Bangai-O a shoot-em-up by Treasure is one of those strange kind of eccentric Japanese games you will at times come across. Essentially it is an all out shooter while you blow away hordes of enemies with lasers or homing missiles but done a colourful and cheerful way while you collect fruit.
As well as the fast pace and frantic shooting action Bangai-O has a story of sorts, though you may have a tough time understanding any of and of the dialogue is in "Japlish" a kind of really bad translation from Japanese into English that doesn't really make much sense, for instance phrases such as "Hot Feelings! Male Star". But this does add to the fun and eccentric, wacky nature of the game. The two main playable characters who can be switched between during play pilot the flying mech assault suit the "Bangai-O " called Riki and Mami and they are facing a criminal organisation known as the "SF Kosmo Gang". The SF Kosmo Gang have beaten-up their dad and stolen all this fruit in order to...manufacture weapons. But in a nutshell that's the story and overall premise of the game.
The graphics are entirely 2D not a polygon in site, levels are expansive with plenty of attention to detail. Sprites including your Bangai-O suit are really very tiny. However this does mean the screen can be filled with a mass of enemies, structures, missiles and massive explosions. All combine to create a spectacular though visual experience once the screen gets particularly busy with everything on the screen exploding all at once. All this is achieved while maintaining a smooth frame rate with little to no slow down. The slow down there is, such as when you launch a barrage of missiles for instance, may well have been intentional implemented for effect.
Music is upbeat, cheerful and can be hummed along to as everything on the screen explodes and buildings are raised to the ground on mass. The music is reminiscent of other Treasure games with a similar eccentric theme such as Mischief Makers on the N64. Sound effects from missiles, lasers and explosions sound as they ought to sound and there are some snippets of voice acting that adds to the character of the game.
In terms of gameplay Bangai-O though it is playing on the side on 2D style is a little unconventional for a shooting game. While most 2D shooters will either scroll horizontally across the screen or vertical up the screen Bangai-O offers complete freedom of movement to go up, down, left, right or any direction at all you choose with the directional pad, levels can be explored at your leisure. As well as being to move in any direction you choose you can also fire in any direction. Each level is often vast and festooned with corridors, buildings, chambers and missile laser traps, as well as the vital fruit you have to collect of course. Into these levels a host of jet pack enemy troops and the occasional large spaceship will swarm from 360 degrees all around you. The enemies for the most part spawn into the levels from various designated buildings much like the way monsters spawn into the dungeon in the Gauntlet games. The game offers little to no rest from the tide of onscreen foes providing a near constant stream of explosive action. At the end location of each level lies a boss character to defeat, these vary greatly in nature and difficulty, some of them consist of little more than some kind of green pod/pea alien kind of thing who offers you no resistance at all it's just something there to shoot. There is also a (somewhat camp) recurring character who seems to show up no matter how many times you apparently defeat him.
Riki and Mami being co-pilots of the Bangai-O suit can be switched between with a pull of the L-trigger. They differ only in terms of the weapon they use. Riki uses a rapid firing homing missile and Mami is a laser gun that can bounce from walls. Both weapon are useful for different situation, Rikis missiles are ideal for wide open areas and Mami's lasers are ideal for smaller cramped locations or for blasting hard to reach targets lurking around behind or around corners such as laser force field generators. Both character have the option of unleashing a gigantic barrage of projectiles to take out multiple enemies all at once should you find yourself in a tight spot. These take a while to re-fill so ought to be used sparingly or saved for the end of level boss.
With over 40 levels to complete Bangai-O will provide many satisfying hours of fun and cheerful blasting and fruit collecting action. Bangai-O may be a niche taste and not for everyone but for anyone who enjoys 2D shooters or games with a certain eccentric character then this game is an essential buy for the Dreamcast.
Shoot em ups nowadays seem to concentrate on 2 things, graphics and sound. They go for all out mega 3d experiences with soundtracks from ace artists and look the biz. However they lack the great gameplay associated with the great shooters of the past. Remember Nemesis, R-Type, Xenon ? All these games were at the peak of the genre, awesome 2d blasters that stuck to a few simple rules. Search, shoot and destroy (oh and power up on the way) Bangai O marks a glorious return to that ideal, controlling the worstly described character ever (Rick the ultimate man of all men) you must traverse 44 levels of insane blasting action to save the world (or something like that) The ga,me premise is simple, each level is an 8 way scroller, you gan go any where and there are loads of things to shoot. You must destroy as much as you can before confronting the boss, but often you can race to the boss at your own risk, its all great fun. Your character has 2 weapons, hioming missiles or ricochet lasers (which bounce off walls) This adds a tactical element as you can do better in certain parts with each weapon, and you must decide which to use. But Bangai O comes up tops with the sheer amount of blasts, the enemies are nonstop and the explosions rain all over the screen, if you kill enough you can unleash a super blast which acts like a kind of smart bomb. The graphics are basic, but do the job and slow down is a non event here despite the frantic action. The music and effects are basic but work, but its the super addictive gameplay that adds so much to this. Currwntly available at a small tenner, this is a must for all shoot em up fans. Great !
Treasure have become something of legend amongst shoot-em-up fanatics in recent years. Beginning with the classic Gunstar Heros on the Megadrive they have produced a body of work which whilst resolutely two dimensional, has never failed to show innovation or lack playability. Bangai-O is their first and probably now last title for the Dreamcast and it is unsurprisingly given their track record a 2D shooter. The plot is unimportant and to be honest rather confusing manga-esque stuff so I’d best stick to the basics. You play a robot with two pilots, each of which fires a different gun. The aim of the game is to shoot as many things as possible and fight your way to the boss of each level. There’s a time limit and failure to complete the level within this results in your score being drastically reduced. That’s really all there is to it. There are a ridiculous number of levels to conquer but the main aim of the game is getting a high score rather then progression. The game is about as retro gameplay wise as you can get and it’s this rather pure feel to it that makes it so much fun to play. Just keep shooting and dodging, flashbacks of classic coin-ops come to mind as you play. Graphically at a first glance the game looks like it would be embarrassed to run on an 8-bit machine. The sprites are incredibly tiny. However, it takes a machine as powerful as Dreamcast to generate as many as typically appear on screen during the game. There are literally hundreds of enemies and bullets flying around at once, all smoothly generated, cleverly detailed and not a hint of slow down what so ever. However, most of the time the player will be attempting not to get hit rather then admiring the scenery. The game is highly addictive, the difficulty progression is judged just about right, never too easy but never frustrating. The urge to go back and beat that score too provides surprising longevity. However, this is n
ot a game for everyone. It is old-fashioned twitch gaming, pure and simple. Modern gamers raised on complex 3D worlds may find it a little too basic. It also can become repetitive, the game is not really suited to long extended session of play. It’s more a boot up for a half an hour blast every now and again. Also the boss encounters, usually a highlight of Treasure games are disappointing basic and often remain identical over large numbers of levels. If you remember the classic blasters of the past or have previously enjoyed Treasures games then this comes heartily recommended. If not then perhaps its time to try a little retro entertainment. Given the price point of £10 its hardly going to be a huge risk.
"2D is dead" ... however, evidently nobody told Treasure that, as they've produced what is probably one of the Dreamcast's premier games using precisely that viewpoint. From the initial look of it, this is nothing special. No fancy 3D environments, titchy sprites, rough sound ... and then you start to play it. And it's amazing - when you've managed to pull off a 999-explosion "400 max" special move, nothing can come close to the fun of seeing 400 homing misiles flying around the screen in front of you. I'm getting ahead of myself though ... Bangai-O is a 2D shooter, with you playing a flying robot thing trying to blow up all the other flying robot things and gun turrets and so on. There's a story somewhere, but it matters not. Kill things before they kill you. You have a choice of two weapons (homing missiles or bouncing lasers), special attacks and the ability to shoot in a direstion you're not moving. On screen is an explosion meter, which counts, as you might expect, the number of explosions on screen at one time. When you realise this can go up to 999, you realise how frantic things can get. The more explosions, the bigger your score, and the quicker you get another special attack. The special attacks can be launched at any time, and consist of bullets flying out in all directions from you. The number of bullets that come out depend on the number of enemies on screen, and their proximity to you. Wait until you're almost hit, and you can get 300 or 400 missiles flying around the screen, wiping everything out. It can't help but bring a smile to your face. There's about 50 levels (though I'm only on level 25, so I don't know), with each containing a boss character that you've got to work towards and defeat. The thing to emphasis is how much fun this game is. Were it not for the general need for blow-you-away graphics, this game w
ould be top of the sales charts for months on end. You don't need the graphics; you just need to play this game. Now.