In a time where games are increasingly built on story, cutscenes, and tutorials, one game stands above the rest: Ikaruga. This game is so hard it will bring tears to your eyes. And then you try the "Normal" difficulty.
This game does not mess around. It tells you right off the bat that people like it. While most games have a review on the back, or corners, this game has one smack dab in the middle, in a font almost as big as the title. But wait, there's more! On the back there is a quote from Sun Tzu. This is probably because you need as much experience with fighting as the old guy from Karate Kid to play this game sucessfully.
Before we even start talking about gameplay, let's start with the menus. Like any self respecting arcade game, there are unlockables. These range from concept art to more concept art. But here's the best part of the menus: YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF LESS LIVES.
That's right, you can make the game even harder. If you enjoy losing even more, you can change how often you get new lives. The standard is every 2,000,000 points, but it can be changed to every 15,000,000 (Which I assume no one has ever acheived).
And this is just level 1
Even though the game is hard enough on the easiest setting, there are two higher, in which the enemies shoot at you when they die. Maybe I am not stressing this enough; After each and every one of the ships finish shooting you with their normal bullets, in the wake of their destruction lie dozens of bullets (and the game rewards you for killing a larger enemy with even more bullets). And this game wouldn't be what it is if one bullet didn't kill you. The developers found some compassion in their stone cold hearts when they graciously allowed you two seconds of invincibility and a ceasing of enemy fire every time you died, which is often.
If you are tired of games that focus on story and are slow paced (Mass Effect), games with controls so complicated the first 50% of the game teaches you how to play it (Grand Theft Auto IV), or games that are so easy you simply run through it, chopping up enemies like some sort of electronic God (Fable II), then pick up Ikaruga. After the game has been on for 5 minutes and you get a game over, you will truly know what a challenge is. But don't worry, after much practice you may get to see the final boss. And proceed to cower in terror, because you cannot shoot at it.
"Not just for Pong"