Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ibara Review (PS2)
Release Date: February 23rd, 2006
System: Playstation 2
My Score: 9.5/10
It was the summer of 2005 when I walked into the infamous Hirose Entertainment Yard (aka "HEY") arcade in Tokyo's Akihabara to play some shmups. A new one had just arrived from Cave titled 'Ibara' which means "Sculptured Rose". They had 3 of them lined up next to each other so it wasn't long until I could drop my 100 yen in to give it whirl. Upon playing I began to realize something... "This game is a rip-off of Battle Garegga!" From the power-ups to some of the enemies down to your ship's shrapnel destroying enemies, I know I've played this game before. Little did I know at that time was both games, Ibara and Battle Garegga, shared some of the same staff. I was hooked right away. In my mind, this game is Battle Garegga with characters and a plot. I remember dropping about 1500 yen on that game that day (One credit is 100 yen). I would go back there over the months to play it. It was announced in Dengeki Playstation Magazine that Ibara was going to be released for PS2 sometime in 2006.
So February 2006 rolls around and I pick up the game right when the doors opened at a local game shop, well, not my usual shop because my usual shop didn't even stock the game, like a lot of other shops. I plopped down my 7000 yen and took that sucker home. I powered it up and after the fore-credits a deep voice says "IBARA!" followed by a girl yelling "Ah! Kakattekoi!!" Which means "Bring it on!" Yeah, so the taunt worked and I quickly hit the START button. And so began the Arcade Mode. Before the level starts a graphic showing all the boss pilots scrolls up and all of them say in tandem "Watashitachi ga kirei ni shite ageru" which means "We're going to clean you up!" which can be further translated to "We're going to kill you". These girls mean business. But if you know the plot, then their battle cry should be taken literally. They literally want to clean the Earth and make it beautiful. Not so bad, eh?
The game takes place in the 19th century in Nordic Europe in an alternate earth where everything is powered by steam, even aircraft. This technology is called "Edelweiss". You are in control of a retro-futuristic plane and the pilot is named "Bond". You can play simultaneously with another player, the 2P's name is "Dyne". The story is 5 alien women (the bosses of each stage) who look human came to earth and saw how dirty it was. They want to transform earth into a huge rose garden, but they would have to wipe out mankind in order to do so...because you know, man dirtied the place up after all. Bond and Dyne are out to save the earth from the sisters' flamboyant plans. The 5 sisters are lead by a doctor by the name of Teresa Rose (final boss). Teresa Rose's agenda is a bit more sinister than merely transforming earth into a huge rose garden....what could it be??
There are two different modes. Arcade Mode (unlimited continues) and Arrange Mode (no continues). Arcade mode is pretty straightforward. Gather power-ups and destroy the enemies. I prefer "Arrange Mode". Arrange Mode should have just been called "Battle Garegga Mode" because when you choose this mode, the game's controls become like Battle Garegga. Once you obtain the auxiliary side guns, you can toggle them into different firing styles. From 360-degree rotating guns to a homing gun, just choose whatever is right for you. The AI for the homing gun is questionable, but it is still the best mode for me. The Arrange Mode also kicks in a little CAVE flavor. When you hold down the fire button, the stream becomes stronger and the plane becomes slower. In the arcade mode, the stream is at a steady rate, but not as rapid and the plane's speed does not decrease.
Like in Battle Garegga, there is a "rank" bar. For those who have never played Garegga, there is a rank bar that increases every time you collect the bomb power-ups. The higher the rank bar, the more difficult the game becomes. In Garegga and in Ibara's Arcade Mode, the rank bar is invisible. The only way to gauge your rank is to observe enemy bullet patterns and their rate of expulsion. You can keep the game simpler by avoiding such power ups, but they would be needed when fighting more difficult bosses. The best way to beat the game in Arrange Mode is to strategically commit suicide to reset your bar. It does takes practice, but the payoff is satisfying.
The Verdict: 9.5/10
Is this game the perfect shmup? For me it is pretty damn close. It is definitely the best shmup on PS2, IMO. I have absolutely no complaints about this game. Anything that I didn't like in Arcade Mode is remedied in Arrange Mode. This game is challenging, frantic, beautiful, great-sounding...I can go on and on. I've heard complaints about the game being too hard or just a re-skinned dumbed-down Battle Garegga and I understand where they are coming from...but I disagree. This is a whole new game with traits passed down from its lineage. Also...what other shmup has its own line of clothing and cosplay? Heh.
This game is a must-own for all shmup collectors. It can't be had cheap, but it can be had. Get it.
Official Site of the game
My copy. As always, no pirated or emulated reviews!