Few video games are as monotonous as Ikari Warriors on the NES. This mindless shooter can provide a few minutes of fun, two-player co-op, but it is incredibly short-lived due to the game’s sluggish controls and tedious gameplay.
In Ikari Warriors, two players take control of musclebound, 80s-style action heroes equipped with machine guns and more grenades than any human should be able to carry. The game is played from a top-down perspective, with basically the only objectives being to keep moving upward until you reach the end of a stage, shooting everything that shoots at you along the way.
It’s a simple enough game, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with a little mindless fun in video games every now and again. But there are too many mechanics in Ikari Warriors that detract from any potential fun.
First thing’s first, you die in one hit. Much like the Silver Surfer NES game, practically everything on screen is bombarding you with fire like a bullet hell game. As you can imagine, you’re basically in a constant state of dying in Ikari Warriors. Normally, each player has a set number of extra lives, which means under normal circumstances the game would be unplayable. What makes Ikari Warriors marginally more playable than something like Silver Surfer, however, is it’s implementation of an easy-to-use cheat code. Of course, calling this trick a cheat code may not be entirely accurate, as it seems more like it’s absolutely necessary in order to play the game.
After a player loses all their lives, simply hit A-B-B-A on the controller to come back to life with full lives and ammo. This of course makes picking up items pretty much useless, but it’s really the only way to play this game. Though the fact that you’re constantly pressing A-B-B-A is just another of the game’s many annoyances.
Another huge problem is just how incredibly slow your characters move. This is another of those old school titles where every enemy moves faster than you, and every obstacle (water, steps, etc.) slows you down, while nothing slows your enemies down. Additionally, you can only shoot three shots at a time, all of which disappear after a limited range, while enemy fire is constant and can reach across the entire screen.
You can at times take control of tanks and helicopters, but they’re more of a detriment than anything else, as you need to constantly grab more fuel, because if you run out, the vehicle explodes and it’s right back to A-B-B-A.
To make things all the worse, sometimes even doing the A-B-B-A trick is a detriment, since you can sometimes respawn inside of a wall and unable to move, with your only chance of continuing being an enemy taking you out again.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of Ikari Warriors, however, is the sheer excessive length of the levels. There are only four levels in the game, but they just drag on and on and on. Each stage takes roughly thirty minutes to complete, which for an 8-bit title is pretty lengthy. But they aren’t filled with any real variety or anything creative. They just draw out the shallow gameplay, frustrating deaths, and constant pressings of A-B-B-A ad nauseam. What’s worse, the game is pretty ugly to look at – with the first two levels looking identical in their garish textures and palettes – and all four levels are accompanied by the same grating, irritating soundtrack.
In the end, Ikari Warriors might provide a few minutes of fun with a friend before all of the detriments kick in. But once they do, they don’t let up, and Ikari Warriors becomes more of an endurance test than a video game.