There are videogames specifically designed to piss you off, and there are videogames designed to make you think you’re having fun. Ikari Warriors is both.
Back in the day, Nintendo made half its profit on games that tricked you into games that tricked you into thinking you were having fun. I call this the Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome. All the game’s players and fans think that they’re enjoying themselves, but in reality, they feel like John McClaine agonizingly pulling glass shards out of his bare feet in Nakatomi Plaza. Some of us earned our black belts in the art of the shit-eating grin, and some even rose to grandmaster level by actually enjoying a game in which a severely retarded Rambo with chopstick-legs sauntered around a battlefield at two miles an hour while getting raped by homing missiles and battalions of snipers.
The era is the late 80s: a time when the whole fabric of videogame coolness was in flux. The game is Down’s Syndrom Warriors, later changed to “Ikari” Warriors, since Ikari is the Japanese word for "Feetless American with chopstick legs in homo-tights."
Ikari Warriors opens with two bad-ass pixilated Rambo look-alikes walking on screen. But just when you think they’re going to pull out their machine guns and open fire, they take out cheerleader pom-poms instead and wave them around. At least this is what I thought when I first played the game. But then again, lots of people thought they saw a ghost/ subliminal ghost about midway though Three Men and a Baby….and all it turned out to be was a cardboard cutout or some mannequin someone forgot to put back in the storage closet. But seriously, the Ikari Warriors look like they’re waving pink cheer-leader pom-poms around.
After these men cheerlead for a while, there comes a sad moment when you realize that those pom-poms are supposed to be machinegun fire. This was an amusing realization for me, sort of like when I realized that Huffy bikes were meant to be bikes that worked and made you feel cool instead of making you feel like you were crammed into the cockpit of a miniature version of the world’s first tank: The Kaiser Sepository.
After the Ikari Warriors shoot their guns around for a while on the title screen, you start the action and are treated to the game’s intro: the explanation as to why you’re fighting in the first place.
The problem is that lots of early Nintendo games gave you absolutely no reason as to why you were fighting. Nintendo realized that kids absolutely did not give half a flying piece of goat shit, so they just threw the kids straight into battle and wrote some half-assed note about fighting a mysterious third world drug peddling country in the instruction manual.
The intro shows a plane crashing in the jungle. The moment it lands, you get out of it, and a small army runs at you (actually the soldiers just run and fire in random directions). And since there are so many of them, you’re going to get hit eventually, and this creates the illusion of enemy AI.
Although your Ikari warrior moves like a toddler on roller skates, the first thing you notice is the repetitive music, which loops itself in the time it takes for your character to stop the blinking that signals his temporary, start-of-stage invincibility. It’s the kind of music you’d hear if Rambo was tearfully reunited with his long lost father, except they meet up in a Chuck E. Cheese playzone and retarded people are playing the music on their shitty Casio keyboards. This music sucks ass with ninja-like subtlety, and you won’t even realize how bad and monotonous it is until you’re played the game for an hour Listening to this shit over and over while scrolling upward fighting soldiers recalls the days when every other white kid in his mom’s little Honda wouldn’t stop playing Insane in the Membrane.
It would be hard for Shakespeare himself to fully explain how horrible this game's controls are. If you want to turn around, you can’t just turn around by pressing the control pad in the opposite direction. That is, you can’t switch into your mirror image position like you can in Contra, Commando, or basically any other game where you control a character who doesn’t have snapping chopsticks for legs. Instead, your Ikari warrior will turn around like a real person who’s completely uninterested in whatever’s behind him. This means that he has to rotate in every direction you don’t want him to face before he actually turns around, and he turns around as slowly as if you were trying to tear him away from an addicting Ikari-porno. And by the time you do turn around, an enemy soldier has already run into your pseudo-Rambo and killed him with a touch. Thus an actual run-n-gun firefight is like playing wheelchair basketball against retarded people on an ice rink.
The funny thing is that you’re given 90 rounds of ammo per life, yet none of my friends were ever able to survive long enough to use 90 rounds. I’m sure there were some hardcore Japanese kids who used their mystic Asian powers to scroll through five feet worth of level map on one life, but for the rest of us westerners who aren’t good at controlling characters who move like they’re wading waist-deep in oatmeal, dying came naturally as breathing.
Sure, there’s something inherently cool about running around as a jacked-up renegade shoulder, blasting the shit out of evil, obscure countries and volcano bases. But Ikari Warriors miraculously was able to make this experience as boring as waiting in the waiting room at dentist’s office, and all you have is a bunch of Highlights magazines and maybe an Entertainment Weekly. So The bottom line is that playing Ikari Warriors is like stroking yourself before your old enough to masturbate. You get an erection, which feels good and is kind of cool, but nothing dynamic ever happens.
Fun: When I was a kid, I once played Combat Marco Pollo in the pool with my neighborhood friends. While I looked for them with my eyes closed, they were allowed to beat the shit out of me with inner tubes, rafts, and pool-toy projectiles. They were also allowed to spray me with the garden hose. I almost drowned, but I had more fun that day than I’ve ever had playing Ikari Warriors.
Gameplay: Controlling your little Rambo-guy is just as hard as giving verbal directions to Michael Moore via walkie-talkie without using the words “Middle Class Butter-Sausage Buffet.”
Graphics: I know the NES was limited graphically, but damn!!!!
Sound: The soundtrack to Ikari Warriors is the first 15 seconds of the worst song you’ve ever heard played over and over again until you decide to stop playing.
Challenge: Without punching in the A-B-B-A infinite lives code, God himself would have to use a miracle to beat Ikari Warriors.
John McClaine's Ratings:
Fun: Oh SHIT, Holly, I swear I've had more fun crawling around air ducts in Nakatomi Plaza than running over terrorists in my little Ikari Warriors tank...which is about the size of a cardboard box.
Gameplay: Playing Ikari Warriors is like trying to convince 911 dispatchers that you aren't ordering a pizza.
Graphics: A man once said to me, "Under the TABLE! Next time you have the opportunity to kill somebody, don't hesitate!" Unfortunately all my little Rambo schmuck DOES is hesitate. Controlling him is like trying to control my wise-cracking mouth! Now I know what a TV dinner feels like! lol comedic relief!
Sound: Damn it! Argyle, I never thought I'd say this, but I think I've found something worse than your Christmas hip-hop! I'd rather listen to jive about Santa Clause "raising the roof at the VIP" than this!
Challenge: "Aw shit, John! You gotta lighten up! Shit, you're just sittin' in the back of my limo with that huge-ass teddy bear, lookin' like you don't know shit about the holiday spirit! Sure, this game is hard, but you're no stranger to beating the odds. After all, that brotha' from Urkel is on the ground with the police force, helpin' you through all this mess!"
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