Bangai-O HD Missle Fury can be considered the honey badger of games (just do a google search and check out the first video, warning though, it's NSFW). It doesn't care where you came from, what kind of achievements you have, how long you've been gaming. All your past accomplishments are nothing in the face of Bangai-O, and that's usually the case with Treasure games. But at least with stuff like Ikaruga and Sin & Punishment I felt like I had a modicum of skill upon finishing some stages. With Bangai-O it feels like I'm learning how to play video games for the first time again. This game is utterly relentless in its challenges, which makes it one of the most frustrating yet satisfying games I've played in ages. It's great for the gaming masochists out there who are on a budget, because unlike other games that destroy your pride, this one will also take pity on you and unlock the next level after multiple failures. If that isn't a sign that Treasure hates you, I don't know what is.
Bangai-O HD is a twin-stick shooter in the same vein as games like Geometry Wars and indie gem “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1.” But it's also got the bullet-hell pedigree you'd expect from Treasure, who're known for games like Radiant Silvergun and Gunstar Heroes. You control the titular Bangai-O, a mech with a ridiculous payload and fly around stages whilst dodging enemy attacks while retaliating with your own barrage of firepower. Treasure decided to spice it up though, allowing the player to freeze enemy ordinance and use it to generate a counter attack that will literally fill the screen with a massive retaliatory strike that causes the game to slow to a crawl just to highlight the ridiculousness of the situation. They also included a dash function that requires absolute mastery in order to utilize it properly. It can be used to get out of tight situations and plow through enemy attacks, or can be used as an offensive maneuver to knock enemies around. To top it all off there is a plethora of weapons to use that offer a bunch of different ways to tackle a mission. I personally found myself constantly gravitating toward the weapons that allowed me to attack from a distance and reflect shots off the walls of stages.
Of course it's not all twin-stick shooter madness, there's actually a decent amount of variety across the games 47 missions. Which as previously mentioned, will unlock after failing a stage three times, or upon completion, whichever comes first. Having to unlock a stage via failure is sort of a bittersweet moment, since it's kind of demoralizing to get knocked around enough by a game that it has to open up levels for you, but at least you can progress to pick up some more advanced moves and tactics and use them to squash previous stages. After dozens of attempts at some of the later levels, I still have about half of the stages incomplete. Save for some gimmick stages peppered here and there, some of which require a deft hand, patience, and surprisingly a large amount of restraint, like the stealth mission where you have to maneuver Bangai-O through a maze of enemies, and setting off any shot will immediately alert them to your presence. But when you reach the end of that maze you're given the satisfaction of wiping them all out with a spectacular attack. When you get bored of those standard missions, you can actually make your own with a pretty rudimentary editor. If you're feeling particularly cruel, you can share your maps with your friends. While I am normally all for this kind of functionality, I'm actually disappointed that Treasure didn't make a repository for people to upload their maps to. I would have loved to sample some other people's creations, especially since I know people could make stages much more intense than what Treasure dished up. That's not to say that Treasure pulled any punches, not at all, these levels are maddeningly difficult at times and it's only made worse when the game offers up very vague hints at how to defeat some of these stages. If that isn't enough, Treasure went through the trouble of blocking out some of Bangai-O's abilities for specific maps. And to add icing on the cake, Treasure also put a timer on each stage, adding a hint of desperation to beat the clock to each challenge.
Bangai-O was originally released for the Dreamcast, and it certainly feels like the game came from an era long past. The resolution bump helps out the visuals a bit, but the characters are pretty small and a lot of detail gets lost, unless you're going up against a huge enemy in which case they look pretty good. Overall the game looks decent enough, but it's nothing special in the aesthetics department. The music is an upbeat, yet mostly forgettable experience. Which is not to say that it's bad, but it's just the one of those things you will be paying much attention to when you have a ton of missiles flying your way, especially when listening for audio cues based upon freezing enemy attacks. I want to bring up the slowdown again, since some people like to nitpick on stuff like that, this isn't something like Skygunner where the game was performing badly, the slowdown in Bangai-O is pretty intentional to highlight the counter attacks that are being fired off.
Bangai-O's difficulty is going to be a sticking point for a lot of people, and I'll be pretty frank. This game is rough, between the timer on the missions, the constant barrage from enemies, the downright confusing mission objectives, to the intentional traps laid by the development team, this game will require multiple attempts to complete a number of levels. Sometimes the game feels more like a puzzle than an actual shooter, which is an appreciated consideration because the game would have been rather dull if all I was doing was plowing through enemy waves. I actually wish their were more gimmick levels, but what's present still provides a great deal of fun. The rest of the stages really will tax your skill as a gamer and your patience, since one slip up can mean that you'll be hitting the retry stage button in the pause menu. This level of difficulty is rarely seen these days and on one hand I appreciate that Treasure decided to take the kiddy gloves off with this one. But on the flip side I envision people new to the series getting slammed by the demo and skipping out on the purchase.
Bangai-O HD Missle Fury is a game you need to know full well what you're getting in to before you purchase. This game isn't meant for any casual gamer whatsoever. This is for the gamer who imported Deathsmiles, or any other Cave bullet hell game, this is for people who enjoy stuff like Touhou and aren't in it for the characters. It's a game that doesn't have any respect for the player, and in this instance, that's acceptable. It's great that every now and again we can get a game that takes no crap and demands absolute perfection from the player, to remind us of days gone by where games were designed to eat your money, and conquering them was the ultimate achievement. If you picked this game up and you feel like you've taken a beating, don't let it get you down, this is one of those games where mastery proves your skills as a gamer, more than any high K/D ratio in Call of Duty ever could.