Released: May 1987
US Cartridge ID: NES-IW-USA
Players: 2, Simulateneous
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 1 megabit
Mapper: UNROM (128k PRG)
Ikari Warriors is an adaptation of the beloved SNK 1986 arcade game of the same name. Heavily inspired by Capcom’s Commando and Sylvester Stallone’s 1985 movie Rambo: First Blood Part II (the game takes its name from the Japanese title, ランボー怒りの脱出 – Ranbou: Ikari no Dasshutsu / Rambo – Angry Escape), Ikari Warriors sends two warriors to invade an enemy country under top secret orders. Upon crash landing in the jungle, Paul and Vince spring from the wreckage, ready for duty.
Ikari Warriors plays very similarly to other top-down run and gun shooters that were popularized by Capcom in the mid/late 1980’s. Paul and Vince (named Ralf and Clark in the Japanese version, later featured in SNK’s King of Fighters series) are controlled by players one and two respectively, and the game allows for simultaneous play. The duo constantly must run toward the top of the screen, fending off their assailants with guns and grenades (both of which are limited in supply). They can collect up powerups dropped by enemy combatants, which provide extra ammo and grenades or allow for upgraded firing capabilities. Tanks and helicopters can be commandeered, and require gas refill items for extended use. Interestingly enough, the game’s first level is nearly as long as the entire arcade game’s campaign, and three new levels of comparable length have been added, making this an enormously lengthy action game.
Unfortunately, the porting process was extremely unkind to Ikari Warriors. Though the arcade version was a respectable shooter, the NES version is utterly ruined by inexplicable design decisions and inept programming. The graphics have very little detail, the scrolling of the screen stutters and jerks, flickering issues run rampant across nearly every scene, and the final stage has corrupted graphic tiles featured as obstacles. The backgrounds are reasonably colorful and varied, though there are areas where the character can get trapped behind objects if the screen scrolls too far, rendering the game unwinnable and forcing a reset. The music is a recognizable interpretation of the original’s, but the same couple of themes are played repeatedly over the course of the entire game, making them grow stale early on.
The adapted controls are a poor substitute for the rotary joysticks used on the original coin-op machine, and lack any precision. Paul and Vince move slowly, and have to walk in a circle to change the direction they are firing in. This method of control cripples the game, since as several enemies (all of whom move much faster than the commandos) will inevitably be sniping Paul and Vance with perfect aim. The would-be heroes are also constantly fired upon by off-screen enemies, making for plenty of unexpected and cheap deaths. The game starts each player with three reserve lives and no continues, though a cheat code can be inputted on the game over screen for continues.
Hideous graphics, infuriatingly cheap game play, and broken control scheme all combine to make the NES’ Ikari Warriors a virtually unplayable mess. If top-down shooter by SNK is what is desired, play Guerilla War instead – it is everything that this game should have been.
K Amusement Leasing, 11/1986