Japanese developer Treasure has many great classic-style action games under their belt. What’s interesting about them is that they take these classic-style games and incorporate innovative gameplay engines and systems. Many gamers may not be familiar with Treasure’s MDS (multi-directional shooter) series, Bangai-O. Describing it is no easy task. If I am to try, think of Ikaruga (another game they made that is more popular I would guess) mixed with Asteroids and Geometry Wars with an extra-dimention of gameplay. Weird, I know. That doesn’t really do it justice, but its as close as I can get with words. Honestly, gamers will have to try this game out to truly understand what it is. The Bangai-O series has been on the Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo DS, and now is on Xbox Live Arcade (which is version I am reviewing clearly). So how does this game fare in the current market? Does it age well or poorly?
First off, let me say this now. Playing the demo available on XBLA is not a good idea. It will give you a poor impression of the game because it simply does a poor job explaining how to play the game. It just throws you in as if you already know how to play. For veterans of the series, this great. For new-comers, this is horrible.
In Bangai-O, players control a mech both analog sticks. The left analog stick controls the mech’s movement in all directions (eight-way). There is gravity so if you leave the left analog stick neutral you will fall to the ground. While that will not kill you (as you can walk on the ground), its usually not a good idea to be in that area because you will easily become surrounded. The right analog stick controls the mechs weapon fire in all directions (eight-way). With a single button press, players can change the weapon that fires. There are other mechanics in the game as well, such as hovering, dashing, and more. The most important is the counter-attack. Bangai-O differs from traditional shooters in that instead of simply dodging the bullets on screen while attacking, it encourages you to counter-attack said bullets which takes timing, positioning, and strategy. While you can progress pretty far by simply dodging and attacking, you will not score as high and have a much tougher time making it, considering that you will get over whelmed by your enemies.
Bangai-O is a challenging game. It is a homage to a time in gaming where gamers did not want easy and/or mindless games. If you play this game like you play modern FPS, you will die a lot and give up. It is just that simple. Hell, even I struggle with the game and I have played it before. It seems that Treasure knew modern gamers would have problems beating the game. For every stage, if you fail it three straight times the game will unlock the next level for you. To me, I found this funny. If you can not beat level “n”, what makes you think you can beat level “n+1″? While the full game does have a solid tutorial, the only way to learn how to play this game is into jump right into it after you learn the controls. You will die a lot until you pick up how to play. Treasure also put in a cool feature that allows you to watch replays of the top players on the leaderboards. This aids in learning the game and picking up strategies and such. Also, if you are aiming for the leaderboards yourself, you can see how the current tops do it and try and find a way to better them. This adds to the longevity of the game. Speaking of longevity, Bangai-O HD has over one hundred levels for players to conquer. It also features a level editor, co-operative play, and competitive multiplayer. This is a game that will set its hooks into hardcore gamers for an abundance of time.
Being an HD remake of an older 2D game, I expected mediocre graphics and sounds. I was instead presented with a gorgeous game with solid game-sounds and music. Bangai-O literally gave me a non-cell shaded anime feel. It kind of makes me wonder how there have been so many bad Gundam games after playing this. It makes no sense really. If the developers at Treasure were given the Gundam license, I would be excited to see what they would do with it after playing Bangai-O. There were a few issues I had. The sections of the game that have text to read were difficult to see for me. I tried this on two different televisions and had the same problem. There will be times when the screen is extremely crowded with bullets, yet the game handles it smoothly. I noticed no slowdown at all. While the background music is pretty forgettable, the sound effects themselves steal the show. This is a game that is easy to pick up due to the logical controls, but difficult to master. You will need to learn how and when to use the advanced techniques or you won’t make it far.
For 800 Microsoft Points ($9.99), this game is a steal. It has the deep and rewarding gameplay, replayability, and multiplayer options to keep you coming back and entertained. The level design in this game is extremely imaginative and unique. It puts players in many different situations and tests their dexterity and mental prowess to get out of it. Take the above pictured scenario. Players had to face a boss who was only weak to soccer balls, so players hand to bounce them at him. Things like this may seem silly, bit they add variation to the game and help it stand out. Though it takes some time to grasp due to the complicated controls, the level editor will hook the crowd that has a creative side. Even as a remake, this game is a breath of fresh air in gaming. It goes to show that when ever one gets lost off his path, he simply needs to look into his past to remind him why he on the path in the first place. You play video games for fun and for a challenge. At least gamers did early in gaming’s history. Bangai-O reminds me of this. If you can, give this game a try.