It’s likely you’ve never heard of the original Bangai-O, unless you’re a multi-directional shooter buff. Developed by Treasure, Bangai-O came out first on the Nintendo 64 in Japan, but if you have seen it, it was probably the enhanced version released on the Dreamcast everywhere else.
The soon to be released DS sequel, Bangai-O Spirits, continues the tradition of ridiculously challenging 2D shooting madness. We got a chance to play it a bit at GDC, and literally within ten seconds of our first life, we died. We then proceeded to die over and over and over, but each time we inched our way forward in the level, surviving a few seconds longer. While it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, we were getting a kick out of its brazen “I dare you to beat this” throwing of the gauntlet.
You control your standard anime-style mech, although relative to the screen it appears quite dinky. In the original Bangai-O, you were equipped with just lasers and missiles. With Spirits, a major departure is that you’re armed with your choice of melee weapon – the standard setup is a sword that you use to quickly chop through both enemies and the 10,000 bullets and missiles they’ll be shooting at you. You’ll be swinging your sword constantly to fight off the barrage that almost never ends, wading into enemies like an explorer cutting through thick jungle foliage with a machete. Alternatively, you can choose the baseball-bat-like weapon, which doesn’t swing as quickly as the sword, making its defensive capabilities more risky, but it has the advantage of knocking projectiles back at enemies.
The secondary weapon we saw was a missile launcher, but Spirits plans to up the ante of the original and bring in a whopping 20 or so weapons, which certainly improves upon the original’s huge roster of two.