Bangai-O Spirits Review: Processor Overload

The phrase “hell in a handbag” would be appropriate for anyone that carries their copy of “Bangai-O Spirits” around in a handbag. It’s a spastic, frantic 2D shooter, designed by the legendary Treasure, that sets a whole new standard of frustration for DS users, but that isn’t to say it’s a really great little game.

I never had the privilege to play the original “Bangai-O” on the Dreamcast, but, if it offers as much challenge as “Spirits” does, my thumbs may be better off. The basics of the game are explained through one of the most entertaining tutorials I have ever been through. The basic gist of the game is to take out the designated targets in each level. To do so you control your Bangai-O (read: mech) is equipped with a variety of different weapons, ranging from napalm to a freeze attack - certain attacks are better suited for different kinds of enemies. You also have the option of going out with a bat or a sword for close contact melee hits, as well as a dash move that can help you speed through levels. Most of the weapons can be mixed with other ones to create a stronger, multipurpose shot - pairing a homing gun with a bounce gun creates bouncing homing missiles. As if that wasn’t enough firepower to take down your enemies, there is a whole other set of EX weapons that can be charged to release an increased number of shots fired. To mix things up even more, those shots fired increase in power if you are getting shot at. I realize as you’re reading this, you’re getting more and more confused, but that’s why there is a 17 stage tutorial, and one of the reasons that I generally shy away from mech games.

This game isn’t for everybody, mostly because its controls are on a level twitchiness that only young children hopped up on Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix can achieve. You have to be fast to survive in “Bangai-O Spirits.” If you can’t pull the right trigger fast enough you’ll be bound to repeating the same level over and over again. On the up side, if you get too frustrated with one level you can just opt to play one of the other 160 plus levels that are unlocked from the very beginning of the game. The downside, of course being that there’s a very good chance that the new level you choose will be just as hard. The thing is, that’s one of the spots where the game really shines. Repeating a level over and over, in order to get the right weapon combo, mixed with the right timing, as well as figuring our which order to kill the enemies in really puts even hardcore gamers to the test.

The main game comes with a variety of different levels that can be selected, ranging in difficulty and creativity. There are puzzle levels that challenge your skills at figuring out just how to make it to the end. The evil geniuses at Treasure have included their own selection of levels that really demonstrate just how ruthless they are, barely allowing the player to breathe before they are inundated with hundreds of bullets. Again, there are over 160 levels to choose from, there’s going to be something for everyone. Even if there isn’t, “Bangai-O Spirits” has you covered.

Let’s say there’s a level where you are having trouble getting past one spot, “Spirits” includes an in-game level editor, which essentially allows you to change the board around on the fly. Add or remove enemies, walls, targets, and power ups, to make your life easier, or harder, whichever you prefer. You also have the option to create levels from scratch, which should appeal to both the creative and sadistic gamers out there.

It’s really quite impressive how much freedom the game gives you, and it even allows you to share your creations via an innovative sound load feature. If you have a level that you want your friend to check out, all they need to be able to do is hear the sound file that contains the data for that level. It’s essentially how a modem works, but it allows for creations to be shared with ease.

As I mentioned, “Bangai-O Spirits” is not for the faint of heart. The level of timing perfection that is needed to beat some of these levels has not been seen in a long time… pretty much since Treasure released their last game. As long as you’re willing to deal with the repetition and frustration that come along with this game, as well as the fairly complex controls, it’s a bit of a gem. “Bangai-O Spirits” get’s a 26 out of $30*.

*TrueGameHeadz reviews are based on a sliding scale to help you, the gamer, make better purchasing decisions. The review ratings are based on the cost of the game, so, if an Xbox 360 or PS3 game costs $60, they can get a rating of what the game should cost, somewhere in the range of 0-60. So for this review, “Bangai-O Spirits” received a 26 out of $30, meaning the price that seems appropriate is $26, and if it is ever priced $26 it is a definite purchase. In more traditional terms, 26 out of $30 equals 8.6.

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