Turning the Difficulty up to 11!
I have played some hard games in my time. Chief among these impossibly hard games would have to be Shiren the Wanderer, Castlevania, and Ikaruga. But man, Bangai-O Spirits presents a real challenge, even for the most seasoned, hardcore gamer.
Let me paint a picture for you. You start the game at level one. All of a sudden, about 100 missiles come flying at you from all directions and, within about three seconds, you’ve failed. Oh, and there’s a hysterical laugh that plays in the background, as you wonder to yourself what just happened. So, if the above sounds like a wonderful challenge to you, then Bangai-O Spirits is right up your alley. If not, then you may as well stop reading now, because this title is the very definition of hardcore gameplay.
At it’s heart, Bangai-O Spirits is a pretty generic space-style shooter. But it has an insane amount of levels (about 200 in all) and each one is incredibly difficult. Of course, you don’t have to go completely into Bangai-O with no knowledge of the game at all. The game has a fairly lengthy tutorial mode that thoroughly explains your controls, weapons, and even gives you some pointers in terms of strategy. However, as you may soon discover, even the tutorial may take several hours to complete, as it is quite lengthy and pretty difficult all by itself.
The gameplay is pretty basic and puts you in charge of a Gundam-style ship that is fully loaded with some serious weapons. Before you select your mission, you are able to select your singular weapons as well as two special weapons. You can equip things like napalm, homing missiles, and bounce beams to either the special or the singular slot, and you have a few specialty weapons like a baseball bat and a sword. You can also equip a shield in place of a weapon, but I am telling you now, you’re better off not doing so.
Once you get a feel for the different weapons and practiced your shooting skills in tutorial mode, you may be ready to try free play mode. Never mind, I’m not sure anything could prepare you for that. All the levels are unlocked at the beginning, although the tutorial mode recommends that you begin with the first and go through linearly. Most of the levels are quite small, but the level design here is absolutely crazy. As I mentioned in the beginning, the first level is basically impossible, and consists of four rapid-fire turrets, each shooting about 25 missiles at you, and when I finally beat this level (I’m not telling you how long it took) I felt like it was more due to chance then anything else.
In addition to the standard modes, there are puzzle modes as well. If I’m being honest, I found these to be a little more forgiving in terms of immediate difficulty. I actually passed the first three in less than an hour! But, like all other aspects of this game, the difficulty ramps up rather quickly, and you’ll soon find yourself banging your head against a wall.
But there was one part of the game that was able to offer a little bit of relief from the mind-numbing difficulty of the regular game. And that, of course, is the stage creator mode. The stage creator essentially lets you take all the elements that you find in normal gameplay (blocks, health, turrets, and bombs) and put them into your own little level. These can be as easy or hard as you want them to be, and the creator mechanic couldn’t be simpler. You just select where you want to build, and then use the stylus to drag and drop it into place.
If you don’t want to keep all your level creations to yourself, don’t worry. Bangai-O Spirits has several ways for you to share your creations with others. And the data transfer process is actually quite noteworthy. Instead of using the Nintendo WFC, it uses “sound load”, which basically takes all your level data and turns it into a sound that plays through your DS speakers and can be decoded by other DS’ microphones. And if you want to go global, you can insert a double-ended audio plug into your DS headphone jack and your computer’s headphone jack and upload a level onto the internet. It’s a really cool process, and although I have no real clue how it works, it’s actually pretty amazing.
Controls in this title are fairly simple, which is definitely a good thing considering the game’s sharp difficulty level. You move around with the control pad, and each of the DS’ face buttons controls a programmable weapon with the exception of the boost button. The two shoulder buttons control special attacks and can be held and released to increase strength.
The overall look of the game is fairly simple, but there is so much happening on screen, that the developer had to keep it fairly simple. The tutorial even addresses the DS’ limitations by telling you that even though you might fire 100 missiles at once using a special attack, not all of them may appear on screen due to hardware limitations. It’s funny to see a game admit limitations due to hardware, but I guess Bangai-O Spirits is not your traditional game.
After I spent some serious time with Bangai-O Spirits, I had to take a step back. It was difficult not to give this title a poor score, just because it was so maddeningly difficult. But when you take a minute to appreciate what the game is trying to do and who it is appealing to, then you can really applaud its efforts. It sets out to be an impossible shooter, and trust me, it does its job well. So, if you are up for a serious challenge, then you definitely want to check out Bangai-O Spirits, as it is the most challenging and rewarding experience currently available for hardcore gamers on the DS!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Graphics are pretty standard, although the game even admits that the amount of things happening on-screen challenge the DS’ limits. 4.8 Control
Super easy to control, which is definitely a necessity because the last thing you want to be thinking about is controls when you’re trying to keep up with the game’s frantic pace. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is pretty generic, but seems to match the game’s crazy pace. 3.9
Both the free-play and puzzle levels are intense and have tons of replay value. And, if you somehow tire of the endless levels, you can create your own, which is extremely fun!
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.