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Best Boss Music #10: Ikaruga

I loves me some space shooters.

Foh’ real man, if a game is vertical scrolling, and involves a great deal of shooting, chances are I’ve either played it, or would very much like to play it.

Ikaruga stands as a game that is at or near the apex of quality and ingenuity for the vertical scrolling shoot ’em up subgenre.

Right next to this beast...

Developed by legendary team over at Treasure, Ikaruga is an intensely complex and difficult game, that while actually quite short, even by shoot ’em up standards, is very difficult to complete, even for the most seasoned of veterans.

I myself have never managed to beat Ikaruga, only getting far enough to get to the first step of the final boss’ stoop.

"Haha! Stoop Kid's afraid to leave his stoop!"

Set somewhere amid the same mythology as the one conceived in Treasure’s earlier Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga is one of the rare shoot ’em ups that actually has a legitimate backstory, albeit one that is completely omitted from the actual gameplay.

Similar to many of the older generation games, Ikaruga’s storyline was told, in detail; within the game’s instruction manual, as well as in cryptic messages that would flash on-screen briefly between each of the games 5 stages.

Yeah, 'cause I can read that...

While not nearly as deep as say, Konami’s Gradius series’, Ikaruga’s story is actually fairly intriguing.

The basic setup is that of a powerful empire discovering the power of God, only to wield it against it’s own people in an attempt to create absolute peace.

So, the evil empire discovers The Force...

This of course leads to a rebel faction taking up arms, only to be nearly completely annihilated in the process.

... And obviously the Rebels are fucking incompetent.

One pilot though, whom the player assumes control of, crash lands in village called Ikaruga (Mottled Finch).

... Said pilot crashes on a planet to acquire The Force...

The old people there, living in exile from the empire grant this pilot a ship imbued with a power similar to the power of God discovered earlier, though broken down into 2 separate polarities, black and white, or Yin and Yang.

Humor me and pretend you're interested.

With this power at your command, you the player dash headlong into the maw of the enemy forces on a suicide mission to turn the tide of the war.

The Yin and Yang concept mentioned above serves as the very core of Ikaruga’s unique gameplay.

Basically, every enemy and bullet in Ikaruga belongs to one of the 2 polarities of black or white.

With the touch of a button, the player is able to change their ship’s polarity back and forth between black or white alignment.

Pictured: The White and Black forms of the ship as rendered in pixel-format by Metaru.

When in either color state, the player’s ship becomes immune to all enemy bullets sharing it’s color.

Not only that, but purposely absorbing bullets of the same polarity slowly charges one’s special attack meter, which can be unleashed in the form of a massive homing laser attack that serves as Ikaruga’s equivalent to the classic shoot ’em up bomb attack.

Yup, that's a bomb.

At the same time, the player also has to take into consideration the fact that enemies take twice as much damage when struck by a laser of the opposite polarity.

This leads to occasional mental overload on the part of the player due to the constant possibility to trade the security of fighting an enemy of the same polarity, in favor of potentially destroying them faster by switching to the opposite polarity.

Now imagine this when you're EXPECTED to purposely run into half of this.

As mentioned earlier, Ikaruga is a very short game, at only 5 stages in length, however it’s difficulty stems from the intense level of strategic thinking necessary to maneuver each stage.

A huge element of the difficulty in Ikaruga springs from the fact that, in order to played correctly, one must effectively reprogram their most basic shoot ’em up instincts.

The one basic rule that is a constant in the vast majority of scrolling shooters, (well, except maybe Giga Wing) is that bullets are bad, and should never be touched due to the distinct potentiality that they might, I don’t know, KILL YOU.

Sadly, Takeshi Kitano forgot to un-learn the lessons taught to him by Ikaruga.

Ikaruga takes this most basic of concepts and throws it out the 3rd story window.

I think it goes without saying, I’m not very good at Ikaruga.

The game makes no attempt to cover-up the fact that it’s a shoot ’em up made exclusively for seasoned players of the genre with big hairy stones.

... Or failing that, one that can make fire from box-office success.

Hell, the game goes so far as to include a tiny animation for when you skim bullets with your ship, serving as a visual indicator as to exactly where the ship’s hit box is located.

Not only that, the game also grants the player special point bonuses for defeating enemies of the same polarity consecutively, as well as a particularly difficult to obtain bonus called “Dot Eater” that can only be obtained by beating a stage without shooting down a single enemy.

How is this possible?

Well, the stage bosses of Ikaruga all come with time limits attached, resulting in epic battles that can end in stalemate due to the retreat of the enemy unit.

Speaking of bosses, Ikaruga’s got some pretty neat ones.

Hey look it's a... Uh... Yeah, I got nothin'.

They lack personality for sure, but from a gameplay standpoint they are expertly crafted masterpieces of the genre.

The real star of the show during the boss fights though, is of course; the music!

That being said, let’s get down to our best boss track in Ikaruga:
Stage 1 Boss Theme: Butsutekkai

Though Butsutekkai gets the gold in terms of overall energy, I honestly feel that this next track is on par with it in terms of musical quality while adopting more of a sweeping dramatic sound.
Stage 2 Boss Theme: Recapture

Anyway, those are my 2 picks for the Best Boss Music in Ikaruga.

Tune in next time!

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The Top 10 Best Overkills in Movies, #4: The Last House on the Left (2009)

#4 on our list of the Top 10 Best Overkills in Movies comes from the 2009 remake of the 1972 Wes Craven horror film, The Last House on the Left.

While both films are remembered in the annals of horror film history mostly for their graphic rape sequences, (and little else) the remake has the distinction of having some truly brutal kills to go along with them.

The basic concept of both films is based around the rather unique idea of incorporating a role-reversal in a horror film, involving a couple of (initially) totally innocent parents, turning heel and going balls-out psychopath on a group of rapists/murderers that sexually assaulted their daughter.

That being said, the overkill in question involves the parent’s revenge on a member of the trio of rapists/murderers, Francis, played by Aaron Paul, who looks a whole helluva’ lot like an uglier version of Justin Chatwin AKA Goku from the live-action Dragonball: Evolution.

Goddamn! Both of these guys could give Jennifer Garner a run for her money in the "high-forehead" category!

For the purposes of this article, Francis shall henceforth be referred to as “Goku.”

Anyway, enough talk, let’s get to the overkill:

At this point in the film, the daughter has just dragged herself across a lake, through the woods, and back into her parent’s house, thusly revealing to them the devilish nature of the group of strangers presently taking up residence in their home.

Our overkill begins immediately after an uncomfortable sequence wherein the mom, played by Monica Potter, pretends to come on to Goku with the promise of wine and sex so as to divert his attention away from some family photos on the fridge.

For reasons I honestly don’t remember, Goku walks into the living room, and happens upon the shivering and terrified form of the young girl he helped rape just a few hours ago.

Taking advantage of Goku’s epiphanic moment of incredulity, Mrs. Potter sneaks up behind his Saiyan-ass and bashes him in the back of the skull with a wine bottle.

There's the wine, but where's the sex?

Being as he was caught off guard, and was  thusly unable to summon his ki to put up a protective barrier, Goku is pretty well rattled by the blow to the head.

Even so, he manages to keep his wits about him and chase Mrs. Cameron Poe into the kitchen.

Unfortunately, the wife of Poe grabs hold of a kitchen knife, and though she doesn’t have enough time to lash out and strike with it; Goku proves to be shit-headed enough to walk right into the business end of it anyway.

Undoubtedly in a great deal of pain as a result of the recent addition of a new hole in his torso, Goku does one of those goofy back and forth glances where his face is all like:

With Mrs. Poe still coming to grips with the idea that she is in fact, trying to kill Goku, she is momentarily taken aback following the accidental stabbing.

Goku takes this opportunity to stumble around the kitchen with the knife still lodged in his chest, only to forcefully extricate it a few seconds later.

Not like he was in any sort of hurry or anything,

It's like Christmas except... No, actually it's nothing like Christmas.

Now armed with the very knife he was just shanked with, Goku takes it upon himself to rush Mrs. Poe and shove her ass onto the dining room table for a savage beatdown.

Well, that’s probably what he was hoping to do.

Unfortunate for him, he really only gets to call her a “bitch,” and smack her in the face maybe once before Mrs. Poe kicks him in the Jimmy and crawls back into the kitchen.

Well, at least I think that's a kick to the Jimmy. Kind of hard to see...

Despite the kick to the Jimmy, being as he is still armed with the kitchen knife, Goku is still very much the aggressor in this particular conflict.

Thankfully though, Mrs. Poe is greeted by the sight of her husband, (sadly, not Nicholas Cage…) who calmly extends to her a hand in a Terminator-esque gesture of aid.

"Come with me if you want to live."

I suppose it also helps that her husband is played by that no eye-browed tool from The Last Samurai (Tony Goldwyn).

Watching this man get a sword thrown through his torso was fuckin' awesome.

Anyway, Goku comes charging into the kitchen with knife at ready only to be smacked across the face with a hammer.

Goddamn shaky-cam bullshit. Can't even tell what just hit him...

At least I think that’s what happened.

The very Bourne-esque cinematography makes it kind of hard to tell what actually happened.

Regardless, Goku; in a desperate bid for survival, gets up and chucks what looks like a fancy toaster into the face of the Man with No-Eyebrows.
Once again capitalizing on the shock and confusion generated by his actions, Goku runs out of the kitchen and into the dining room again, this time in an attempt to call for help to his compatriots in the guest house next door.

Unfortunately, the crazy fucking storm going on at the time prevents anyone from hearing his pleas for help, ultimately resulting in Captain No-Brows catching up to him and grabbing hold of the poor guy’s previously broken nose.

Out of context, it almost looks like someone's trying to help him with a bloody nose...

It should be noted that ‘ole Brow-less is in fact a doctor in this movie, one who was actually responsible for treating said nose injury.

IRONY.

With that, Dr. No-Brows puts Goku in a choke-hold and drags his ass, kicking and screaming, back into the kitchen.

Man, whoever did the blocking for this movie needs a dick slap from Michael Clarke Duncan or some shit.

Clearly, Mr. Duncan here approves of said punishment...

Once again back in the kitchen, the good doctor is suddenly struck with a jolt of inspiration taken straight from the Seagal-ian school of revenge.

Needless to say, Dr. No-Brows takes Goku and chucks his ass into a fuckin’ chair:

Man, I'm gettin' flashbacks from #5...

Dragging himself across the kitchen floor and over to the sink, Goku almost manages to get to his feet before Mrs. Poe jumps his ass and starts, well, pulling his hair or some shit.

Either he's about to get a shampoo at the hairdresser's, or he's about to get OVERKILLED.

Seriously man, I know she was supposed to be trying to dunk his head into the sink, but really it just kind of seems like she’s outright blanking on what she should be trying to do.

Anyway, Mrs. Poe proceeds to do what she can to try and drown Goku, however, as tends to be the case whenever Goku is involved, he proves to be too strong to succumb to such an attack.

Thankfully, No-Brows shows up and lends a hand, resulting in the 2 parents exchanging a MEANINGFUL glance between one another:

"Hey, you wanna' watch Bloodsport after this?"

"Take me NOW, you sexy brow-less hunk of man-meat..."

Despite Goku’s head now being very much underwater, Doc Brow-Less once again takes it upon himself to access his more creative instincts as he reaches across the counter and flicks on the sink’s garbage disposal.

Either their sink was clogged with beets and tomatoes, or that man's hand is in the drain...

Now, despite the fact that the 2 parents clearly had Goku’s head fully submerged with little fuss, for whatever reason it seems like they ease up on him just for the sake of watching him scream like a… Well, like a dude with his hand caught in a garbage disposal.

Behold: Goku's "I got my hand caught in the drain" face.

Anyway, like pretty much any man on the planet, Goku starts tweakin’ like the mother of all mother fuckers.

Seriously man, he goes into convulsions, he screams, I’m guessing he shits himself, and all because he thought it would be a good idea to shove his hand down the drain while people were trying to kill him.

I don’t know, maybe he saw a shrimp down there or something…

Anyway, amid all the chaos, we are treated to a truly horrendous shot of Goku’s skinny jeans:

Gives the chills every time I see ’em…

Now, a good thing to keep in mind when watching this sequence, is the fact that we spend a whole helluva long time watching this guy freak out at the sink.

Seriously, this whole overkill is about 3 minutes long, and a little more than 30 seconds of it are solely devoted to Goku losing his shit and most of his hand.

Anyway, after standing around like an idiot for the past half minute or so, Doc Brow-Less FINALLY wakes the fuck up and grabs hold of the hammer he dropped previously.

You can thank the toaster to the face for making him drop it earlier.

Summoning the last of the savage man-strength imparted to him via the astral form of Steven Seagal, Doc Brow-Less heaves the hammer up over his head, and drives the claw end of the hammer into the back of Goku’s skull and into his brain.

So, after a good 3 and a half minutes of overkill-ery, we finally reach the end via a claw hammer shot to the brain.

This was just #4 folks.

Lots more brutality and awesomeness and/or brutal-awesomeness to come!

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