Brilliant, but tough
Ikaruga's graphics are decent. The gameplay is amazingly simple and complex at the same time. Essentially this game is your vertical shooter (think Space Invaders, R-Type, etc) with a twist. There are two "polarities" as the game calls them, black and white. If you shoot an enemy with the opposite polarity of your shield you deal double damage to them, however if you shoot an enemy of the same polarity of your shield you deal normal damage and the enemy releases bullets that same polarity upon dieing. Collecting bullets of the same polarity as your shield fills up your special gauge which can be used to unleash devastating attacks. Collecting even one bullet of the opposite polarity of your shield...well, it kills you. The controls are simple: Control Stick to move, B to fire, A to switch between polarities, and R to unleash your special.
"This game is tough." That comment right there is quite possibly the largest understatement ever. I have never, in my 10+ years of hardcore gaming, experienced a game which can touch the difficulty of this game. While this provides for good replay value, it also provides for large headaches and an assortment of four-letter words that would certainly not make your mother proud of you.
The Bottom Line
Ikaruga is the answer to the cries of Top Down Shooter fans who are experiencing the waining selection of their favorite genre. The game is simple and complex at the same time which makes it accessible for amateurs and veterans alike. The difficulty of Ikaruga is extreme which gives the game great replay value but a lot of frustration as well. All-in-all this is a very well designed game, and fans of the genre will not be let down.