When discussing the world of shoot ‘em ups, or ‘shmups, there is one developer’s name that cannot be left out of that discussion: Treasure. Since the early ‘90s, this small developer has been producing many of the most well-known and well-loved shoot ‘em ups that have come to define the genre for gamers. Two of Treasure’s finest games, Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga, have already made their way to the Xbox Live Arcade, and two more, Guardian Heroes and Radiant Silvergun, are on their way. Recently added to this stellar line-up is Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury, a game that can be easily labeled as a “bullet hell ‘shmup,” but is a poor descriptor of what you actually experience.
Upon first glance Bangai-O HD is busy and hectic – and that’s just the tutorial level. You’re given an overview of your abilities by a man in a white lab coat (whom, if history has taught us anything, we should inherently not trust) in a screen of text before being told, “go do it.” You can read through all of that, you can play through the tutorials, or you can save some time and just follow these easy steps:
1. Use your left-stick to move around, your right-stick to shoot, and your left bumper to switch between your two weapons (which changes with each level)
2. Ignore the right stick, fly into the nearest swarm of enemies/bullets, hold down your left trigger until you see something in the high hundreds, and then quickly tap the right trigger a few times
3. Shout “BANGAI-OOOOOOOOOOOOO” at the top of your lungs and release the left trigger
4. Collect space fruit (it’s good for you!), repeat steps 1 through 3, win
This video acts as a better tutorial to the game than the actual in-game tutorial
What did you just do there? Why are you doing it? This is the part in many reviews where there’d be some kind of breakdown about what’s actually happening when you press all those buttons and what it means. I’d talk about how the left trigger engages your “Counter” attack, the right trigger boosts that attack, and has the added functionality of doing this and that, but I don’t think that actually matters. Bangai-O HD is one of those games where spending the time describing the different elements of the gameplay has no real bearing on the actual experience of playing the game, or how good it is. No words can do justice to the sheer amazement, excitement, and satisfaction that comes from rushing head first into a group of enemies and unleashing an omni-directional barrage of bullets in a glorious symphony of destruction.