Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury hands-on

We’re hoping that even if the words Bangai-O are unfamiliar, the other words in the title, Missile Fury, spark interest in the reptilian part of the brain. It’s an apt, concise description of what Bangai-O specializes in – lots and lots of missiles, all aiming for you. The Bangai-O series has been around since the Dreamcast days, but it served up some missile lovin’ most recently on the Nintendo DS with Bangai-O Spirits. It has never had a proper HD version, so we’re happy to see this latestinstallment coming along, although we also wish it was on PSN as well, and not XBLA exclusive.

Above: You're the tiny figure inside the yellow circle

For the uninitiated, Bangai-O is a 2D multi-directional shooter, placing you in the cockpit of a mech that would probably look huge in other circumstances, but in actuality appears as tiny as a toy on screen. This is because you’ll need all the room you can get when literally hundreds of missiles and bullets fill the screen – although this isn’t your typical bullet-hell shooter where you’re inching through tiny gaps between hailstorms of bullets. The screen scrolls freely along with you in any direction, so you can basically “out run” most bullets and hide behind cover, but it’s in your special attack that Bangai-O sets itself apart.

In a tense risk vs reward model, Bangai-O has always featured its EX attack, which is designed to get you into the hairiest situations possible. Activating the attack essentially bounces all incoming projectiles away from you in a massive explosion – but the real clincher is that the closer the enemy missiles are to you, the more powerful your EX attack will be. So it’s a case of letting yourself get surrounded and swarmed with as many missiles as possible and then launching your attack at the last second. In previous Bangai-O games, this attack would shoot out from you in all directions; with Missile Fury, they’ve added the tactical element of being able to direct your blast. If you leave your firing stick neutral, you’ll get the 360-degree blast, but if you aim the stick, all of the missiles will fly in that direction. We had to get our heads around it, because letting go of the shooting stick was against intuition.

Above: Needs more missiles

To add precision to your attacks, Missile Fury features two colored circles around your mech as indicators of attack range – the outer blue circle denotes your own weapon range, and the inner yellow circle is how close enemy bullets need to be to allow for maximum EX power. As for what weapons you’ll get to use, we saw a kind of shotgun-spread of missiles and the good-old reflective laser, which bounces repeatedly off surfaces and gives you cool bank-shot moves. Those are the main ones we saw, but there will be other weapons as well. Space fruit is back (it’s fruit in a sci-fi environment, so… duh), although it’s currently set to replenish your health rather than build your EX meter as in previous versions. This could change before release, though.

Aside from bringing HD visuals to the Bangai-O formula, Missile Fury will provide over 100 brand-new levels along with a level editor so you can create and share your own dastardly machinations. It will feature leaderboards as well as two-player online co-op (sorry, no local) and there aren’t plans to scale the game’s difficulty for two-players, so a buddy can help you conquer the harder missions. There are also puzzle elements to balance out all the intense shooting – we encountered some simple trigger mechanisms for opening doors, but we expect the puzzles will get more involved in the later levels. Also new is the combo system, which powers up both your normal weapon and your EX weapon if you can string together enough kills in a short period of time.

Above: This boss shoots a lot of bullets, but also gives you room to maneuver around it

Our experience was as we expected – fast, smooth, intense twin-stick shooting and flying. It’s a fairly tough game, although it didn’t seem as hard as Spirits, at least in the missions we played. We were doing great with a methodical playstyle until we ran out of time – we totally forgot about the limit, and it’s short, so the tension gets even crazier since you have to be constantly pushing forward and not playing it safe.

If you’ve played and loved previous Bangai-O games, you won’t find tons of new features in Missile Fury, but then the formula doesn’t need much beyond tweaks here and there. If you’ve never heard of Bangai-O before, now may be the time to try it out – it’s not quite like other 2D shooters, and with the inclusion of co-op, it’ll be more accessible with a friend to help you out. Missile Fury plans to release in November for 800 MS points.

Sep 2, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.