to do something unusual and not very obvious to get past the end of Level 3 after beating the boss. Very little of IW's design makes any sense.
I can't think of too many good things to say about Ikari Warriors. If you're into collecting NES games, you may want to pick it up, if only to see the bizarre "boss" at the end of level 3. Just keep in mind that it's a very bad game with practically no play value of any sort.
SCORE (not an average): 1/10
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