Treasure has taken their latest shoot-em-up and made a DVD showing the optimal play-throughs of it. They called it 'Ikaruga: Appreciate'. As a part time Treasure fanboy, I pre-ordered my copy straight away. After a few delays from the original release date, it finally arrived in the post.
The cover art is much like the American GCN game cover, with 'APPRECIATE DVD' written underneath the Ikaruga logo. On the back youíll see the text chapter introductions from the game, along with some screenshots and artwork. Instead of a normal card insert, thereís a nice little 8-page booklet.
The booklet is made of decent card and has some details on the disc - totals of points for the skill levels, an interview with the players, details of the extras and some credits. The entire booklet is 100% Japanese so I couldn't say how interesting it is. The DVD has quite a genius design, so I tried to scan it. The disc itself is region free, so there will be no trouble playing this on any player anywhere.
So hereís the crucial part; the contents.
The first screen you see asks you if you want the horizontal or vertical view of the DVD. Then thereís a screen in Japanese, presumably warning you that what you are about to see might leave you permanently amazed. Choosing the vertical option is essentially like TATE mode, even the menus.
The Treasure logo comes up at the start of this DVD, which made me smile. The menu is really simple, with only five options. 'Easy', 'Medium' and 'Hard' for the skill levels, 'Omake' and 'Staff' (just a screen of names). The menu art, as well as the warning screen, is different for both horizontal and vertical modes. Both pieces of artwork are, of course, lovely.
The video capture is clean and high quality, and generally looking as good as you could expect. In areas, especially much of chapter 4, it is quite dark. Given the nature of the game, this isn't much of a surprise. The audio is Dolby Digitaltm stereo, and again very well mirrors the source. The sound effects come through clear and crisp, and I heard some things that I didn't really notice in the game itself. As far as I can tell, there are a couple of short instances of distortion, probably from the capture, but they are so absolutely minor that I can't really fault them for it.
I decided to check out the normal skill lever first. These are, by the way, straight playthroughs with no stops. It struck me as odd that the player (T^3-CYR-WIZ) uses player two. The tactics have been tweaked almost to perfection and this is seemingly one of the choices that they have made. (Editorís note: Not sure about thisÖ) The first chapter is dealt with as would be expected. The player gets every single chain possible, even in the section where the ships swirl round you. In this chapter he also starts using the all-round attack like he can control it with his mind or something, it's quite astounding.
During the middle of chapter three, the player goes completely insane and starts getting chains which I didn't think were possible. Chapter four gets even more over the top. He uses the all-round attack in the swirly laser section and it doesn't break his chains. He goes out of his way to absorb lasers whilst going mad on the enemies and still doesn't break his chains. I can't begin to understand how they worked this stuff out.
The player uses very strange tactics for the penultimate boss as well. He just absorbs the bullets, as they have more value than the time bonus. He finally kills it with one second on the clock, just to maximize the points.
The easy play-through is just as excellent as the normal one, and still amazing to watch. It seems only normal uses player two, as the easy and hard play-throughs use player one.
The hard play-through is where it drops slightly. It's not totally perfect, as the player breaks his chain once in chapter 4. This doesn't bother me much because it's basically the same as normal skill and the player still goes through the motions, but it might bother some people. Again I can't really complain about this as the level of skill is so high regardless of a slight blunder. The penultimate boss is done strangely again, with the sheer number of bullets slowing the game down.
The Omake section is a really great addition. Itís a reworking of a few bits of the game where the main replays weren't quite optimal. For example, there's one of chapter three, in the section where ships come from both the top and the bottom, and the player gets every single ship (as opposed to the straight replay). The third and fourth bosses are also featured in this section, just to complete them with the extra second or two which were missed in the main replays. At the end of this section, it shows the entirety of their scoreboards just so you can be amazed all over again, and then run off and compare scores.
That's about all the content on the disc. It brags 172 minutes, but really it's just three ~24 minute replays and a 14 minute omake. Take in to account that you can view this all horizontally or vertically and you can see where they get the 172 figure from, but in actual viewing time it's only 86. Of course, I expect to come back to it many times to simply be amazed by what this DVD shows.
The replays and gameplay footage contained on this disc are absolutely genius from start to finish. I can't say anything less of them. The skills and techniques used by the players are brilliant.
On the other hand, while everything that is actually on this disc is perfect, there isn't anything more than that. There aren't any two player play-throughs, or any dot-eater(s), prototype modes or anything fancy like that. No interviews with any Treasure staff or the players themselves (other than the text one in the insert), or behind the scenes footage. However, when it's all said and done, I bought the disc to see the game being played and it delivers that flawlessly.
If you want to learn how to play Ikaruga perfectly, this isn't a great deal of help unless you're already very good. The paths and tactics they use require a huge amount of skill. On the other hand, if you're a big fan of the game, and you enjoy the beauty that this game has, and the choreography behind the chains, then I can easily recommend this disc.