Retro Game of the Day! Ikari Warriors
Ikari Warriors by SNK. Yep!!! Another oldie-but-goodie. Can't be maintaining a retro-game-website without paying a little tribute to the old forgotten Bad Boys of SNK. A 1986 arcade release which showed up on several systems soon afterward, including the NES of course. This was pretty much the first "Big" SNK release, I suppose it is said..
Top-down wargames where the order of the day, and American movie audiences were lining up to see things like Arnie's flick "Commando" and Sly's "Rambo" - so in the post-cold-war 80s, we needed to take a little tension out by watching films of Russkies getting blowed up and we needed to do it likewise on the video screen. This was a common theme of games at the time ("Rush 'n Attack," "Commando," etc) and so another game joined the fray.
Immediately, Ikari stood apart from the rest of the crowd since it boasted 2-Player simultaneous action - none of the other big war-themed games tried it at the time, and certainly not on the homefront. Contra would one day claim the crown for King of this type of genre, but before there was a Contra we had an Ikari. Even better, the NES conversion was a 2-Player episode as well (stuff like that was a no-no back in the day, too much sprites to shuffle across the screen - chug chug chug!) Some manly man at SNK stepped up to the tas and strong-armed that business though, good on you.
Ikari's other seriously distinguishing feature was it's Rotary Joysticks - at least in the arcade. These functioned like the usual models, except they could snap into different directions to essentially permit you to fire in one direction while walking in another. It was a cool idea, which unfortunately never caught on elsewhere too much (and this feature was lost in the translation to the home consoles)
And what else, you ask, could be said of Ikari? Man - this game was long. It just kept going and going and going. Kill more guys. Kill some more guys. Kill some more guys. You getthe picture. Whereas the game's contemporary NES Commando was like - 4 levels, this monster was probably like 324. Okay not that bad, but it sure felt endless. I can't say I recall being patient enough to get very far myself. Though it was long, and filled with quite an impressively large cast of enemy characters to blow holes through, the game was essentially droning and boring. Whereas Commando was suspenseful, this was plodding. Still, it was a fun title at the time, just playing anything 2P Co-op (at the same time!) was a treat back in the early NES days. Also you could just have at it and go forever in 2P mode (hit A,B,B,A when you die, Dancing Queens!)
A good note to mention is the game's tank power-up. It felt particularly empowering when you located one, climbed in, and started driving over your foes and launching artillary at them. it just felt cool and powerful, and it was kind of a distant precursor to SNK/Nazca's own Metal Slug series that would hit the scene several years later. Though I am sure the development teams were largely unrelated, I like to think of this game sort of setting the stage fr wha was to coem with that well-known series.
Ikari Warriors is a bit of a strange franchise, SNK made some pretty decent war-themed games and it's nice to see where it all began. The follow up games were.. interesting in their way, and even an old codger like myself could get a kick out of picking up this game once again.