Where's Daimajin when you need him?

I’d never heard of Ikki before receiving the review offer for Ikki Unite. I learned from Wikipedia that the original Famicon version in 1985 led one reviewer to coin the term kusogē, or “crap game.” This is now part of my vernacular, as one would expect.

Ikki Unite, straight off, is not kusogē, although your mileage with it will depend whether you’re initiating the game’s uprising alone or with company. (Ikki were revolts against samurai rule in 15th and 16th century Japan.)

If you’re getting a Vampire Survivors vibe from the screen captures, then good; you’re paying attention. Ikki Unite is a top-down shooter in which you run through large environments, eliminating hordes of enemies. For the most part, running is all you do. Firing is automatic, you just need to aim, dodge, and collect. The central point is to level up enough to take down the game’s many bosses within the time limit. Beat a boss, you get more time. Fail to do so, and it’s game over.

Difficulty ramps up quickly, perhaps reflecting Ikki’s arcade roots. I had no problems at all defeating the first two bosses I faced, but didn’t stand a chance against the third. This surprised me, as I’d accumulated quite a few power ups and even a few other support characters before facing it. But those support characters weren’t the smartest I’ve seen, and my selected character—an explorer—wasn’t the man for the job.

Or maybe I rushed into it. I tend to do that when facing a countdown clock. There are myriad power-ups to uncover when exploring the environment, so it’s foolish to leave too many of them behind. But it can take quite a bit of time to damage the bosses when you’re trying to avoid not only their attacks but also the attacks of countless enemies descending upon you.

The point of all this, by the way, is you’re leading a revolt against your ruler. You may be able to take down a few lackeys with just yourself and some carefully selected power-ups, sure…

…but to completely overthrow the government, you’ll need help. Specifically, actual help from actual players.

So, Ikki Unite features an online option in which four teams of four can unite to ikki. The four teams are dropped into different locations on the map, and they must support one another to power up, defeat the local landlords, and eventually meet up with the other groups to take down the central ruler with coordinated and special attacks.

Players are each assigned a random character at the start, so you never know if you’ll be an attacker, healer, explorer, or enhancer. Considering this, I suppose the value of playing alone is getting experience with the various skills and abilities available to each class. You don’t want to be your team’s weak link, after all.

The gameplay is expectedly chaotic, but considering your only task is to move, it’s manageable. In fact, other than when selecting your power-ups, Ikki Unite is a game that never stops moving once it gets started. Uprisings require momentum, I suppose, especially when there’s no Daimajin to bail you out at the end. The simple graphics allow everything to fly around without issue, while also recalling the game’s 1985 origins. There’s a lot to take in, visually, but I suggest you take the time to do so. Some of the weapons, enemies, and visual effects are humorously bizarre. A bear throwing deadly fish bones is certainly one way to quell a rebellion.

Again, though, you’ve really got to play Ikki Unite online with other gamers to enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always possible to find enough available players. It’s all or nothing, in other words. But, as I’ve always said, a solitary uprising is a crap uprising.