Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Genre: Bullet Hell, Shoot ’em Up
Price: 800 MS Points
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Bangai-O started out on the Nintendo 64 in its home country of Japan, before reaching foreign shores on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000 and 2001 depending on your region of choice. The game has since become somewhat of a cult classic, which isn’t a surprise based on Treasure’s other titles, and can fetch a fair price online. It was also given a sequel on the DS a few years ago titled Bangai-O Spirits, which proved just as frantic and challenging as the original. Now Treasure and D3 Publisher have brought Bangai-O to Xbox Live Arcade with a few new tricks and a new subtitle. How does it hold up compared to its previous incarnations?
If you haven’t played Bangai-O, or at least seen it in action, it can be difficult to fully comprehend just how insane this game is. Imagine having the most stuff that could possibly fit on the screen at once all flying at you, and that probably wouldn’t even come close to Bangai-O. I can’t name a single game off the top of my head (Google searches included) that has more projectiles on screen than Bangai-O. Seriously, I challenge you to find one. It’s not entirely accurate to think of it as a bullet hell however because it’s not really like other games of the genre.
In Bangai-O HD you pilot a giant robot and fly through various two dimensional stages, each with its own design, enemies, and objectives. Unlike the horizontal or vertical scrolling of bullet hells like Mushihime-sama Futari or Deathsmiles, your mech flies freely through these areas and fires missiles using twin stick controls in the vein of Geometry Wars. Added to this arsenal are a few extra tricks, such as a dashing tackle, an area-of-effect freeze ability, and a screen filling counter attack. It will be learning the correct combination of these skills for each level or situation that will ultimately lead players to success.
This means that there will be a lot of trial and error in Bangai-O. A lot. You will often end up replaying stages many times before figuring out which of your abilities would work best against a group of enemies. This doesn’t only occur in later levels either. You should expect to have your shiny metal ass handed to you from level one. While the difficulty will definitely be discouraging to some, Bangai-O is the kind of game that rewards persistence as you eventually push your way through over 100 levels of maddeningly difficult action/puzzle cocktail. The game does offer a level-skip feature after failing 3 times, but really that is more of a hindrance as the next level is sure to give you just as much, if not more trouble.
Bangai-O HD doesn’t skimp on any of the challenge or fun of the other titles in the series, and players who don’t mind failing many, many times before mastering a level will find a lot to enjoy. This is complemented by a level editor feature which allows players to create or edit levels which can then be played or shared with friends. This obviously adds some replay value to a game that will already take hours upon hours to complete, but it also caters to the compulsive creative types out there. Also included is online multiplayer, which can definitely help ease a little of the difficulty in some levels, but don’t expect to find a perfect online community of players to interact with. Matchmaking is sparse at best, so be sure to bring a friend.
Graphics and Sound:
During gameplay, Bangai-O lives up to the HD addition to its title with bright, colorful sprites for enemies, missiles, and fruit. Most of the sprite are pretty small due to the fact that there are approximately a bajillion things on screen at once, but that doesn’t detract from the style of this mech inspired shooter. Some objects, like the houses that line some areas for example, look rather generic and don’t really add anything visually and background can also be a bit dull.
Backgrounds usually consist of either a blue sky or a starry space-scape, but I feel that this may have been necessary in order to increase visibility of the hundreds of enemies and projectiles you’ll be dealing with. On that note, Bangai-O HD also lives up the missile fury part of its title, with hundreds or thousands of projectiles soaring through the air without the slightest graphical slowdown. I never once experienced any drop in frame rate even during the most hectic moments.
Outside of gameplay is where the graphical department of Bangai-O HD was a little disappointing. The game’s “story” consists solely of static images of a man explaining your pilot’s objectives. One would think that with the use of only a single static image, that portrait would at least look good. What Bangai-O HD offers, however, looks like some quickly sketched concept art. All mention of the previous games’ pilots, Riki and Mami, is out the window, which is fine except for the fact that it was replaced by this one ugly drawing in between every level.
As for the sound design in Bangai-O, I really don’t have any complaints. The music is all very upbeat and matches the pace of the game, but it is more likely to be drowned out by the sounds of missiles, explosions, and most often the game over sound. Every sound in Bangai-O is reminiscent of the arcade, with the only missing sound being that of quarters jingling in your pocket. Missile detonations, melee dash attacks, and the sweet sound of collecting a dozen watermelons are all appropriate and satisfying.
The biggest drawback of Bangai-O HD for most players is definitely going to be the difficulty. The quirky Japanese presentation, complete with mechs, fruit, and soccer balls, might turn off a few players but just as many are sure to find it charming. However, if you can stick with it and expect to die a lot (consider it a part of the process), then there is definitely a lot of fun to be had with Bangai-O. Like Demon’s Souls and other deviously challenging games, the satisfaction of completing a level is a reward in itself. That being said, some of the charm and personality seems to be missing from this version of Bangai-O, perhaps relating to its lower price tag. For the price of entry however, there is little else to match the mind-blowing action of Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury.
For fast-paced, frantic robot action that might scare away the more timid players, Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury receives: