I’m not sure what possessed me to buy Ikari Warriors for my C64. I wasn’t a big fan of Commando in the arcades, and I enjoyed Elite’s conversion of it more for Rob Hubbard’s incredible soundtrack. I much preferred Capcom’s follow-up, Gun.Smoke, but the home version of that was mutilated beyond belief. Hmmmm. Maybe I do know why I bought it, after all…
Ikari Warriors is not flashy in any way (well, with the possible exception of the amount of characters on-screen at once).. Its looks and sounds are serviceable and effective, but they don’t go out of their way to wow you. They are there to do the job of putting you in a war-torn jungle that you have to blast your way through, and they achieve that aim with little to spare.
Gameplay is the be-all and end-all with Ikari Warriors. It’s designed differently to Commando, in which you simply pile up the screen as fast as you can, taking out the occasional enemy or two along the way. Ikari Warriors is more like Commando - The Board Game as it requires a far more strategic approach. From the moment you exit your downed plane, you’re set upon by a squad of enemy soldiers and they never let up through the entire game.
Unlike Commando, these fellas don’t run around aimlessly, letting you stroll by at your leisure. They come onto the screen then position themselves strategically so that you have to deal with them. You find yourself thinking abut which ones to take out first; learning, as you do, that some are more dangerous than others. It’s really interesting in that you’ll often find yourself forced backwards by the onrushing masses and you need to regroup, pull yourself together and work out the path forward.
I like this approach to the run-and-gun game. It’s not run-and-gun at all, in fact… more of a stroll-and reconnoitre-and-plan-and-gun game. The second you think you’ve cleared a path and go charging up the screen, you’re dead. Seriously. Try it. You’ll see.
Commando on the C64 is a game I can play infinitely. I don’t mean because I love it so much; I mean that I can go on and on forever with one game because it’s so easy. I don’t have any such luxury with Ikari Warriors as it’s brutal. I used to be quite good at it and I really fancied a go so I loaded it up, but was shocked at how hard I found it. It’s taken me quite a while to re-learn how to play, but I’m slowly getting back into it and the more I play it, the more I re-enjoy it (if that’s a term). I’m not under the illusion that I’ll complete it, but it’s going to be a lot of fun making some proper progress. Maybe I can be good at it again?
NOTE: You’ll find a small entry on Ikari Warriors in Why I’m 64, when it’s released.