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Friday, September 19, 2014

NES Replay: Ikari Warriors

Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Released: May 1987
The NES port of Ikari Warriors starts out with a couple of strikes against it.

Strike one? It’s one of SNK’s first arcade ports. As we will see, SNK’s first couple of outings on the NES were problematic, as SNK struggled to get their frenetic pacing that worked so well in the arcades to translate to the NES. Strike two? Ikari Warriors wasn’t a very good game in the arcades to begin with. There were other games that were doing what Ikari Warriors did, and better.

So, could the NES port of Ikari Warriors overcome those two strikes? The answer may surprise you.


Or it may not. No, it couldn’t. Ikari Warriors took a tolerable arcade game and made it almost painfully unfun.

The problems starts with your character’s movement. The arcade game, while not perfect, at least had fluid movement in eight directions because it used a joystick. The NES controller could handle movement in eight directions, but it wasn’t built for it. For a game that demanded fluid movement in all directions, that was inexcusable.

Next, in most shooters, when your character turns to the left or right, you stay facing forward so your shots go in one direction. In Ikari Warriors, your character’s whole body turns to the left or right, so turning to avoid a bullet makes you fire diagonally instead of straight ahead. You had better hope that any enemies are at a 45 degree angle to you, or you’re going to miss them.

But, the biggest and weirdest problem I had was this: You know how in a shooter, you shoot in the direction of an enemy, then mentally “check them off”? I mean, you can’t watch every single bullet hit its target, then watch every enemy go through their death animations to make sure they’re dead. There’s simply not enough time, right?

So, in Ikari Warriors, I would frequently take shots at enemies and then “check them off” in my head. I would move on to the next group, only to find that the original enemies were still alive and well. I would have to turn back and shoot at them, but I had the angle all wrong so I’d have to maneuver around in a funny way in order to hit them. That leaves you more vulnerable to the next group, which means you can never settle into a normal rhythm.

I’m not sure why this happened to me as often as it did. While I’m not the world’s best shooter player, I’ve played my fair share. My best conjecture is that the hitbox for your bullets is a little smaller than it should be. Unless you’re deadly accurate, prepare for a lot of misses.

Ikari Warriors also suffers from other arcade-like vestigial flaws. You die when you’re hit once by any bullet or happen to get caught in the blast radius of an explosion. There are no continues. You only get three lives. As we’ve discussed, these things are great in the arcade when you want to steal the player’s money as quickly as possible, but not great for a console game.

I can appreciate what Ikari Warriors was trying to do. It was trying to create a bullet-hell with action-hero trappings and vehicles, and it worked decently in the arcades, if it was nothing special. On the NES, though, SNK couldn’t pull it all together. It would take a few more tries for them to get everything right.

Final Rating: