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Posted on Nov 5th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Ikari Warriors II, Arcade, NES, port


Two months ago I smack-talked Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road in the review of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on Switch.  At the least I called it annoying, at the most I called it garbage (in one of my older articles), stating that I would rather eat three year-old hotdogs than play that game again.  But something happened after getting SNK for the Switch that had never happened before: I enjoyed myself playing Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road.

It all started more than thirty years ago, back then I would troll the suburbs of Metro D looking for returnable bottles to play arcade games.  I've said it many times before, no doubt, but I loved this period of my life, despite the beatdowns I would sometimes have to endure due to my...  geeky appearance.  One of my most cherished games from this era was Victory Road, a sci-fi flavored sequel to Ikari Warriors.  It certainly wasn't at the 7-11 for very long, but regardless I had put this game on a pedestal, from which it refused to budge for thirty-two years.  So one day when I happened onto the NES port with the appropriate amount of money in my pocket, the cash couldn't couldn't fly out of my pocket fast enough, and I am pretty sure I set speed records for tearing off plastic and removing the game manual from the box.  Wonder I didn't tear it to pieces like an animal.  And the results?  Not good, though I always felt I tried.  The NES port of Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road felt unfinished at the time, and I am afraid that I delegated it to the "Budget Wall" bin along with Hydlide and King's Knight, somewhere deep in my room.  In retrospect I probably played more Urban Champion then that game.




The sub-menu of VC for NES, empty and full of potential

So what happened?  Why the redaction?  Simply put, during the RFGeneration NES Challenge I played Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road not once, not twice, but three times to completion!  While I think it is far from perfect, I really felt myself truly enjoying myself while playing the game.  Maybe I had been a big baby all those years ago, and that once the cab had disappeared, was angry that I couldn't play through my "favorite" arcade title the way I wanted.  But here is the clincher: I ended up loving Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road far more than the arcade original, based exclusively on my time playing the two games during both my original run of SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the article, then later during the NES Challenge.  But let's step back and bit and break this down some more.

As mentioned before, Victory Road is a sequel to the original Ikari Warriors, which see the heroes Paul and Vince being transported "thousands of years into the future" where they must battle hordes of enemies coming at you from all angles, commanded by the floating-head lava monster-thing, Zang Zip.  Yep.  In the arcades you used these magical rotary joysticks to control the characters, which would allow you to move in one direction while shooting in another.  It worked as well as in it did in Ikari Warriors, though perhaps a smidge more, since equipped with a sword you can deflect bullets and grenades, and slay monsters before they can get too close.  The game is also very tough, and even whilst playing it with unlimited quarters in the SNK game on Switch I still had to resort to watching the gameplay video to figure out how to beat the final boss.  Victory Road was a quarter eater, that is for sure, but thirty-two years later I finally beat it, though with the help of modern technology instead of a local friend who was "in the know."

Now we have Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road for NES, which was released only two years after the arcade game (in '88), and I originally came across it in spring of 1989.  It is of the style of arcade port I called, "Nintendo-fied," where changes were made to the arcade original (for better or worse) to add depth and replayability.  In Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road on NES all the arcade original weapons are present, but can now be collected and upgraded, so that one can carry all weapons at the same time.  Also present are items, which are generally found but can also be purchased at the stores that are scattered around the game, all of which can be selected and used in a submenu.  Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road is, on paper, a serious improvement on the original formula, and one that even the most stalwart of arcade purists should be able to admit is superior.


Victory Road on the arcade, doing what it does best: Being loud and explosive

So?  Well, if you aren't familiar with Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road on the NES, take a gander.  It is ugly, pretty glitchy, and also awfully janky, though at least is a better experience than the first game.  But to get to the sweet, delicious fruit you first have to get through the spiky and tough rind.  But once you do, man is it nice.  Like durian fruit, Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road is perhaps not for everyone, but to those that can get past the stink the game lets off, enjoyment is there to be discovered.  In the modern day, I think I ended up liking it so much due to pure repetition.  What also helped was the realization that Victory Road in the arcades really wasn't all that good, and was and is loud and flashy, but lacking the kind of depth I began to crave after I got an NES for myself.

I don't really expect anyone to follow my advice and slip in that copy of Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road into your NES or emulator for a(nother) go around, rather I feel obligated to take back the outright slander that I have delivered in spades to a game that is kind of goofy looking, but has a heart of gold.  Or at least, something you can use in the shops to buy medicine or armor.

Thanks for reading!


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Comments
 
I feel that way about a ton of NES games. Maybe it's Stockholm syndrome or something, but after spending time with them to really learn the games and how to be successful in them a lot of them really grow on me...warts and all.
 
I have a soft spot for this one as well. My childhood best friend had it, and it was one of those games that we went back to frequently, even though I was terrible at it. Something about it, with the weird concept of "buff alien dudes against the alien hordes" sort of vibe, was pretty cool to me as a kid. In a way, it's a sort of top-down Contra, but with a bit more sophistication, due to the weapon system, shop, and controls. It's still kinda rough, but I do think it's worth going back to.
 
@Crabmaster2000: I couldn't tell if it was me just getting old, but after cranking through all the games on the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (save Ikari Warriors on NES and a few of the shooters) I can't help but think I need to go back and really re-evaluate some of those games I used to hate.

@MetalFRO: Oh, I totally get that.  I keep going back to the front cover of the box (the leading pic of the article):  No shirt, blue pants and matching head/wristbands?  Sword?  What can go wrong?

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