Bangai-O HD is one of those rare games where I almost feel like a full on review outside of a basic description is almost entirely unnecessary, as it’s either going to be an easy sell or something you’re completely uninterested in. As a fan of old-school SHMUP style games, I found it odd that this is one in particular I never got to experience in any format throughout the years, be it in the game’s heyday, or even with something that you’ll rarely see people admitting to; I’ve never even experienced this title on an emulator.
This fact combined with the great things I’ve heard about the game instantly drew me to the title, and I walked in with high expectations. So, does the game live up to the hype?
There’s a pretty big problem when you go into an old game that is revered as a classic with high expectations, in that it’s going to be even easier to be disappointed than it would had you gone in completely blind. Thankfully, Bangai-O HD is a game that managed to avoid this pitfall for me. It’s hard to say exactly what I went in thinking would happen, but every expectation I had was met and then some.
Beginning right away with the tutorial, it becomes instantly clear that this game isn’t just another SHMUP. Instead of just playing a game of “Shoot the enemy and don’t get shot”, it instead becomes a clever game of cat and mouse where the mouse is more like a scorpion. The mech you ride in is considerably fragile, and at any given moment you’re a few seconds away from complete destruction. However you’re also a moment’s notice away from obliterating your enemies.
This may sound typical given that most games of this nature will often only let you take a single hit before complete destruction, but Bangai-O HD gives you a false sense of hope which it very much enjoys taking away from you while it laughs in your stupid face. You’ll shrug off random shots, and it won’t take long to recover the health you’ve lost. But the second you find yourself surrounded and in a bind you’ll quickly find out just how much of a jerk this game can be…and you’ll love it.
Take a good look at that image up there. That’s what the game looks like a good 90% of the time. Some of those missiles are yours, but most of them belong to your enemy. Your enemy is merciless, and does not play fair. There will be no one on one battles here, and there’s no room for honor. Complete annihilation of the opposing team is the only thing preventing you from the same fate. Thankfully you have plenty of tools at your disposal to complete this goal.
Besides just kicking ass with the variety of weapons at your disposal, you can send your enemies attacks flying right back in their face with the touch of a button. The uses are limited and must be earned, but this is the most invaluable tool in your arsenal. However the slightest miscalculation will see you dead within a moment, but you’ll often find yourself laughing at your own misfortune.
Death carries a high price, as there are no checkpoints. If you fail to complete a level or your time runs out, you’ll be forced to begin from the very beginning again with the only option to just do better. Thankfully the game isn’t completely sadistic, and after a few failures you’ll still unlock the next level. If one in particular is giving you trouble, just skip past it and come back later. This was something I was forced to do often, as I’m just not particularly good at this game.
Thankfully there’s no punishment for taking this course of action, other than that nagging voice of shame in the back of your head. But I’ve been dealing with that voice for awhile so I got over that pretty quick. More often than not I would return to a level I was unable to complete and utterly destroy it, quieting that sense of self doubt I had.
Bangai-O HD is a game that has earned every single word of praise or hatred it has ever earned, and this still holds up to this day. The game is very hard, often requiring reflexes that you wouldn’t think were humanly possible. The insane barrage of bullets that are often onscreen will drive you mad trying to keep track of everything. Often, you will find yourself on the verge of throwing your controller and angrily turning your console off.
But this will all subside quickly, as you realize that every failure was entirely your own fault. That scowl will turn into a smirk and often a full on smile, and that angry clutch on the controller will relax as you calmly tap the “retry” button and settle down to give it one more try. Just one more…and then another and another.
While the game is extremely frustrating, it’s just as equally satisfying every time you overcome a challenge presented to you. With a large number of levels, beautiful graphics and overall extremely great design, Bangai-O HD is an interesting game. It’s not for everybody, but if you were a fan of the original or SHMUP games in general, this is one you’re going to want to pick up.