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Game Review: Bangai-O Spirits

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Why It’s Great

Bangai-O Spirits has an insubstantial plot. You play as Bangai-O, the titular giant robot, and blow everything up by shooting and ramming. The only exposition is in the tutorial mode, which features The Professor. Towards the end of the tutorial levels, one of The Professor’s pupils asks, “How was Bangai-O made?” The Professor replies:

“You don’t know? Rumor has it that long ago, he rampaged throughout the galaxy. Even now he’s running amuck in the industry. If we aren’t careful, our sponsor will cut us off.”

Along with plot, the game (at least its US rendition) abandons level progression. Players can select any stage at any time. Most of Bangai-O Spirit’s levels feature a multitude of enemy robots, and there is (at least) one excuse for explosions per robot. Some prefab levels feature ants that also blow-up. Sometimes, your objective is to cause harmless trailers and skyscrapers to explode. One default level is a block-sliding puzzle. When you slide a block into position, it explodes.

The gameplay, except in cases of extreme slowdown caused by massive explosions, is quick. Most levels can be beaten in a minute. Some levels can be beaten in seconds. Most enemies are destroyed in the blink of an eye, and Bangai-O can be destroyed in an equal amount of time. Before every stage, you select 2 normal weapons and 2 EX weapons for Bangai-O to use. EX weapons are powered-up versions of normal attacks, and there’s a whole system in-place that controls their use. Here’s a quick explanation:

  • Bangai-O starts with 3 bars of EX power (which is the max amount of power)
  • Using an EX weapon uses 1 bar
  • Most EX weapons can be charged, but Bangai-O is stationary during charging
  • When enemies explode, they drop fruit that, when collected, charges the EX power bar
  • Getting closer to enemies (and their projectiles and explosions):
    • strengthens most EX attacks
    • causes enemies to drop better fruit that charges the bar faster

This system, combined with the abundant supply of enemies in many levels, encourages a risky style of play. On most levels, I usually rush towards enemies, hit them with a barely strong enough EX attack, and finish as fast as I can. Some levels discourage this style of play by having fewer enemies or puzzles to solve.

Every stage (even the puzzle stages) can be opened in the fully featured stage editor. It’s also quick: the editor allows you to switch between editing mode and ‘test play’ modes, allowing players to quickly test levels under construction. This speed encourages players to develop levels in an iterative manner: make changes, test those changes, and repeat until the level is satisfactory.

How do you share levels? It involves two DS units. One sends, the other receives. The medium? The DS’s speakers and microphone are used in the transport of Bangai-O Spirits stages. Because stages can be converted to sound, they can also be transferred to the Web. People have done this! They have connected their DS systems to their computers and recorded the sound a Bangai-O Spirits level makes.

Bangai-O Spirits is incredible…

Why You Might Not Like It

…But I would not be mad if you thought otherwise. Remember my off-hand mention of “cases of extreme slowdown?” That happens quite frequently, and the game has a tendency to make your bullets disappear and become ineffective. The tutorial mode is dissatisfactory at explaining game mechanics, but it mentions the slowdown issue:

“By the way, sometimes bullets from EX attacks won’t all display due to screen limitations. Sorry…”

-The Professor

“What? That sounds like a bug.”

-Masato (one of The Professor’s students)

Many prefab levels are tough, and some are impossible without selecting the right weapons before the stage. This is partially the fault of the tutorial (which never addresses how to defeat certain enemies) and partially the fault of stage designers.

Final Note

It’s possible to make impossible levels. Stay alert, and stay safe.