It was an amazing feat on Treasure's part to fit Bangai-O, a game about intentionally letting the screen fill with bajillions of bullets, onto the DS. I was then extremely interested in seeing how the developer would fare with Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury, an updated sequel to the N64/Dreamcast/DS series on a system that is, for all intents and purposes, free of technical restrictions. As it turns out, despite having much more screen area to stuff with robots and missiles, Bangai-O HD is actually a bit less insane than its DS predecessor.
For the uninitiated, Bangai-O is a free-scrolling shooter in which you guide a big robot (represented by a tiny sprite) through levels absolutely jammed with other robots, mines, turrets, and other things that fire projectiles, with the goal of destroying a certain number of targets. You have a choice of weapons including homing, bouncing, and piercing shots, equippable at the beginning of each stage. "EX" attacks allow you to radiate thousands of bullets outward, and increase in power depending on the number of bullets already on the screen. The levels are also filled with tiny houses, which give you giant fruit that fills your EX attack gauge and gives you points. It's as frenetic and tense as it sounds, and it's a style of shooter that is completely unique to this series.

Missile Fury displays in widescreen, allowing more total space for enemies; its processing power also allows for more bullets on the screen, with no trace of the slowdown that has become a trademark of the series -- though I have no doubt that Treasure will figure out some way to overdo it. And if Treasure doesn't, you can in the built-in level editor.

The EX attacks are now accompanied not by the system slowing to a crawl, but by a quick zoom on your character that is both impressive-looking and kind of disorienting. In any Bangai-O game, the EX attacks come pretty much one after another, so the screen ends up zooming in and out over and over again, like an EXTREME CLOSE-UP, WHAAAAAAA!

The other noticeable change since the DS game: I didn't see many of the unique, comical elements added in Spirits. At least in the pre-made loadouts for the TGS stages, there was no baseball bat weapon, no sword weapon, no ninja enemies or random soccer balls on the stages. I also didn't see any of the weapons combining like they did in Spirits.

I don't mean to sound so down on the game. I will need to spend more time with it to understand exactly what Treasure has added and removed, and how that alters the balance of systems that makes the game work. It was just easier to notice "hey, no baseball bat" than anything that subtle. The bottom line is that it's more Bangai-O, and it's way, way pretty. The stages are still gauntlets of insane turret placement, requiring careful weapon choice, strategic advancement through the stage, and jamming on the EX attack all the time. Playing it at the end of a long TGS day completely re-energized me and put me in a great mood.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.