If you’re from the true hardcore gaming fraternity, the name "Bangai-O" is enough to make this one a true must-buy all on its own.
For those of you who failed to either import the N64 original, or the Western release on Sega’s sublime Dreamcast, Bangai-O was one of those screen-filled-with-hundreds-of-bullets shoot 'em ups that are usually only welcomed in the East. But coming from the incredibly well loved Treasure, gamers around the world that were lucky enough to grab a copy have continuously been dazzled by its incredible, yet difficult, brand of gaming genius.
Essentially you’re in control of a wickedly huge robot. But the view is pulled out just far enough to make your craft, as well as those of your enemies, small enough to allow the screen to be populated with masses of enemies and their weapon fire.
Seriously now, we’re talking entire screens packed to absolute bursting point with more rockets and bullets than you ever thought it possible to be amassed. And hence, Bangai-O Spirits certainly isn’t a game for the faint hearted.
Bangai-O Spirits is punishingly difficult. Even the very first level is more than enough to cause most gamers to toss their DS consoles out the nearest window through sheer frustration. Thankfully over 150 areas are unlocked and ready to be tried right from the off, allowing to you move freely from one frustrating test to the next.
It’s best to think of Bangai-O Spirits as a shooter with puzzle elements. You’ll spend more of your time meticulously dodging enemy fire than you will sending out rockets of your own. And picking the right two weapons for each level is just as essential as split second reflexes.
Each weapon, unsurprisingly, has its own unique characteristics. Some rebound off walls in order to take out devilishly well-hidden enemies. While others will track your opponents until they’re blown to smithereens. One level that seems nigh on impossible with one set of weapons can become an absolute cakewalk once you realise just what heat you need to be packing.
After the lengthy – and wit packed – tutorial, there’s not a single ounce of story to mucky up the shoot ‘em up excitement. It’s all about clearing levels and attaining the best possible score to show off to your fellow gaming chums. Which is fantastic on the one hand, but certainly a huge omission for fans of the original’s fantastic self-referencing humour.
Sadly the visuals haven’t aged quite as well as might have been hoped. While functional enough to allow such hectic action to be consistently shown on the DS’s tiny screens, there’s little here for the graphically obsessed amongst you.
Taken for what it is, a hardcore shoot ‘em up, Bangai-O Spirits has no rival on the DS outside the fantastic Space Invaders Extreme. Yes, it will no doubt be far too difficult for 95% of the DS owning public, but that doesn’t stop it from being something of truly great quality that all should at least attempt to play.
If you managed to miss out on Bangai-O the first time, you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a go. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it certainly gives a damn good spin.