#396 Bangai-O

Posted: 24th September 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

181st played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Dreamcast
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: ESP/Conspiracy Entertainment

More Dreamfest!

As the third entry for our Dreamcast weekend, we’ve reached deep into the shoot ’em up genre to find one that was released on the Dreamcast. Bangai-O is an interesting one. Released in Japan only on the Nintendo 64, it was ported and adapted for the Dreamcast, which is the version that was released worldwide.

You know what? We just have to discuss it to show you.

Our Thoughts

This game? Imagine a manic shooter set (and no, this won’t sound original) on a space ship type of thing. You shoot in several directions, destroy lots of things, you know, buildings and such – sort of like Oids – and kill unspecified enemies. It really feels like a mixture of Oids and Jetpac to the point where you gain points by collecting fruit.

The controls for this are (at least by default) a bit awkward. The movement controls (D-pad) and firing controls (joypad) are on the same side of the Dreamcast controller, which means it can be difficult to do both at the same time. You sort of get used to it after a while (only sort of), but it gets in the way. There’s an alternative control method (also the original one in the N64 version, apparently) which used the four right buttons (like in Gunstar Heroes). It’s slightly less precise, and harder to switch over when you’re used to the original, but it might have been better to start off with.

You get two weapons to switch between (by switching between the operators of your mecha. Did I mention you were in a mecha? Woo! Mecha!). One’s lasers that bounce off walls, which is quite useful but difficult to aim sometimes, and missiles, which can be homing and feel stronger, but generally give you less control. One of the big differences between this version and the one on the N64 is in these weapons. They changed aesthetically but also in power since in this version they are both the same in terms of damage but in the N64 game there was an actual difference. This doesn’t change too much since in a tight spot you want to use the homing missiles instead of the bouncy one… but the option is there for replays and with 40+ levels that is a lot more gaming time.

The awkward controls get annoying, but overall the shooting of the game is good fun and quite nice. It gets difficult soon, but works well.

That’s not the memorable part of this game, though. It’s good, but we’ve seen it far more often – with about one in seven games on the list being shoot ’em ups, things get seen multiple times. One thing is done particularly well are the… I guess I’ll call it the bullet hell moments. Basically, you unlock your most powerful attacks by destroying the scenery around you (unlike in the N64 version where it is powered by fruit…). The attacks, unleashed by the right trigger, send bullets out in all directions and inadvertantly power up another bgi attack by all the destruction you unleash. In a boss fight it is an amazing way to whittle down their health bar as you watch 20-30 homing missles being sent their way. Rather cathartic.

The most memorable part is the Engrish and Japanese styling. Especially the Engrish. This will be our Engrish benchmark from now on. It’s grammatically incorrect, it makes no sense half the time, and it’s nearly comprehensible…they tried, but just didn’t manage. In fact, we weren’t the only ones wondering whether this was a serious translation, terrible as it is, or intentionally bad to make fun of all those traditions. After all, the story doesn’t matter – you just want to shoot more enemies. Still, you do want to play through, just to be baffled every once in a while… it’s just that far out there.

There’s a few more Japanese oddities like that. Most notably, the game over/continue screen is one of your main characters running around nude (dangly bits) covered up, with some white priest-type character leading him (think BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger‘s Taokaka’s cloak) and some other character taking pictures of this happening. It’s just freaky.

Final Thoughts

Treasure is quickly becoming one of those developers where I see their involvement in a game and I am looking forward to playing them. It’s not to the same extent as Rockstar, Nintendo or Capcom but it’s getting there… because from what I have played so far it appears they have some form of LSD in the water supply. Fantastic.

  1. […] So I know on some level that we’ve played Bangai-O before, but it took me some time to recall what it was like (the weird storyline style is probably […]