Saturday, March 14, 2009

Review: Bangai-O (Dreamcast)

I decided on taking a look at Bangai-O because today we are lucky to have a sequel of sorts available in the form of Bangai-O Spirits on the DS. We look towards sequels for the standard promise of "bigger and better". This is usually but not always the case. Sometimes sequels choose to take on a new direction while other serve to merely refine certain aspects and fix problems with the original title. Something everyone should consider in regards to sequels is: Does the sequel render the original irrelevant? Are there sequels that make the prior game(s) no longer worth playing?

Note: If you've already played Bangai-O feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.

Bangai-O is about what you'd expect from a Treasure game. For years Treasure has brought their own unique twists to traditional genres like the 2D shooter(Radiant Silvergun), the beatemup(Guardian Heroes), and in Bangai-O's case: the multi-directional shooter. As usual one can expect a non-sensical story(though Bangai-O voluntarily kicks it up to completely ridiculous at every chance), some gimmick or unique aspect(in this case the smart-bomb counter), and a heavily Japanese theme(which can be seen everywhere).

The story is something involving a brother & sister getting in fights with a fruit-stealing gang. This absolutely insane epic plays out over the course of 44 stages that run between 2 and 8 minutes a piece. In each stage you control a mech capable of firing homing missiles or lasers that rebound off walls. The usefulness of both weapons is determined by the design of the stage and it's usually quite obvious what you need to do to finish each stage. Also you can fire off a counter bomb and the strength of it is determined by how much and how close enemy firepower is.

Now taking what Bangai-O offers we have two weapons and 44 stages. Bangai-O Spirits on the other hand offers several times as many weapons and a potentially infinite number of stages. On top of that Spirits also has new gameplay aspects, new moves, and well you get the idea. On paper it seems Spirits has everything the original game has and then some. In fact it could be argued that the original is no longer even worth playing today. Or is it? 

It is just my opinion when I say this but I think the original Bangai-O still has merit. No matter what kind of stage somebody seeks out to design in Spirits the most important thing to keep in mind to win at Spirits is to know what combination of weapons works. The original Bangai-O on the other hand always limits the player to the same two weapons. In fact this is what makes Bangai-O continue to work despite being mostly out-classed by its sequel. By default Bangai-O's lack of choices makes the game require a greater focus on skill in order to succeed. Spirits on the other hand is more about problem solving(though with any game some semblance of skill is required)

Also Bangai-O may contain a smaller number of stages it also shows a greater capacity for scoring. There are many factors that go into scoring as many points as possible in every stage and little things like not taking any damage can lead to huge amounts of points. Spirits on the other hand puts more of a focus on beating a stage as fast as possible. There are many stages where you'll get no points for succeeding. This is really not a better or worse, it's just a different direction. 

Bangai-Original's very design rewards the risk-taker while Spirits is more rewarding for clever thinkers. The constant amount of destructable property and enemy firepower facilitates the need to seek out scenarios where the most possible chaos can occur. Spirits on the other hand is not always about getting in the middle of the action. There are times where no matter what you will be heavily out-classed if you just jump into things. 

The differences in hardware also allow the designers to work out these different directions. Spirits tends to pause quite often when huge situations occur and lends to the more problem-solving design that can be seen throughout. Also since one doesn't have to charge up the counter bomb to get the full effect in Bangai-Original all it takes is finding the right situation and going all out.

Both directions have their own rules to follow and Treasure did a great job defining both games so as neither can serve as a replacement for the other. So I don't know check 'em out sometime. 

Next up I think I'll look at OutTrigger. An arcade-style FPS by Sega.

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