Ikari Warriors is a vertically scrolling, shoot 'em up arcade game developed by SNK, and published in the North America and Europe by Tradewest in 1986. Originally titled Ikari (怒, "Fury") in Japan, Ikari Warriors was SNK's first major breakthrough US release and became something of a classic. The game was released at the time when there were many Commando clones on the market. What distinguished Ikari Warriors were rotary joysticks and a two-player mode. According to designer Keiko Iju, the game was inspired by the then-popular Rambo films and takes its name from the Japanese title of Rambo: First Blood Part II (Rambo: Ikari no Dasshutsu or "The Furious Escape").
The player takes the role of commando-like warriors named Ralf Jones and Clark Still, who must try to reach the village of Ikari to rescue their commander. Enemy units attempting to kill the player include tanks, enemy soldiers and helicopters. A number of power-ups along the way help the player achieve victory.
Ikari Warriors was the first popular video game to use rotary joysticks: those which could be rotated in addition to being pushed in eight directions (TNK III, released in 1985, also from SNK, was the first to use such joysticks). The game also featured two buttons, one for the standard gun and another for lobbing grenades. It allowed two players to play cooperatively, side-by-side — one of the few games to do so at the time — and to use vehicles. The game cabinet was a standard upright. Stan Szczepanski holds the official Guinness World Record with 1,799,000 points.
The player begins as one of two commando-type warriors, garbed in red (Ralf) or blue (Clark). They must proceed from the bottom of the screen upwards, towards the village of Ikari. Trying to prevent them from reaching the village are enemy soldiers and other units. Along the way, players may commandeer enemy tanks to help fight their way through the enemy personnel. The tanks are immune to enemy bullets, but have a limited supply of fuel and will sustain damage when it runs out or the tank is caught in an explosion, taking the player with it unless he can exit the tank and get clear before it blows up.
Turning the joystick changed the direction the character faced independent of the direction the character was moving, as controlled by pushing the joystick. This gave the player freedom to attack or walk in eight different directions. No shot is fired from directly in front of the player; the warrior uses the machine gun in his right hand, and throws grenades with his left. If a player takes too long moving up screen, the computer starts using "call for fire". A red spot appears below him. This is tracking fire to speed up the game.
Ikari Warriors printed circuit boards (PCBs) were manufactured in two different versions: SNK pinout and JAMMA pinout. Most SNK-pinout units were put into Ikari Warriors cabinets, while most JAMMA-pinout units were supplied as conversion kits. The SNK-pinout boards have a 22/44-pin edge connectors. The JAMMA-pinout PCBs have a 28/56-pin edge connectors. Both types consist of a stack of three boards, with interconnects.
Ikari used SNK's model LS-30 joysticks, which contain a 12-way rotary switch box. The joysticks are connected to the PCB via auxiliary wiring harnesses.
The game is known simply as Ikari in Japan and Ikari Warriors in the United States and Europe. In addition to changing the names of the main characters from Ralf and Clark to Paul and Vince, the military commander the player rescues at the end of the game is named General Kawasaki in the Japanese version (named after SNK's former president Eikichi Kawasaki) and Colonel Cook in the US/Euro version (named after Tradewest's founder Leland Cook). General Kawasaki's name was unchanged in the NES version. The enemies in the game were actually Neo-Nazis, as evident by the presence of a swastika at the middle of the final room.
Ikari Warriors was ported to several home systems of the era including the Nintendo Entertainment System, PC, Apple II, Atari ST, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Amiga, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Many of these were released in 1986, the MSX port and conversions for 16-bit machines were released in 1987. The PC and Commodore 64 ports were developed by Quicksilver Software. In 1989, a second Commodore version was released in the UK by Elite Software. This port is generally considered superior to the US one. Because all these systems lacked rotary joysticks, however, some felt they were not as compelling as the arcade version. Both the Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 ports were released in 1990. The Atari ST and Amiga versions featured improved graphics and the latter also had improved sound effects. The NES version was developed by Micronics.
A lesser-known port of the game exists for the Sega Master System, distributed under the label of Time Soldiers. While theoretically a different game, the concept is identical: two time-traveling soldiers travel throughout various periods of human history and prehistoric times, rescuing their captured friends and allies. Though the game was developed by now-defunct publisher Alpha Denshi and distributed outside of Japan by Romstar (also now defunct), the game was originally published by SNK and is fundamentally an SNK title. It has been purported to be a "knock off" off Ikari Warriors, though it is considered the actual Master System port of Ikari Warriors.
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