It’s back to the old school grind with another Arcade Archives review. Not only is this an old game, but it’s also one of the older Arcade Archives releases by HAMSTER Corporation before they changed their porting style, making this a double retro review. Ikki was originally released by Sunsoft in 1985. The PS4 port was released in November of 2015. This is actually a game that I had never heard before being asked to review it which made this a much different experience than some of the other Arcade Archives titles I’ve reviewed. Before you read any further, know that this game is really fun for what it is, but is in no way worth the £5.79/$8.
Arcade Archives Ikki is actually a really nice looking game for how simple it is and when it was made. I was impressed by the level of detail, variation, and expression shown in the short eight stages this game has. The game takes place in a farming village in feudal Japan. The settings include places such as the village’s fields, surrounding ponds and rivers, cemetery, market, and the village lord’s mansion. All of these locations are expressed very well on a visual level. The game is composed of many vibrant colors and a number of different objects both static and moving. There are several different types of NPCs for example. The basic enemies are blue ninjas, but there are also pink ninjas, ghosts, riflemen, wild boars, concubines, and some weird looking bomb throwing enemy whose occupation I can’t seem to identify. There are also a number of decorative objects scattered throughout the game such as statues of various kinds, bridges which you can actually walk on, wells, and shrines. There is a lot going on during play once you get to later levels. Sometimes there can be more than five enemies hovering around you in different places at the same time all throwing ninja stars. The enemies and the playable character(s) have notable facial expressions. When you kill a ninja you can see the anguish on his face. And when you beat a stage your character sports an inproportionally large grin.
The HUD is not the prettiest, but it’s extremely effective in this game. Rather than being affixed over the gameplay area, it’s off to the right. This does minimize the playable area, but the HUD’s map is a more than fair tradeoff. The map isn’t a full representation of the level, but rather a blue square with the locations of the objective items on it and a box indicating which portion of the map you’re in. Without this map the game would be so much more difficult. The HUD also has your score, remaining lives, and objects currently held. This game isn’t the most complicated game in the Arcade Archives collection I’ve played, but it’s important to note that it runs very smoothly anyway. Visually I was very impressed with Ikki because of its level of detail and authenticity for such a simple and old game. The one flaw with the graphics is that no matter what size you make the game area the edges cut off ever so slightly. It in no way hinders your gameplay but you will notice it if you’re looking.
The gameplay is super simple in this game. In fact it might be the simplest Arcade Archives game I’ve played to date. There is only the original mode in this one since it was released before HAMSTER began adding high score and caravan modes to the games. All you can do is move with the stick or d-pad and throw sickles with the button of your choice. The sickles auto target to the nearest enemy and they are decently accurate. Your goal is to collect all eight coins in each stage. As soon as you grab the last coin you move forward to the next stage. There are only eight stages in the game and completing the final stage loops you back to the first and continues building your score. The map notifies you of the proximity of each of the coins and your current location in the level. While you search for coins you will be continuously bothered by enemies of various types. You can throw sickles, two at a time, to deal with some of the enemies. Ghosts cannot be killed nor can they kill you. Ghosts give you status effects such as slowing you down and must be exercised by touching a shrine. Enemies die in one hit just as you do. There are collectible items such as power-ups and point items. The best power-ups, in my opinion, are the bamboo spear and the speed boost. Other than that it’s mostly just collecting items for points. You can also find keys to unlock imprisoned comrades for additional points. Every 10K points nets an additional life. The gameplay is very simple but very effective. My only complaint about the gameplay is that there is no temporary invincibility when you respawn. If you die in the middle of a group, you can be killed as soon as you get back up because you respawn in the place you died. The gameplay is very simple and there are very few levels but I can’t say I didn’t have a lot of fun playing it.
The game allows for local two player coop, which works very well but requires coordination because of the odd shared camera system. There is only one screen but both players have free range to go wherever they want on the map. If one player goes in one direction and the other player stands still, the static player will get pulled in whatever direction the other player is running by the edge of the screen. If both players try to go in opposite directions the game picks a player to take the lead based on the latest command entered. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.
The sound in Ikki is about what you would expect for a game from that era. There’s a gameplay song, a stage victory song, and a death tone. That’s basically all the music in the game. It sounds very clear and can be altered via the HAMSTER options menu which comes standard with all Arcade Archives games. The effects are just as clear and well mixed. There are effects for everything there should be: grabbing coins and items, throwing sickles, killing enemies, and so on. There isn’t really much variation of sound in the game, but the sound there is was done very well.
As with just about every Arcade Archives title, there is only the minutest amount of writing in Ikki. Well that’s half true anyway. There is actually a large amount of Japanese text in this game. Every completed level ends with a note in Japanese. They aren’t translated so I have no idea what they say or even if they say different things but you see lots of writing. There is also an opening cutscene that sort of depicts the events leading up to the game. But the only plot relevant English text you get is the standard one sentence summary in the HAMSTER menu. “Cause a peasant uprising, go around collecting coins and head towards the the evil lord’s mansion.” No I didn’t accidently type “the” twice. It’s like that in the game because someone wasn’t paying attention. Unlike with most games in this collection, that summary actually does depict what you actually see in the game. I don’t know exactly why the uprising takes place or how it truly ends but that is clearly what’s going on while you’re playing Ikki.
There’s honestly not a lot of replay value in this game. Unless you really care about the online leaderboard, which isn’t too competitive till you get to the top 10, this is an extremely short game. By short I mean I got 100% PSN completion in under 40 minutes while taking notes. There are only nine trophies total and seven of those can be acquired without ever actually starting the game. Just for accessing the menus and checking the leaderboard you will get seven bronze trophies. The other two, gold trophies are score based but require very little skill to achieve. In two games I was done with all trophies and ranked 52nd on the online leaderboard. It takes less than 30 minutes to complete all eight levels. There’s absolutely no way you will get eight hours of play out of this game even with the added bonus of two player coop. It’s definitely not a game I would ever endorse paying $8 for simply based on the length. I’ve played demos that take longer to complete.
Arcade Archives Ikki is not the best the era or the collection by HAMSTER has to offer. It is a well-made game and a decent enough port. But it does not compete with so many other titles from both the era and this collection. It is very fun, but not fun enough to warrant the cost for a measly 40 minutes of gameplay. I would pay at most $2 for this game and even that’s being 100% more generous than I should be because it really is that short. I very much enjoyed the gameplay but it’s just not the most economically sound purchase even by hardcore gaming standards. Gonna have to say pass unless you see it on sale at a very small fraction of the current cost.
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