Over the years, Treasure is a developer that has practically become synonymous with the shooter genre. And why not? After all, they’re responsible for Contra III: The Alien Wars, the greatest side-scrolling shooter of all time. Since breaking away from Konami, the team has released classic shooter after classic shooter, including the insane Ikaruga and the great Gradius V. Their latest release is another remake from the Treasure treasure trove, Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Genre: Bullet Hell Shooter
Release Date: May 4, 2011
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Originally released for the Dreamcast back in 2001, Bangai-O can best be described as pure chaos. Not surprisingly, players control Bangai-O, a giant mecha that has to repel an alien invasion that seems to be made up solely of missiles. Make that thousands and thousands of missiles. You see, Bangai-O is a game that proudly belongs to the “bullet hell” sub-genre of shooters.
The chaos that is Bangai-O is exactly what gives the game its appeal and what makes it so frustrating. As missiles fill the screen, players can move with the left stick and shoot with the right. Tapping the Left Trigger will perform a missile burst Counter Attack while tapping the Right Trigger stops the enemy missiles in their path with a Freeze Attack. As you may have guessed, mastering these attacks is the only way to knock the missiles out of the sky.
The problem is that Bangai-O’s version of bullet hell is almost too punishing. It actually makes you start to wonder just what the people piloting the Bangai-O mecha did in a previous life to incur the wrath of whatever devil is in charge of those missiles. This game is hard. And I say that as a winner of big money and big prizes on Smash TV and as a veteran of the aforementioned Alien Wars and Capcom’s Wily Wars.
Thankfully, Bangai-O HD allows you to advance to the next level every time you lose three lives. Even though dying after a few seconds over and over again is depressing as all (bullet) hell, I guarantee it’ll be the only way you advance through the game. At first, that is. It is possible to learn the patterns and get lucky enough with a combination of Counter and Freeze Attacks to start winning a few battles for the humans. What that happens, Bangai-O can even become a lot of fun. When you’re given freedom to fire, Treasure’s amazing shooter design shines through and you remember exactly why these guys are the kings of the shoot ’em up.
Like an abstract painting, Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is incredibly beautiful, even if you don’t know what it is you’re looking at half the time. The backgrounds are often just static single-color backdrops, but the game’s swirling and colorful missile dance is almost hypnotizing. The effect is no doubt deliberate as it’s much easier to kill you if you’re in a daze. Sneaky aliens. Sneaky Treasure. But hearing the game’s rousing score kick in at just the right moment will wake you from your catatonia… only to see Bangai-O blown away by a wave of missiles.
Chaos is a funny thing. With a screenful of missiles (and hundreds more that you can’t see just off-screen), Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is a shooter that’ll keep even grizzled veterans of the genre busy for a long time. But it is also so insane and so random that it is very easy to get lost in the chaotic nature of it all. I’m not sure if I love it and I’m not sure if I hate it. I’m just sure that I played it and that I felt both emotions constantly (and sometimes simultaneously) as I played.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury was provided by D3 Publisher for the purposes of this review.