The first boss in 'Splosion Man has a thing for missiles. “Missiles are awesome!” he says in his singsong voice, shooting out a paltry eighteen. Heavy Weapon is a bit more serious about its missile use, although you can still see the sky between the gaps even when things are at their craziest. Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury, however, won't be happy until every nook and cranny on screen is covered in firepower, all converging on a single tiny robot warrior who's going to throw it right back where it came from in a missile orgy that nearly tears the screen apart.
First, though, a warning. Bangai-O is not your friend, in the same way that a drill instructor is not your friend. It knows what you can do and is determined to bring this skill out of you, and if by god it needs to shove you face-first through 100 miles of rough gravel, then you'd better get used to the feeling of rocks between your teeth. When the process is complete, though, you'll look at a screen full of dozens of enemies firing hundreds of missiles and see all sorts of opportunities for mayhem. It may look complicated, and leave anyone watching wondering how on earth you're still alive, but at heart it's actually pretty straightforward.
Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury won't be happy until every nook and cranny on screen is covered in firepower.
Like all previous entries in the series, Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is a 2D free-scrolling shooter. It uses the standard twin-stick control scheme for the basic move/shoot action, but there's also dash, freeze, counterattack, and an overdrive dash mode to play with. Every level is perfectly tuned to work with those skills, and they interlock in ways that keep the action going at all times. Sure, there are sections where Bangai-O becomes a standard twin-stick shooter, but these periods can be measured in seconds.
Say there's a room coming up with a dozen missile pods, guys with baseball bats that can knock your fire back at you, and maybe a few bouncy lasers for good measure. Your options are as follows:
1) Hang out in the door and choose the proper weapon for the job. Bangai-O (which is the name of the robot you're piloting as well as the game) comes equipped with two types of gun from a total of eight, and the level is designed around proper usage of what's assigned to you at the start. Homing missiles lock on to enemies inside the large targeting reticule Bangai-O flies in the center of, while homing lasers lock on to enemies after bouncing off the walls. Regular missiles pack a nice punch, but explosive rounds shoot at a slow rate while damaging anything caught in the blast radius. Pretty much anything you choose is going to do good damage, but there's a timer on the level and wearing down all those enemies in this example room is going to take forever. Each of the missile pods is pumping out a ridiculous amount of firepower, and while regular shooting can hold it at bay, there's no way it can overwhelm that kind of force.
2) Fly in to the middle of the room, charge up the counterattack by holding down the L trigger, let a load of missiles get inside the smaller yellow targeting reticule, and unleash a devastating torrent of explosive death in a bloom of firepower containing up to 1,000 shots. The standard charge contains 100 missiles, but the more danger Bangai-O is in, the bigger the counterattack gets. Additionally, each enemy destroyed drops a piece of fruit that homes in on you, and the fruit charges up either the counterattack or health bar. Depending on the level, Bangai-O can carry up to ten counterattack charges at a time, but with a pull of the R trigger while charging you can multiply the force of the burst, increasing the size and damage of the shots. Not only does it look and feel simply awesome to loose 1,000 missiles, each twice as large as the mech firing them, it's impressive to see the 360 stop and think for a second while calculating the mayhem. This example room, though, has the guys with the bats, and while a couple of them will most likely be taken out in the barrage, the others will be hitting the missiles back at you.
3) Charge in with the dash attack, aiming straight at the baseball bat guys, to send them tumbling helplessly end over end. You can also dash into missiles to reflect them back, because Bangai-O is completely invulnerable while dashing. Obviously this means dash is limited, generally to three bursts of a second apiece, but the dash meter fills back up as quickly as it depletes. Managing dash is one of the trickier elements simply because it's so handy it can become a crutch, and the three second recharge can feel like hours when you need it and it's been wasted. The dash meter fuels the freeze attack as well, which is also activated by the right trigger, with the difference being that freeze needs you to be standing (flying?) still, while charge requires movement. Fortunately, the R bumper holds Bangai-O in place, making it much easier to keep the two skills separated.
So, with all that, the best way to handle this example room is to dash in, sending the bat-guys flying. Use the R bumper to stand still and freeze a load of missiles when they get close, to act as a boost to the counterattack. Charge up the counterattack, multiplying it or not depending on whim and availability, and let loose a ridiculously huge barrage of missile devastation. It's a sight of pure beauty, but even a fully charged burst can be too little firepower for many situations.
Bangai-O HD is perfectly designed to make full use of all its tools, whether they're enormously flashy or more subtle in their effect. One level might take away the dash and start you with a single counterattack, with the enemies barely giving enough fruit to earn a single restock. A level like this would be designed to teach you how to use a specific gun, and after dying a dozen or more times eventually the lesson will sink in. Maybe the level is about careful positioning of enemies to take full advantage of the damage radius of the explosive rounds, or it could be a race to the finish against a chain explosion that will drop unbreakable blocks between Banagai-O and its target. Most levels are tuned towards a specific strategy, linked together by chains of pure cathartic destruction.
Even when Bangai-O is at its cruelest, demanding a perfect strategy executed with precise timing with the reward for failure being death, it's the plentiful moments when you take out a dozen or more enemies with a single burst of power that make it so easy to continue. There are levels that are like beating your head against a wall covered in rabid badgers, but it's worth making that tenth or twentieth attempt because you can feel Bangai-O teaching you the skills to do better. Better skills lead to more destruction, which leads to wanting to play more because with just a bit more practice you'll be doing even better. It's a simple, addictive cycle that only the best arcade games manage, and Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury has it mastered.