Sometimes in life there are some things that seem to click with some, but not with others. Whether it’s music, fashion or indeed video games, there’ll always be a certain amount of discourse and if ever there’s was a title ripe for heated debate, then it would be Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury for Xbox Live Arcade.
Developed by cult Japanese studio Treasure, Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is a shooter that, on first impressions, can seem like some kind of lunacy given form. With the subtitle of Missile Fury apt to say the very least, the aim of Bangai-O HD is to clear each stage, then move on. Put like that it sounds straightforward enough, but once past the initial set of stages, additional caveats are added. And then some.
The initial reaction from the novice Bangai-O player will certainly unfold as follows; enter stage, watch in horror as what seems like eleven million missiles hurtle towards their location, swiftly followed by the GAME OVER screen, while a look of utter befuddlement flashes across their face as they try to work out what just happened. This surreal welcome to Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury feels as if the game is flipping a middle finger and a grin in the player’s direction all at the same time.
After the confusion clears, tip-toeing through the first stage, the player is able to respond to the deadly assault with a range of attacks and counter measures. The main weapon is accessed by flicking the right analogue stick in the desired direction and by allowing as many projectiles to get as close as possible, then pressing the right trigger,the EX counter attack is initiated. This unleashes what can only be described as an avalanche of missiles at targets. Knowing where and when to trigger these attacks is vital to survival and progression through the one hundred stages on offer. It soon becomes second nature as the player dashes around, leading enemies and their missiles on a merry dance, looking for the opportune moment to counter the threat(s).
At times it can seem as if there is no way to defeat the almost labyrinth-like complexity of some stages, as Treasure continually plays with concepts and ideas around each and every corner. While it might not be immediately evident, there is always a way, no matter how obtuse and unfathomable it might seem at first. With this in mind the game will allow the player to move on after three aborted attempts, so even if a particular stage is driving the player demented, it allows them to go away and come back once the haze of frustration has cleared.
But those stages, oh boy…
This is a game that thinks nothing of asking the player to tear through wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies, then have the impudence to frustrate the unwary as they find the timer has trickled down to zero. Or to engage a weapon that is vital to clearing a stage, but only lasts for a finite amount of time. It’s almost as if Treasure is indulging in the video game equivalent of MC freestylin’, making up the rules and flow as they go along – how else do you explain a stage where clusters of footballs that are dotted around the arena and are the only form of attack on enemies?
And if the desire to make a stage or two of your own takes hold, there’s a powerful, feature-rich editor included where the ability to either start from scratch or modify existing levels in an easy to grasp manner. Judging by some of the creations already available, there are some sick and twisted individuals playing this game, but in the best possible way of course.
Above all, there’s always a sense that the game is teetering so precariously on the verge of insanity that it barely keeps itself in check, daring itself over the edge of the cliff, and seemingly trying to take the player along with it. The utterly demented way that it throws different qualifiers in for different levels means the player is constantly kept on their toes with no comfort zone afforded, leaving them to always expect the unexpected. Only a studio with exceptional confidence in their title could pull such a move off and Treasure do it with remarkable style and panache.
While many will baulk at the difficulty and complexity on offer, there is so much to admire and to get to grips with in Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury. While it might have cult classic writ large across it and many will no doubt try the demo and shrug, there will be a small, dedicated fanbase out there who will swap strategies, tips and levels with each other. You get the feeling that Treasure wouldn’t have it any other way.