Bangai-O Spirits

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Treasure for DS, originally released in 2008.


Bangai-O Spirits
D3Publisher of America, Inc.
Treasure Co., Ltd / ESP
4P (Multi-Card)

The incomparable Treasure, a company known for more outstanding hardcore 2D experiences than any company – especially one so small – has the right to. Radiant Silvergun, Gunstar Heroes, and Alien Soldier all hold their places in the hearts of the gaming community as pure-blooded technical beauties that require the player to master the mechanics completely before allowing victory. And, of course, Treasure is also known for delivering some pretty whacked out original ideas to the market with titles like Mischief Makers, Silhouette Mirage, and Sin and Punishment.

With the advent of Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance and DS systems – a pair of the last bastions of quality 2D entertainment – Treasure found a home for the revitalization of some of their previous successful titles. A company that is known to not make sequels, Treasure opted to create re-imaginings of several of their most beloved creations: Advance Guardian Heroes and Gunstar Super Heroes on the GBA, and Bangai-O Spirits on the DS.

Bangai-O was originally released on Japanese N64 systems as Bakuretsu Muteki Bangaioh and eventually made it to the U.S. and Europe via a Dreamcast port, with some graphical and gameplay changes (particularly in the way you power up your weapons and use special attacks). In these N64 and DC originals, you take control of a giant robot represented onscreen by a tiny character sprite, which is capable of firing in any direction, independently of movement. You have the ability to shoot two different types of projectiles (homing or bounce) and switch between them on the fly, and enemies can – and do – pour in from all sides. In addition, you have a multi-missile attack which is the pinnacle of ludicrocity, launching missiles whose numbers increase depending on the number of enemy projectiles are on the screen and how close they are to hitting you, allowing up to 400 missiles on the screen at once. This “bullet blossom” effect is one of the things that the game is most known for.

Bangai-O Spirits is neither a sequel nor a remake of the original games, but rather a game that carries the “spirit” of the originals (see?), with numerous tweaks to the formula. It borrows elements from both the N64 and Dreamcast versions of the game, building upon – and improving upon – those foundations to deliver a highly technical shooter that is truly unlike anything else that came before it.

There is no story. You pilot a giant robot. Bangai-O GO!


EX Attack (hold to charge)

Missile or Melee Attack


Let’s first start by saying that it can be difficult to discuss the mechanics of Bangai-O Spirits without getting a bit worked up. The mechanics are varied, robust, and unique, and the game was specifically crafted for players who are looking for a technical experience. You could say that Treasure has made a game called Bangai-O Spirits exclusively for fans of Bangai-O Spirits, because honestly, you’d almost have to know what you were getting into before ever picking it up. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which someone would buy and appreciate this game who hadn’t either played one of the originals or read a great deal about the gameplay beforehand. Anyone who grabbed this game out of the bargain bin based solely on the cover art probably got very little out of the experience.

You’d hope against hope that somewhere out there, a kid got this game as a gift from an oblivious relative, and somehow he completely grasped and understood the game even though he knew nothing about it previously… that he got sucked into it by design alone, tossing out any of his preconceived current-generation notions about what a game should be (it has no story, no lengthy cutscenes, no floating arrows telling you where to go next, and no QTE’s).

To stick with Treasure for an example, this would be akin to gamers who stumbled across Gunstar Heroes back in the day (packed with a free Fruit Roll-Up!), who played it and loved it, and who knew absolutely no one else who had ever heard of it. When you make this kind of gaming discovery amidst a sea of complete garbage (a sea that was just as rough during the so-called “golden age” as it is today, only the games cost more, and there was no Internet to tell you what was bad), when you find something completely unknown and so tightly designed… well, it just makes you feel kind of special.

And that’s why it’s hard not to get a little overexcited when discussing the mechanics of this game. You want people to understand what the game is like, to convert them, to get them to see what you saw when you experienced it yourself. It doesn’t help that there’s nothing else on the market to relate it to for comparison sake. It is not Die Hard with mechs.

It is only its weapon system. It is only its mechanics. It is only a game.

The game starts you off in a 17-level tutorial to get you used to the mechanics, but this is unlike any tutorial you’ve ever seen. First off, there is no story in this game (see the PREMISE section… or don’t, because it says the same thing). These are the only characters and only dialogue you will see in the game. Ever. Where the original games had a boy and girl character piloting Bangai-O into battle, and having witty dialogue exchanges before each boss encounter, this game has none of that.

Instead, it offers only a tutorial with a crazy one-eyed professor teaching a (fairly belligerent) guy and girl about how to play Bangai-O Spirits. That’s right, they’re discussing how to play the game. They even make references to the slowdown that you’ll encounter when launching your “bullet blossom” attack.

They even make several self-referential jokes, making comparisons between the game and popular anime, and talking about themselves as video game characters. And when the tutorial is over, the credits roll! This is the only place where you’ll see the “end game” credits during the course of play, and one of the kids even makes a comment about how he has already beaten the game, so now he’s going to go trade it in.

You can even skip the tutorial if you want, but if you’ve never played the game before… well, let’s just say, you’re going to need a bit of schooling, because this is a highly (entirely?) technical game which relies on you using ALL of your skills to succeed. Think the baseball bat is a stupid weapon that you don’t ever plan on using? Think again. You will use every skill you have learned if you wish to beat every level the game has to offer.

Each of the 17 tutorial levels adds one additional gameplay mechanic into the mix, which is a lot. Think of it this way … if you were playing, say, Contra, and you had 1 level to explain each of the mechanics, you’d have maybe what, 6 levels? How to jump, how to shoot, how to get new weapons, etc. So what in the hell are we doing with 17 levels?

Each level is adding one new facet of gameplay. First, you’ll find out how to move, then shoot, then lock your position and shoot, then boost. And it goes on and on. Every time you think you couldn’t possibly learn any more about attacking a group of enemies – and are starting to get desperate to get into the game and try out these abilities for yourself – the game tosses one more strategy your way.

Oh, and there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll die during the tutorial, probably more than once. What’s more, the tutorial levels are the most that the game ever holds your hand during the entirety of your gameplay experience. If you can’t make it through the tutorial, then you shouldn’t be playing the game. That’s not a “you’re not hardcore enough” statement, but more like “you have not yet developed the proper skills”. You may find some of the later tutorial levels cruel in their design, but you need to understand that there are levels later on that offer greater frustration than this, on an order of magnitude. If you play through the rest of the game and come back around to the tutorial levels, you will find that your skills have grown to the point that these levels are laughably easy.

Once you leave the tutorial, you may notice that the next option down is Free Play. Not Start, not New Game, not Story Mode. Free Play. One of the oddest things about this game is that it’s almost completely free-form. There is no story, no bosses, no character development or level progression… The only goal you have is to destroy the number of targets displayed on the top screen, and continue onto the next level. Looking for more substance? Well, the game does record your best time and highest score, so you can go back and try to better them, if you wish.

This lack of structure will likely offend those modern gamers who are accustomed to being continually prodded in the right direction and reminded of what they need to do to succeed. Modern “refinements” such as this simply do not exist here. Pick any level you want, in any order you want, and GO!

Oh, and did we forget to mention that there are 167 levels, and that they’re not arranged in order by how difficult they are? They are completely standalone, and most don’t build off of the others in any way, so good luck figuring out where to start. It’s best to just hop in and get smacked around a bit, retry, skip a level or two, and repeat until satisfied. After all, you’ve already seen the credits, so the game is technically over. From this point, the game only really ends when you put it down and stop playing.

It’s not at all uncommon to come up against a level that you have no idea how to complete. Hell, in some levels, you will die in less than 2 seconds unless you come equipped with the right weapons. The two most common things you will see on your DS screen in this game are STAGE START and GAME OVER. You are invited to skip any difficult-to-handle levels and come back to them later. Often, you will find yourself playing another level and suddenly think up an idea for beating a previous one. So, you’ll go back and try. Maybe you’ll make it, and maybe you won’t, but experimenting with your weapons is half the fun and a large part of the strategy.

It’s even possible to “lose” a level without actually dying. Some levels will have areas that get permanently blocked off if you make the wrong move, or – more often – if you don’t move fast enough. Various levels have explosives that, when ignited, can spread through the entire length of the level in a chain reaction, unleashing enemies, causing explosions, and blocking paths.

Fortunately, the game has included a feature to help you in these situations. It’s called the RETRY option. You will be using it almost as often as you pause the game… because usually you’ll be pausing the game to use it (or to cry because you’ve just messed up for the 20th time in a row), but you will find yourself one step closer to the solution with every death. The game is not afraid to kill you in order to teach you a lesson.

In some instances, it may be well-nigh impossible for you to imagine the solution to a given level. Or, you’ll start out a level surrounded by enemies and have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 second to do the exact right thing when the level starts, or you will die. But in most cases, levels can be beaten in numerous ways. It’s just a matter of picking a set of weapons you’re comfortable with, and manipulating the controls properly. Precision is everything, and it works both ways… Not only can you die 2 seconds into a level, but having the right mix of weapons can also lead to beating a level in less than 2 seconds. Yes, some levels can be beaten in 2 seconds. Others will take you minutes.

There is no reward for beating the game. No special modes, no new levels, no unlockable skins. Your only reward – which is greater than the sum of any of these potential awards – is your personal sense of satisfaction and triumph over besting the entire game. Your score and time are all that are recorded upon completion of a level. And yes, you could have done better.

Weapons are divided into 3 categories: Missiles, Melee, and EX Attacks. Simple enough, right? You can shoot, punch, and use a special move. How complicated could it get? These are the basic moves in half of the action games ever made. But taking these simplicities for granted would be the like assuming you could beat someone at chess simply because you had mastered the game of checkers. Let’s break this down…

You have 4 different missile weapons, each of which can be used on its own, or combined with another weapon for a completely new attack, yielding 10 different possible missile attacks. (Having Gunstar Heroes flashbacks yet?). You also have 7 different EX Attacks, 5 of which can be combined, yielding a total of 17 different attacks. And in the melee category, you have a Sword, a Bat, and a Shield, each of which can only be used on their own.

Hope you have some caffeine and a slide rule handy, because this is the decision you make before going into every level. You can choose any 2 missile or melee attacks, and any 2 EX attacks. You can also combine and un-combine weapons in-game, giving you up to six different attack options within a level. Or you can go in with a sword, a shield, and Freeze and Reflect EX Attacks, giving you just 1 offensive ability. That’s how different this game can be from level to level.

Here’s the rundown of the weapons…

Standard Missile Weapons (can be combined)
  • Homing Missiles – Seek out targets when fired; best used in open areas
  • Bounce Missiles – Rebound off surfaces; best used in enclosed areas
  • Break Missiles – Pierce through 2 enemy shots; great for pushing back a line of enemies
  • Napalm Missiles – Explode on impact, causing splash damage to nearby enemies. But these missiles have no penetration, so they are useless against an onslaught of missiles. On the other hand, they are quite effective against melee-based enemies.

Melee Weapons (cannot be combined)
  • Sword – Great for rushing toward enemies, since it’s fast and it slices through enemy projectiles, but it cannot be used to defend against melee attacks. Each time you swing, you inch forward just a bit.
  • Bat – The bat is similar to the sword, but has several major differences. For one, it is much larger and slower to swing. Also, rather than slicing through enemy projectiles, it knocks them back. The bat can actually be used to knock back most enemies, enemy projectiles, and a number of environmental objects. Stunned enemies are knocked back and turned into projectiles themselves, causing damage to whatever they hit, making it a great weapon to use against crowds of highly mobile enemies. However, some enemies cannot be stunned.
  • Shield – The shield is always active when equipped and protects you from incoming enemy missiles in whatever direction it is pointed. By default, the shield will constantly swing around to face your forward direction, but you can lock it to face a specific direction as well. It is useful to use this in conjunction with the sword, since you will often be flying directly into the face of enemies. But like the sword, it is also useless to defend you against melee attacks.

EX Attacks (can be combined, except for Freeze and Reflect)
  • Homing, Bounce, Break, Napalm (work the same as their counterparts above)
  • Direct – This sends all of your missiles in the direction of enemy targets. Technically, you can send EX attacks toward enemies simply by pressing the D-pad toward them when unleashing them, but this is a more direct and focused attack.
  • Freeze – Temporarily paralyzes enemies and their missiles in a given range (frozen missiles will not harm you when you touch them). The duration of the freeze increases depending on how long you charge the attack.
  • Reflect – Knocks away enemies, projectiles, and objects within a given range, almost like hitting all of them with the bat at the same time. You can even use this in combination with the D-pad to reflect everything back in a specific direction. Like the bat, it is useless against enemies that cannot be stunned.

Wondering how the combinations work? Here’s an example: If you take the Bounce Missiles and Break Missiles into a level, you can switch on the fly between shooting missiles that bounce off walls, or ones that penetrate enemy shots. Or, you can combine them to create a missile that will bounce off walls and destroy enemy shots that are fired at you. This allows you to be a complete menace in tight-quarters levels, picking off enemies without even getting into the line of fire. But in a free-flight level, Bounce Missiles are completely useless, whereas Homing Missiles can be a great asset. Of course, many levels mix open and enclosed environments, leaving you to experiment to find the best way through.

Generally speaking, most enemies will have one of the above types of missile or melee attacks. For instance, some enemies are melee-based and use swords to slice through your bullets, or bats that can reflect your shots back toward you, while others will have no melee attacks, but will instead fire homing, bounce, break, or napalm missiles. Some enemies and turrets fire lasers (the only weapon that is not available to you), which cause continuous damage until the source is destroyed. Weapons are balanced in such a way that each can be cancelled out by using one of the others, which is the basis of the strategy in most levels.

Using EX attacks uses up the EX meter, which can be recharged by picking up fruit dropped by destroyed enemies or environmental objects (yes, buildings and enemy mechs drop giant mech-sized fruit when destroyed). Your EX meter also charges when you are taking damage, which is an interesting design choice because it often gives the player a last-ditch option for surviving a particularly nasty barrage of enemy fire. A chime plays when your meter is charged (you can hold 3 charges at once), so if you find the smack being liberally applied upon your head, you will know exactly when you can strike back. It can be thoroughly satisfying to limp your way to the final target, low on health with no EX attacks remaining, only to take some damage, charge your EX meter, and deliver one last volley of missiles that destroys the target and ends the level.

When you hold down one of the shoulder buttons, your EX attack will start to build in power. A counter goes up from 0-100, during which time you cannot move. When you let off the trigger, a “bullet blossom” attack is unleashed, launching up to 100 missiles onto the screen. You can either let them spread out from your mech in all directions, or hold down the D-pad to concentrate your fire in one of 8 directions.

It is best to use EX attacks when surrounded by enemies, especially ones who are firing at you. As enemy projectiles get closer to Bangai-O, you’ll receive a bonus which increases the size of your missiles – and therefore their destructive power – by 2x, 3x, or 4x. And a very exciting thing will happen if you manage to pull off a 100-missile 4x attack… The game will stop.

Yes, there is slowdown in this game, just as there was in the original Bangai-O games. And yes, your brain has been conditioned to believe that if you experience slowdown in a game, then it must not be working properly… that the developers just didn’t take enough time to tune it because they’re lazy, stupid, or just so wildly incompetent that they don’t understand that games should never, under any circumstances, drop below 30fps. Bangai-O Spirits does not care.

When the action gets thick and heavy, slowdown will occur proportional to the thickness and heaviness. But this will not detract from the gameplay. In fact, it may just give you an unfair advantage, which you may gladly accept, given that the game itself seems to have the advantage on a pretty regular basis. But a 100-missile 4x attack will literally bring the game to a complete stop for a couple of seconds. And you will have to wait to see if the enemies that surround you are brought to their knees, or if you held off on letting loose just a half-second too long, and you see the GAME OVER screen instead. And since the player is rewarded for waiting to the last minute to fire his EX attack, this is a frequent occurrence. Often, this is happening as you attempt to take down the final, most well-guarded target in the game, which means there’s just as much chance of seeing GAME OVER as there is of seeing STAGE CLEAR!

But knowing your weapons isn’t the only way to get through the game. More often than not, beating a level comes down to your level of badassedness when piloting Bangai-O. Where the original Bangai-O games allowed for independent movement and firing via a combination of the stick and face buttons, Bangai-O Spirits instead offers 3 different movement types:
  • Fixed – whichever direction you’re holding on the D-pad when you start firing, your mech will lock in that direction regardless of your movement. This works very similarly to the aim lock feature in Cybernator.
  • Stationary – by double-tapping your missile or melee weapon, your mech will come to a dead stop and allow you to fire in any direction (similar to Contra III).
  • Auto Aim – of you’re not pressing in a direction on the D-pad when you start firing, your bullets will simply aim toward whichever target is closest. This can be a tremendous asset when heading into a level where you absolutely need Bounce and Break missiles, but you’d really like to have a Homing ability as well. Auto aim works like a weak homing shot, insofar as your bullets travel toward the target (they do not hone in after fired).

In addition to these firing methods, you also have a Boost maneuver which allows you to rapidly advance or retreat, and it is also an attack on its own, causing weak damage to some enemies. It is particularly useful against stationary targets, such as turrets, since it allows you to deliver multiple hits in succession. Also, most turrets (laser turrets being the exception) will not fire on you if you are right up against them, so the best way to take down a row of turrets is to simply fly at them at full speed and ram them until they explode. Also, using the Boost move keeps you from being knocked back when hit by an enemy attack.

As mentioned, many environments are completely wide open, and others take place in extremely tight quarters. But often, you’ll be faced with levels that present open areas in an otherwise enclosed environment, or small numbers of tight sections spread throughout an otherwise open environment. This will greatly affect the your preferred weapon loadout, as well as the way you move through the environments. One thing you need to keep in mind as you traverse the levels is that your only goal is to destroy the targets highlighted on the top screen. Yes, the level may be filled with enemies, and you might have to traverse screen after screen of mechanized menaces who intend ill will toward your personal welfare. But you are free to ignore or destroy any of these enemies – at your peril – and make your way to the specified targets. Some levels have multiple targets, each of which may be huge boss-class enemies, while others may have a Core as the only target in an enormous level, and you simply have to make your way to it and destroy it.

One of the best examples of the variety in design and enemy layout is the level known as War in Space (level 60), which features dozens of enemies and turrets, enclosed areas within planetoids, and even some enormous boss-sized enemies that are completely optional, and will not attack you if you stay away from the area where they are penned.

Mixed in are some enemies that will chase you down through the full length and breadth of the level once they’ve spotted you. Again, fighting them is completely optional, but they can kill you in seconds if they get you in a corner. There are 7 targets in this level, tucked away in almost every corner, and each protected by different enemies that require specific weapons and/or skills to destroy. This is one of those levels that will require you to pull out all of your previous training, to think and re-think your strategies and the optimum weapon loadout for the level, and then die a dozen or so times until you get it right.

In addition to the straightforward action levels, which can have some puzzle elements, the game also has a set of puzzle-specific stages. Most of these don’t rely on your firepower so much as they do your brainpower. These levels will often place you in a constrained area where you need to push blocks in just the right direction, or use a particularly complex series of moves or attacks to make it through the level. Very often, these puzzles will have only one solution, and failing to execute it properly will require you to restart the stage.

There are only 2 kinds of pickups in the game, and both are health pickups:

Restores a portion of your health.
Restores the health gauge to its maximum.

As you might imagine, these are generally placed strategically within a level, and many levels have no health restoratives whatsoever. There is no other way to earn back your health, so if you take a ton of damage at the beginning of the level, the only way to get it back is to find a health pickup. You need to shoot/attack the boxes to open them, after which they will remain on the screen for a few seconds before disappearing. This adds an extra layer of strategy, since unleashing an EX attack nearby will almost always activate them, and if you’re in the middle of a firefight, it may be too great a risk to attempt to pick it up before it disappears.There are numerous other small touches in the game, which add to the strategy. First off, destroying most enemies will leave behind a bluish-white explosion. These explosions will absorb any projectiles that touch them, giving you a temporary reprieve when destroying the front line of an enemy’s attack – which will often find you facing off against a couple dozen enemies at once.

Also, you have the ability to cancel a charged EX attack by using one of your other normal attacks, or by boosting. And, you can hover left or right by double-tapping the D-pad in that direction. Additionally, you can use the START button for more than just pausing the game (or retrying a failed level). If you hold it down, you go into Slow mode, which allows you to move the game one frame forward with every press of the button. Obviously, this is cheating, so your score will not be saved, but it allows you to try out different strategies, and you can still save your replays to show off a tool-assisted run to any other humans you may know.

Oddly, there are several types of oversized balls placed throughout the game: baseballs, soccer balls, and basketballs. Yes, you can just ignore them, but you can also use a bat to knock them around the level, damaging enemies and triggering explosions. There are a few levels where using the balls properly is necessary to succeed, but often their use is completely optional. It can be strange to be invading a giant space station and see a soccer ball (or a stack of them) lying in a corner somewhere, each of which stands at half the height of your mech.

Lastly, there is a very robust Edit Mode in the game. You can either start a custom level from scratch, or enter any level in the game and press the SELECT button to begin editing an existing level. Once you have finished, you can save the level and share it with other DS owners via “sound load”, which works in a similar fashion to the tape modems of old. Each level gets encoded into a sound file which can then be played back via the DS speakers, allowing for a DS-to-DS transfer, or you can record the sounds onto a PC and share them that way.

(What's this?)Pillbugs These enemies look like armored pillbugs, and they are one of the few enemies in the game that can use both melee and missile attacks. They are extraordinarily difficult to fight, because they will roll up into indestructible balls whenever you attack them, and will dash in your direction. Fortunately, they can only dash in a straight line, meaning that you can dodge around them, but if you’re in an enclosed area, you won’t stand much of a chance with that strategy. And, even in an open area, they will keep tracking you no matter where you go, basically forcing you to engage them. Fighting one is bad enough, but they generally travel in packs. Looks like somebody knows about all of those ants you baked with a magnifying glass when you were a kid…

Cores Mwahahahahaaaaa!!! Cores!? You mean those little dome-covered green things that just sit there and wait for you to destroy them? How can that be a Bastard Class Enemy? Easy. Cores reflect all projectiles, and can therefore only be killed with a melee or boost attack. And yes, using melee or boost means that they will just sit there and allow themselves to be destroyed without fighting back.

The trouble is that Cores are generally located in enclosed areas (they are always mounted to a solid surface), and they are almost always guarded by powerful and/or numerous enemies… which means that it’s pretty likely you’ll be using an EX attack somewhere in their proximity. At which point, every one of your missiles that hits a Core will be revisited upon you. So, be careful, or you’ll shoot your eye out.

Technically speaking, there are no bosses in this game. There are some oversized enemies in the game, but sometimes fighting them is completely optional. They also appear throughout the game in multiple scales, sometimes showing up at about 2x the size of Bangai-O and other times filling the screen. Often, you will fight several at once, and sometimes several varieties of them at once. Still, they do have unique movesets and tend to act like bosses in other games, so we’ll cover them here

Big Bot The Big Bot is basically a super-sized Ninja Bot. It moves very slowly, but it has the ability to reflect your shots back at you. You can unleash an EX attack nearby, and some of the missiles may reach him, but most will be reflected back toward you. Since he is a melee-based enemy, and he turns very slowly, It is best to try to circle around behind him. Beware that the range of his sword is great, so it may not be possible to get behind him in tight quarters. Generally, he will advance on your position, so if he is in an open area, it’s best to move in on him quickly before he has a chance to corner you, or to block off the entryway to his location.

Machine Gun Boss These things can look pretty menacing, but there’s not really much to them. They have a series of 24 guns lined up on an outer ring, which slowly spins as the enemy moves toward you. EX attacks are very effective against this enemy because there are generally lots of slow-moving projectiles on the screen, and destroying a Machine Gun Boss leaves behind plenty of fruit to power up your EX attack again.

Cannon Boss This enemy rotates slowly to track your position, and occasionally unleashes a rocket that is nearly as large at it is. Since it tracks and shoots slowly and its shots are easy to dodge, using auto aim, fixed aim, or homing missiles are all pretty effective. But because of its general weakness, the game often tosses several of them at you at once, and they can become pretty dangerous if they manage to corner you.

Drill Boss The Drill Boss is similar to the Cannon Boss in that it rotates and tracks you slowly. However, instead of one giant rocket, it has two smaller drills on either side, which can also track you when launched. It fights more aggressively and shoots more frequently than the Cannon Boss. It also has turrets on either side of it, making it more difficult to get behind it to attack. Still, the strategy is the same: dodge its shots and get behind it for maximum effectiveness.

Longai-O Longai-O. An enemy that is such a menace and so badass that the level that introduces him is named Longai-O.

This is the one enemy in the game that is capable of anally raping your mother while pouring sugar in your gas tank. He is basically a clone of Bangai-O, and he has all of your best traits.

Longai-O can boost toward you at full speed and cram you into a corner, causing almost continuous damage that can destroy you in just a few seconds, and he can also fire at you from a distance. And, best (or worst) of all, he can defend himself with a homing EX attack.

He won’t use the EX attack until you do, but you will be tempted to use them, because using an EX attack while he is dashing is a good way to cause some heavy damage. But, just as the power and size of your missiles is determined by the number and proximity of the projectiles on the screen, so too are his.

And so, battles with Longai-O can descend into a missile battle that makes the game stutter more than a Ray Harryhausen film. You launch an EX attack, and he responds with a 100-missile 4x attack, and you respond with one of your own. You watch as the game come to a complete halt, timing your return volley for when the game speeds back up to 5fps. And so this repeats until one of you wins, and the other dies. The only difference is that Longai-O has infinite EX attacks, and you do not.

Why this game should be part of your 2D heritage:
  • Built from the ground-up to appeal to players looking for a highly technical action experience
  • Numerous attack types, which can be combined for dozens of possible weapon loadouts
  • Enemy movements and attacks are balanced by the abilities and weapons available to the player
  • Wide variety and large number of levels, which require players to employ every possible strategy to succeed
  • A unique take on the traditional Super Bomb adds new dynamics to gameplay
  • Layered movement and aiming controls

The downside:
  • Lack of story in the game proper (and lack of a game proper) means that much of the charm and humor of the original games is relegated to the tutorial levels
  • You had better get used to dying, a lot, because this game does not love you


  1. ryan Said,

    Looks like Bangai-O Spirits HD is out on X-Box Live now!!! Just played the demo, and its even more intense than the DS game (never played the N64 version tho).

    Posted on May 13, 2011 at 4:56 PM

  2. It is indeed a very intense game. Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury has been on our 2D RADAR since it was shown at TGS last year. I'd like to come back around to it and cover it along with the rest of the series.

    I've played through Bangai-O on the Dreamcast, which is a very different yet worthwhile experience, and I'd like to take a look at the N64 version as well.

    Posted on May 14, 2011 at 1:01 PM