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Bangai-O HD Missile Fury preview: Co-overboard

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Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury feels a lot more like an Xbox 360 successor to Bangai-O Spirits than it did when I played it at TGS. The demo available in Tokyo seemed a lot more straightforward, more "here are a bunch of enemies for you to shoot" -- in other words, more original Bangai-O -- than the cleverly-designed, semi-puzzle stage design that the DS game brought.

But that was just the TGS demo. Most of the elements that made Bangai-O Spirits what it was have carried over into the XBLA game, with a few important changes. Perhaps the most notable change is the addition of multiplayer. You might not think putting one more thing (another player) on the screen in a game about filling the screen with objects would be a big deal, but it doubles the unfathomable insanity.

Gallery: Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury (co-op) | 12 Photos

Bangai-O, as ever, is about a tiny robot freely flying through enclosed stages, taking out target enemies with a couple of selectable weapons and a giant, charged missile attack that sends more projectiles out based on the number of enemy bullets in immediate proximity. In the demo I played, only homing missiles and bouncing shots were available, both equipped. Missile Fury does not feature the weapon combining found in Spirits, and I didn't appear to have the option to choose different special attacks.

Spirits pushed the DS past its limits, and having two players on the screen in Missile Fury probably approaches the limits of the much more powerful Xbox 360. A few times, I would launch a particularly well-timed special attack, sending around one thousand projectiles outward in a circle -- and then the D3 rep sharing the stage with me would do the same, with his EX attack boosted by those thousand missiles I just sent out. Since a lot of Bangai-O's appeal comes from the sheer excess of missiles, this cooperative pyrotechnic display basically plastered a smile on my face.

I'm happy to report that some of the weirder elements of Spirits are back -- like the puzzle stages, and the random "gimmick" type stages. For example, in one stage, the player(s), and enemies start at the top, along with a line of enormous soccer balls. When the stage starts, everything begins to fall. The only way to complete it is for the player to dash to the bottom and run into the soccer balls, bouncing them upward into the advancing wall of enemies. Then you have to stay behind a pile of soccer balls, bouncing them over and over again to avoid being overwhelmed.


Another stage whose style should be familiar to DS Bangai-O fans had the ceiling and floor covered with laser-shooting turrets, with barriers on either side connected to fuses. You have to destroy the barrier, then go toward the unprotected, bullet-filled areas and blast away with EX attacks. Full disclosure: I did not complete this stage during my demo session, a crushing blow to my ego (or my eg-O, if you prefer).

A few new wrinkles are in place to keep things interesting (beyond the weapon changes and multiplayer). You now have a limited ability to freeze projectiles when they get really close to you, though trying to employ this technique in gameplay predictably resulted in death -- you know, the other outcome of letting lots of projectiles get really close. Picking up fruit (giant fruit is left as a power-up when you blow up anything) now recharges your health, not your EX attack gauge. And the ability to dash, previously unrestricted, is now also limited by a gauge.

I'm looking forward to exploring these new nuances. Treasure is known for very purposeful game design -- every element is in place for a specific reason -- and so I suspect these tweaks will alter strategy more than they would appear to. We'll all find out soon, since Missile Fury is scheduled to come out on XBLA this spring.

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