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Retro Friday: Ikari Warriors


In the early to mid-80s, the dominant genre for 2-bop arcade games was the shoot-'em-up, games like Slapfight, 1942, R-Type and Tiger Heli. The one thing all those games had in common was that the player was always in control of a vehicle of some kind. In 1985, Capcom released Commando, a new shoot-'em-up that did two things differently. Firstly, player controlled a person instead of a vehicle, battling throw threw a hellish jungle world reminiscent of Vietnam. Second, the player could now fire their weapons in eight directions, that made a massive fundamental change in how the game could be played. The game was a huge hit.

Not to be outdone, in 1986, SNK decided they could top that effort and dropped Ikari Warriors onto an unsuspecting world. Like Commando, Ikari Warriors adopted a similar premise, control of a person instead of a vehicle, multi-directional fire and a jungle environment. But it improved on Commando, by using rotary joysticks, so players could move in one direction while firing in another. That little addition had a massive impact on how the game could be played. More importantly the game did something else,  something that I had never seen before when I first played it. Simultaneous cooperative play. Yep, that's right, Ikari Warriors was among the first games that allowed two-players.

Ikari Warriors stared two shirtless 'roided-up soldiers, kitted with nothing but camo-pants, huge guns and bandannas. Rampaging through a 'Nam style jungle, cutting their through a generic bad guy force on a mission to save their commanding office, the game was heavily influenced by the action movie of the moment, Sylvester Stallone's Rambo: First Blood Part II. The game's title is actually taken from the Japanese title of the movie, "Rambo: Ikari no Dasshutsu" or "Rambo: The Furious Escape". The game reeked of Rambo so much, that everyone that played it at my corner shop called it that; it was only when my Dad bought us the Commodore 64 version that I learnt the game was called Ikari Warriors.


Ikari Warriors was a huge hit for SNK and spawned two lesser know sequels, Victory Road and Ikari III: The Rescue. Though most people don't really remember the game, it's mythology has endured into the present thanks to its main characters having been featured in Metal Slug and the King of Fighters series. For those that don't know, Ralf and Clark from King of Fighters are actually the Ikari Warriors, neat right? 

As much as I played and loved that game at the time it came out, it has to said it hasn't age nearly as well as some other shoot-'em-hits from the '80s. It is actually a pretty dire game, truth be told, with mechanics that seemed new and innovative back them, now just being out right archaic, as the Angry Video Game Nerd, James Rolfe, will explain in this video below.

Bad as it is, Ikari Warriors is still a nostalgia bomb for me personally, since it was the first game I ever played that had  two player co-op. The game was pure fantasy fulfillment  In the 80s, what 6-12 year old boy didn't want to be Rambo and Ikari Warriors was the game that made that happen. Best of all, it allowed us to be that awesome guy with a friend. Something that even our imaginations never allowed, because when we played Rambo in our back yards, only one of us could be the Main Ou. And for me especially this was a big deal, because I was the youngest in my circle of friends, so I was inevitability relegated to random Vietcong soldier and given the crappiest of our toy gun selection.

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