Ikari Warriors

Ikari Warriors

Company: Atari
Model #:
Dan Kitchen
Year: 1989
Port of the 1986 SNK arcade game


It must have been a bit of surprise for Atari 2600 fans to see Ikari Warriors on the shelves in 1989.  The hit arcade game by SNK was all the rage at the time and those players who weren't lucky enough to have it in their local arcade were playing it on some form of home computer or game console.  While Ikari Warriors was ported to many under-powered systems and computers such as the Apple II and ZX Spectrum, no one really expected to see a port to the lowly Atari 2600. 


You control Ralf (one player) and Clark (two players), two combat specialists known at the Ikari Warriors.  Your mission to battle through hordes of enemies, tanks, helicopters, and gun encampments in order to rescue the Colonel (called Colonel Cook in the arcade, but left unnamed in the 2600 port).  If the gameplay sounds familiar that's because you might have heard of a little movie called Rambo First Blood Part II which inspired the game.  Ikari Warriors was one of the first examples of what would later be known as the Run and Gun genre.


The rules of Ikari Warriors are simple, shoot anything the moves with your gun and keep moving forward.  As you progress through the endlessly scrolling level in additon to enemy grunts you will come across more powerful foes such as tanks, helicopters, and pillboxes.  While you can shoot these down with your gun, it's far quicker and economical to blow them up with grenades (this is accomplished by holding the fire button down for a second or two).  Both bullets and grenades are limited, but you can pick up refills in the form of an S icon which tend to appear when you start to run low.  Your ammo will also be replenished upon dying.


Occasionally you will also come across empty tanks which you can commandeer.  When in a tank all your shots are now as strong as grenades and you can run over enemy soldiers.  However you have a limited amount of fuel which is constantly ticking down (this can be refilled by running over an S icon).  When your fuel hits zero the tank will explode so make sure to exit quickly by holding down the fire button.  While your tank is impervious to bullets it will be destroyed instantly by enemy tanks and grenades.  Tanks can also only move over dry land so you'll have to ditch it if you encounter a water section.


The landscape of Ikari Warriors mostly takes place in dense jungle but there are also large areas of open water (no tanks allowed!),  enemy barricades (which must be blown open), and  narrow bridges that are often patrolled by helicopters.  Helicopters are particularly nasty due to the fact that they're as powerful as tanks and can fly over any obstacle (often moving out of your grenade range).  If you do manage to survive all the sections of the game you will be rewarded by finding the Colonel being held in an enemy stronghold (complete with comical oversized head).  Simply blast the stronghold open and you'll start the game over at the beginning with even fast enemies.  While this may not seem like much of an ending (the arcade game had a similar ending), at least it has an ending unlike most 2600 games.

The Atari 2600 version of Ikari Warriors is fair but had to be heavily simplified to work with the 2600's limitations.  Gone are all the power up items (only the bullet and grenade refills remain and those have been merged into one item).  The different kinds of soldiers, tanks, and buildings have all been reduced to one generic version.  Also gone are the mines, floating mines, missile targets, and the simultaneous two player mode (players take turns instead).  The 2600 port also limits the player to moving and shooting in only four directions while the arcade version featured a rotary joystick that allowed movement and shooting in 8 directions.  However even with all these concessions the core gameplay is still intact and the game does feature a nice variety of screens.  One downside is that the monotonous music plays continuously throughout the game and surprisingly cannot be shutoff.  On the plus side however are the large colorful graphics which are top notch (for the 2600 anyway) and there's a complete lack of flicker.


Ikari Warriors is another example of 'sure you can port it, but should you?'.  Much like the Atari 2600 ports of Kung Fu Master and Double Dragon (also by Dan Kitchen oddly enough), Ikari Warriors pushed the ancient hardware of the 2600 to its limit and the results were decidedly underwhelming.  Sure it played like Ikari Warriors (sort of), but everything about the port felt off.  Interestingly Ikari Warriors was nearly impossible to find in NTSC format for many years due to its limited distribution until a huge stash of NIB copies were found in Venezuela.  It's thought that most stores refused to carry the game due to low sales of 2600 games at the time and the unsold inventory was eventually unloaded in South America (a common strategy for Atari).  Most people who had obtained a copy back when it was originally released bought it directly from Atari along with other late releases such as Motorodeo, Xenophobe, and Radar Lock. 


Version Cart Text Description
4/26/90 Ikari Warr's C300042-177A 2600 NTSC 4/26/90
Final Version (NTSC)
8/6/90 Ikari Warr's C300046-177A 2600 PAL 8/6/90 Final Version (PAL)


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