Iridion II Review

| | Comments (0)
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Shin'en


Platform: Game Boy Advance
Reviewed on Game Boy Advance

More than a century has passed since humanity was attacked by the Iridion Empire. Despite nearly making humankind extinct, a lone pilot was able to guide his SHN fighter to destroy the mainframe that controlled the Iridion forces. Once the central computer was destroyed, the remaining Iridion forces were rendered ineffective, and disappeared from known space. As always, mankind moved to fill the vacuum and colonized the suddenly vacant Iridion worlds.

Now, the Iridion threat has returned. In a matter of hours, contact with every outpost in human space was lost. What messages came through before contact was broken revealed that the Iridion have returned to retake their planets, and exterminate every living soul in the process. Once again, there is only a single fighter in position to contain the vicious Iridion Empire.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Iridion II hearkens back to the day when all good shooters scrolled in one direction or another, and enemies always came in symmetrical waves with predictable patterns. Iridion II is the sequel to Iridion 3D, the first game in which players defeated the Iridion Empire, attacking while flying pretty much straight into the Game Boy Advance screen. Nearly a century later, humanity's last and best hope gets to fly a fighter from a perspective above and behind the ship. Your ship, enemies and obstacles are smaller near the top of the screen and larger near the bottom, lending a sense of perspective. This ultimately makes the game a familiar, vertical scrolling shooter, in which you travel down a canal of limited width, dodging obstacles, defeating swarms of enemies, and learning the patterns of bosses that would otherwise block your path to victory.

The graphics are quite good for the Game Boy Advance, and the alley that constitutes the field of battle is superimposed onto a series of two-dimensional backdrops with ambient animations that create a sense of the world around you. In Story mode, after completing a tutorial (in the form of Virtual Reality Training), you must clear the Iridion enemies from a sequence of fifteen worlds in five galaxies. Some enemies are common to multiple worlds, but between the deadly inhabitants and backdrops, the game does an excellent job of giving each former Iridion colony a unique flavor – from the explosives of a deadly mine field to a fiery lava world and an icy wasteland. Furthermore, the worlds each have two boss battles – a lesser foe in the middle of the world, and a more powerful opponent at the end. The exception is the final battle, in which a sequence of familiar bosses defend the Iridion mainframe 2.0, which appears as a fire-breathing, disembodied head. Iridion II boasts different music for each locale, although it must be said that some of the boss battle music is more evocative of an after-school special or a sinister soap opera moment than a battle to the death.

To deal with the boss enemies and the waves of lesser foes, you have a powerful ship and access to six weapons. Everything from the plasma beam to the radial gun and seeking laser has its use. Some fire straight up, others are target seeking or fire in multiple directions. Of course, there are trade-offs. There are four levels of weapon strength, and while the Plasma beam only fires straight up, it is more powerful than the Pulse gun that spreads its fire in a wide arc. You also don't have access to every weapon simultaneously. At the opening of each level it is necessary to choose one of the six as a starting weapon. Fortunately, no matter which you choose, you have access to a special super beam that the patient pilot can power up.

Throughout each level, you can find power-ups that increase the power of your existing weapon, give you access to new weapons for that level, or even increase your ship's remaining energy (if your current weapon is fully upgraded). In the style of many scrolling shooters, other power-ups can replenish energy or even equip your ship with smart bombs that can inflict massive damage to everything on-screen. Once you have upgraded a weapon past the first level, you gain a pair of satellites that fire energy weapons of their own. More importantly, these satellites can be positioned in arcs on either side of your ship, and can be used to block incoming fire – making proper use of the satellites while under attack a tactical dance.

The single greatest problem with Iridion II is the save system – or more accurately, the lack thereof. Majesco and Shin'en decided not to implement a save system, so the game relies on a password system to help you restore your progress. Arcade and Challenge mode need to be unlocked with a password gained by completing Story mode, but only pit you against the short, individual levels. On the easy setting, if you are reasonably skilled, all fifteen worlds of the Story mode (as well as VR training) can be completed in well under two hours. Other difficulty settings take longer. Either way, that's long enough that you might want to stop and continue at a later time. If you fail to transcribe the password correctly, you are either left to start over, or rely on the internet to provide you with the necessary code. Worse yet, in play, the game actually crashed once to a blank screen, just before the final assault on the Iridion mainframe 2.0 (the final level). If you haven't noted each password, and don't have easy internet access, that can be extremely irritating. On the other hand, codes received in the game's Challenge and Arcade can be compared on the official website (www.iridion2.com), allowing you to rank your scores against other players.

Iridion II does not have the innovation or earth-shaking difficulty of a game like Ikaruga, but it is a solid, scrolling shooter. There are multiple difficulty levels, the easiest of which should be playable by anyone. The hardest levels challenge experienced players to learn patterns quickly. Elite players can challenge themselves further by competing for high-scores, trying for combo kills and honing their accuracy. Iridion II offers a lot of good play for a Game Boy Advance title, and gamers who can overcome the lack of a save feature should look into this scrolling shooter.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 21, 2003 4:40 PM.

Game Boy Player Review was the previous entry.

Advance Wars 2 Review is the next entry.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

 

Add to Technorati Favorites