E3 2008: Bangai-O Spirits Hands-On Impressions
We go in guns blazing to check out this treasure of a 2D handheld shooter.
Fans of 2D shooters have good reason to be inordinately fond of Treasure, the Japanese development house that's produced such classics as Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga. Another Treasure gem, the original Bangai-O, was released in the US for the Dreamcast, featuring a gun-toting mech and all the shooting action you could ever desire. Bangai-O Spirits brings that action to the Nintendo DS, promising the same crazy shoot-'em-up Treasure experience that we love as well as some truly creative extras. We gladly took some time during our D3 booth visit at E3 to put Bangai-O Spirits through its paces (and get horribly exploded in short periods of time).
The game allows you to pilot the nifty and exceptionally well-armed mech called Bangai-O through a number of stages that are crawling with enemies to shoot. Those enemies are also shooting at you in ridiculously numerous bursts of fire that will quickly obliterate your poor giant robot unless you're quick. Bangai-O Spirits gives you some new ability tools to help even the odds, however. The freeze ability is a new power that lets you temporarily stop everything on your screen for about three seconds. It's great for buying yourself some much-needed time to reposition your mech and fire your own huge volleys of missiles. If you hold the shoulder button down you can actually charge your missiles a bit, and when they leave you they'll have increased in size and power. Combining these two powers helps out a great deal when you're just trying to make it through a stage in one piece. There are plenty of stages to choose from, as well, with more than 150 new levels to explore.
Another feature of the game that's quite neat is the level editor. In most games, the use of a level editor is restricted to creating your own environments and then sharing those with other people (more on the sharing later). Bangai-O Spirits takes the editorial capability one step further, however--it's possible for you to pause the normal game and tweak any level to your specifications. Want to remove some enemies from the fray? Done. Want to delete or add some fiendish level geometry? You can do that too. You can also drop in a boss character right in front of yourself, increase or decrease the size of enemies, and even adjust enemy HP, all on the fly.
If you're of the more giving type, you can create stages to share with friends and the shooter-loving public. The game itself has up to 25 slots to save creations with, but you can also easily port those stages out using Treasure's sound load system. Sound load changes your creation into a piece of tonal data that can then be easily exported and uploaded as a sound file to whatever destination you wish--YouTube, the Bangai-O Web site, or anywhere. This system seems really fast and intuitive, and should be a great tool for allowing the fans to serve up diabolical creations for fellow enthusiasts to conquer.
As well as the regular campaign and user-created levels, Bangai-O Spirits also supports four-person local cooperative multiplayer, so you and your friends can take on the mind-twisting waves of enemies as a group. The look of the game is pure insane shooter action, with the bottom screen of the DS often getting entirely filled with sprays of missile fire and giant explosions. Sometimes you'll have to squint to find your mech in all the satisfying carnage being unleashed.
Treasure looks to have created a handheld 2D shooter that's both punishing enough for hardcore fans to take pride in mastering, as well as accessible to those with level-designing talent and a bit of imagination. Look out for Bangai-O Spirits to appear on store shelves near you in mid-August for the Nintendo DS.
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