Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury Review
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On 06/02/2011 at 12:01 PM by Nick DiMola
They’ve finally done it - a title more niche than the standard bullet hell shooter!
For hardcore shooter fans only.
Bangai-O is one of those series that would normally be completely unknown to most players, but given the release and critically acclaimed sequel Bangai-O Spirits on the DS, the series has gained some notoriety. Originally released on the N64 and later ported worldwide to the Dreamcast, Bangai-O offers a unique blend of gameplay that pairs bullet hell shoot-‘em-up mechanics with puzzle solving techniques. Its niche status wasn’t exactly unwarranted - like many of the titles Treasure creates, it was made for a small audience of truly hardcore players looking for intense challenge. That being said, it’s unlikely that the HD remake of the original game will connect with most players.
Things aren’t exactly helped by the terse tutorials that start the experience. Quite honestly, I was completely lost at first because the tutorials did such a poor job explaining the underlying techniques required for success. Emphasis on required. In most games, a cursory understanding of the available moves and skills is plenty to get by. Here, not having a full grasp on the mechanics will result in instant and constant failure.
The core of the game is extremely similar to a 2D twin stick shooter (think Geometry Wars). Left stick moves, while the right stick shoots. Beating levels boils down to being the last one standing, thus requiring players to destroy everything. Everything just so happens to be a metric crap ton of enemies/cannons all which shoot bullets at an alarming quantity, rate, and strength. In order to stay alive, players need to utilize a couple different maneuvers.
For one, precise navigation is necessary because getting closer to enemies will produce stronger missiles from your mech, giving you something of an advantage, though the risk is apparent. The second is the EX attack which also operates on a premise of risk/reward. The more projectiles in proximity to your mech, the more missiles you can send out all at one time. Because the attack must be charged up to execute at full capacity, the risk is doubled because it’s time consuming to execute at maximum efficiency.
Given these techniques, each level is architected in such a way that you must determine how and where to execute your abilities to destroy the most enemies at a time. Your missiles also happen to be homing within a given area, so you’ll have to trail them around so they reach the most number of enemies without being wasted.
In between all of this, you must cope with having an extremely small amount of health that is only minimally recharged by drops from defeated enemies. Needless to say, the “answers” to the puzzles aren’t easy to figure out (though getting it wrong is always immediately apparent. Hint: you die.) and the technical proficiency needed alongside the know-how is also pretty unbelievable.
Treasure clearly knew this and subsequently built in a system to unlock the following level if you fail thrice on any given level. Because the levels aren’t necessarily organized based on challenge level, it’s a godsend that this feature exists. Had it not, I would’ve idled somewhere around level 4 (which I still can’t beat).
Despite the fact that I have little to nitpick about the game, I’m still on the fence. It’s got a great hook and I’m always a real sucker for games that capitalize on risk/reward design, but it does feel like Bangai-O makes you work a bit too hard for the reward to be entirely enjoyable. With that said, achieving success is extremely satisfying and achieving mastery over the controls and the game can be satisfying. I know that I don’t have the time or patience to exert myself to achieve great enough success to love Bangai-O.
There’s little question that the game is well-made and that many levels are expertly architected; however, the massive learning curve makes the game hard to recommend or enjoy for most players, myself included. If you are the type who gets engrossed in tough-as-nails bullet hell shooters, there’s no question that Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is for you.