Japan


Ibara Kuro ~Black Label~ location test

By Alex Kierkegaard / February 03, 2006


Earlier this week I wrote at length about the PinkSweets and Triggerheart Exelica location tests that took place in Akihabara. Today, yet another shooting game location test got under way, this time for a revised version of last year's Ibara. The game is called Ibara Kuro ~Black Label~, and the test is taking place until Sunday at Hey arcade, a long-time bastion for fans of the genre.


My approach to covering this location test will be different than before. Instead of reading several thousands words and looking at a dozen pictures, you can just download and watch a fairly long video. Hopefully, this will give you a good feeling of the place and the atmosphere, both of which, by the way, kick some serious ass. So start downloading now while I give you some sort of advance commentary on what you are about to see.


As I expected, Cave's latest location test attracted a smaller crowd than the previous one. Ibara Kuro is, after all, just a revised version of an older game, and not a brand new title. Moreover, a PS2 port of the original Ibara is coming out on the 23rd of February, and will include an Arrange mode probably similar to Ibara Kuro. Hence the relatively low level of interest.


Still, enough people turned up, at least on the first day which I attended, to make for a good atmosphere. And besides those who were lining up to play the game, there were also many others in the arcade playing dozens of shooters from the original Gradius to Senkou no Ronde and Espgaluda II. That place really is shooter heaven -- I never get tired of going there.


The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that a row of cabs next to the location test had been replaced with more or less every great game Shinobu Yagawa has ever worked on -- a tribute, without a doubt, to the legendary Raizing/Eighting legacy. The games are, from left to right: Ibara, Battle Bakraid, Armed Police Batrider, Battle Garegga and Soukyu Gurentai.


Raizing_tribute.JPG

The stand-ins you see below were also used for the original Ibara -- in fact, they have the Ibara logo and not the Black Label one. I guess Cave was cutting corners here. They are only making 100 boards, after all, so it's not as if they'll make a lot of money from this. It's a more a matter of prestige and answering the concerns of the fans, who had many issues with the original Ibara.


cute_bosses.JPG

In the large video you get to see someone playing through the first two levels of the game. The player knows his stuff, but is not nearly as good as this other guy I captured later on in the evening, and whose exploits you can see in the second and third videos. What's interesting about him is that he was using the second player controls. I figured he must have been playing with Dyne in Ibara. In that game, each character was mapped to a different set of controls. Black Label fixes this problem by having both characters selectable regardless of which controls you are using. I guess it will take him a while to get used to being Player 1 again.


closeup.JPG

I didn't actually wait in line to play because, as I've mentioned before, I haven't really gotten into Ibara yet. However, the differences between the the two versions are readily apparent. Ibara Kuro features:


- Selectable characters

- Selectable ship types

- Rank meter

- Selectable options

- Visible multipliers

- Automatic pick-up of items in close proximity to ship


As for the game's "Baradise" system (think Ibara + paradise), here is a translation of the details from the pic below:


- Rank gauge fills up by picking up bombs and medals

- As Rank increases, enemies fight more fiercely

- When you cancel enemy bullets with a bomb, they turn into roses

- Collect those roses and your Rank decreases

- The higher your Rank is when the bullets change to roses, the higher the score multiplier

- With the rank gauge at MAX level the multiplier is x300


To score high you'll want to cash in a full Rank gauge, but to do so you will have to refrain from bombing until the enemies are at their meanest.This sounds like a fun system, and will certainly be preferable to that of the impenetrable Ibara, at least to most fans.


system.JPG

Ibara Kuro seems to fix everything that was wrong with the original game, and will certainly be welcomed by the patrons of the 100 or so arcades that will be buying it. The question now is how many of these changes will be featured in the Arrange mode of the PS2 port. Let's hope all of them.


[Edit: It has since emerged, via Cave themselves, that the Ibara PS2 Arrange mode will be identical to Black Label. Now would it be too much to ask for a true low-res mode?]