Bangai-O is a series near and dear to many peoples’ hearts. The first game is considered a Dreamcast classic for its combination of multidirectional shooting action, screens filled with missiles, and surprisingly clever platforming puzzles. In 2008, D3 Publisher and Treasure released a DS sequel, Bangai-O Spirits, but many felt as though the series deserved a return to home consoles. This, my friends, is that return.
D3 Publisher showed off Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury at PAX Prime, and it was a bit different than what I’d expected. Hearing "HD" at the end of the title made me think that the game was a remake of some sort. Instead, it’s the third title in the series and Treasure is fully involved. D3 promises 50 story levels, and 60 bonus ones (some of which are classic levels updated for the new game). Although this build didn’t have any story elements in it, the art in the game so far seems to be more mature than the Dreamcast classic. It’s got a very sketchy, hand-drawn look to it, which looks surprisingly good.
Missile Fury is the first Bangai-O on a console with multiple analog sticks, and as such, the switch to the twin-stick design makes the game easier to play. While the D-pad can be used to move (although the face buttons don’t shoot for some reason, odd), the game works quite well on the sticks. I doubt that many will want to force themselves to use the 360 D-pad simply for nostalgia’s sake. The right thumbstick is used to aim and fire in traditional dual stick shooter fashion, but it can also be pressed to activate auto-firing mode, in which the stick is used simply to aim. It’s the most fluid Bangai-O to date, and that’s only aided by the new right trigger-activated boost. Everything clicks to make a game that’s just a joy to move around in.
The classic Bangai-O staples of weapon switching and the multi-directional counterattack are in this game in force. Each stage assigns you two different weapons to switch between with the right bumper. Although these aren’t changeable, it’s not a terrible nuisance, as Treasure’s choices are always helpful. The multi-directional attack mostly works just as it used to, releasing the left trigger while enemy projectiles are close to you will release more bullets/missiles/lasers/etc. for a counterattack. It’s a risk-reward system that encourages rushing in and being a little reckless. Adding to that encouragement is the increased usefulness of fruits, which now not only come to you, but also heal you.
Missile Fury keeps the series’ platforming pedigree intact with some clever missions that take a bit more thought than simply shooting everything. One that I played had me racing from target to target as a fuse exposed them to my shots, then the game promptly dropped unbreakable blocks in front of the targets when I was too slow. This wasn’t so bad until I realized that I had to balance taking out targets with dealing with the onslaught of enemies behind me. Each level feels unique ranging from tiny little mazes to large, free-flying space levels. There’s a lot of variety to be found in the game, but everything available in the current build seems incredibly polished. If you get bored with the game’s 110 provided levels, you can build your own levels or download other players’ custom made maps.
Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is looking incredibly promising so far. Treasure’s high-quality game design shines even in the early, barebones build I played. The game will be out on October 15th exclusively for the Xbox 360, and will release for the very reasonable price of 800 points ($10 dollars).