Ikari Warriors Review
Ikari Warriors is perhaps one of the best “shoot ’em up” games ever released for the arcades. The home port for the Nintendo Entertainment System is no slouch either. SNK released the arcade version of the game in 1986 and I found differing stories online, some claiming the NES port also saw release in ’86 while others argue SNK released the NES version in 1987. The menu screen on the NES version I played said 1986, so I’m going to go with that for the sake of this review.
Vertical scrolling military “one man army” shooters were all the rage in the mid 1980s. However, Ikari Warriors stands apart in a crowded field with incredible realism and gameplay. The attract mode shows the two warriors, Paul and Vince, walking forward, machines gun blazing in all directions. If that doesn’t make you want to salute and blast a recording of the Star Spangled Banner, I don’t know what will. We are then shown a brief cutscene with a plane crash landing in the jungle. And then, we’re off. The player controls Paul (or Paul & Vince in simultaneous two-player mode) who is immediately attacked by a never-ending onslaught of Communist soldiers trying to murder the brave Americans.
Ikari Warriors ramps up the realism by limiting the number of bullets and grenades that the player can carry. The player starts out with 99 bullets and 50 grenades. Ammunition can be replenished by blowing up turrets found on the battlefield. The game also features a tank and a helicopter that the player can opt to enter to use to mow down the Communists. SNK really thought of everything with Ikari Warriors. The game also showcases its focus on reality based gameplay as the ammunition and fuel are both limited in the vehicles. I found that impressive and the inclusion of vehicles didn’t unlock a “god mode” that made the game too easy. I didn’t have ready access to the SNK arcade version of Ikari Warriors at the time I wrote this review, but the bits of game footage I could find online only showed the tank as an available vehicle. If true, that means the NES port added the helicopter option for additional carnage and I completely approve of the addition.
I’ve seen other reviewers of this game whine about the graphics not being as good as the arcade. I disagree. The NES port is relatively close to the arcade and about as good as one could expect from a 8-bit console. We didn’t begin to see really accurate ports of arcade titles until the 16-bit era and even then they weren’t identical ports. Those reviewers down-rating the game on graphics really need to put the game in perspective of the time and grow up. Also, I feel the NES port is superior to the arcade version in length. I found a “long play” of the arcade version on the internet and it only took the player about twenty minutes to complete the game. The NES port provides hours of playtime since the map for the game has been significantly expanded. The final “facility” level is much longer and more challenging in the NES port for example. I also found it weird that one of the final bosses is a corpse sitting in a chair. It reminded me of what U.S. Special Forces would likely find if they invaded North Korea and got into the ruling party’s final castle. Eerily accurate.
All said and done, Ikari Warriors for the NES is another brilliant example of an important military themed “shoot ’em up” game from the 1980s. It’s hard to believe that SNK released this gem and then went on to develop the abomination that is Athena. Ikari Warriors can be enjoyed by any and all proud Americans who love Jesus and the United States. Heck, the best pro wrestler of all time and proud American, John Cena, recently showed his love for this game on his official Facebook page. That alone should convince any readers of this game’s greatness.