Those fortunate enough to have played Treasure's recent shooter titled Bakuretsu Muteki Bangioh will surely attest to the seemingly straightforward, yet ultimately complex play mechanics inherent to the game. Those who haven't, though, should surely praise up-and-coming publisher Conspiracy Entertainment - the company that has taken up the task of localizing the game for a North American release. Under the stateside moniker Bangai-O, Treasure's spastic little shooter is gearing up to shred pixels for eager American audiences.
Bangai-O - named after the game's formidable starring mech - is a deceptively simple sprite-based 2D shooter of sorts. Bangai-O is piloted by a scrappy, fearsome duo - Riki and Mami, a brother/sister team whose job is to chase the vile fruit-smuggling SF Cosmo gang from its sector of space. The premise is light, to be sure, and the game's narrative is unobtrusively conveyed by a series of offbeat, endearing cutscenes. Bangai-O, though, relies much more heavily on its strong play mechanics than it does on any sort of production value.
Essentially, the game is a side-scrolling shooter that's set in a series of large, free-roaming environments. Since the Bangai-O can fly, the expansive stages effectively become enormous 2D playgrounds, whose obtrusions you can raze and whose inhabitants are more than eager to engage in some friendly gunplay. Luckily, the Bangai-O is more than prepared; it boasts an eight-way shot that, when coupled with its ability to fly, makes it quite the handful to deal with. Riki and Mami copilot the mech, and they can both can fire their weapons at any given time, essentially granting the Bangai-O two fire modes. Riki's weapon is the more direct of the two; when he's in control of the giant robot, flurries of homing missiles issue forth from it, packing a decent punch and trailing their targets with passable efficiency. Mami's weapon, though, is a bit more versatile, if not as directly powerful; she lets the Bangai-O shoot far-reaching, rebounding laser rays, whose effect is most appreciated in tight corridors and narrow tunnels. Switching firing modes (and thus, characters) is achieved by hitting the L-trigger. The process quickly becomes second nature, and it fits in well with the overall intuitiveness of the control scheme.
Bangai-O lets you choose from two different control schemes, which dictate how you'll fire the Bangai-O's weapons. One mode relegates the firing of the gun to a face button, while the D-pad controls it. Changing aim in this mode is a bit tricky, but the advantage is that shooting in diagonal directions tends to be more effective. The second control scheme turns the set of face buttons into a veritable second D-pad, with each button firing in its corresponding direction. This mode strikes as more effective, except when it comes to diagonal shots, as pressing two of the face buttons simultaneously isn't a feat that most gamers could easily pull off. Both control schemes leave the Bangai-O's most impressive attack, though, most easy to access.
Depending on the immediacy of your level of danger, the Bangai-O's special attack varies in destructive power. When executing the super, you merely hold down the appropriate button and watch as the Bangai-O pulses with power. The result: a flurry of rockets (or laser beams) that issue forth from the robot's frame when you release the button - this varies in intensity, depending on the amount of destruction going down in your immediate surroundings. Pulling off the super with few enemies and sparse pyrotechnics in your vicinity will yield a relatively small, weak result. In a heated space, though, replete with foes and carnage, Bangai-O's super discharges a literal swarm of shells that quite effectively clears the screen, and, often, causes your system to crawl. Both effects provide a bit of a breather, needless to say, as dozens of enemies often crowd the game's environments at any given time.
In an age where vapid, vaingloriously rendered video sequences often substitute for actual gameplay, games like Bangai-O seem like a blessing indeed. Though owners of the import version will find nothing new in the localized version, those who've yet to play the game should definitely check it out - provided they're mature enough to deal with some aesthetic modesty.