Ikari Warriors can be played single-player or two-player co-op. The game is seen from a top-down perspective, with players seeing the top of character’s heads. The players are on the bottom of the screen, and advance upwards, while fighting through hordes of enemies.
Players must be aware of how much ammunition they have, as it is limited. Tanks, which have armor that prevents our heroes from taking damage, can be commandeered throughout the game. However, they will eventually be destroyed by enemy fire.
The original Arcade version of Ikari Warriors allows players to move in one direction while firing in another.
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This is accomplished via a rotating joystick that allows players to aim in any of the eight movement directions. This style of gameplay made Ikari Warriors tough to duplicate in the numerous ports and remakes of the game that appeared on home consoles, with some, like the NES version, ignoring the feature completely and only allowing players to fire in the direction they’re facing.
Clark and Ralf were required to move quickly in the game. If they loitered for too long, red spots, or tracking fire, would appear below them to get them on the move. Also when playing co-op if one player moved faster than another the slower player could become stuck and would die as a result.