Review by markoos

Reviewed: 02/03/03 | Updated: 02/03/03

Something to Treasure..... the best 2D shooter ever?

Riki is at school on the distant planet of Dan Star, but is also a space policeman. As he spends more time policing his grades drop down, much to the concern of his sister Mami. However one day the evil SF Cosmo Gang attack Dan Star and the siblings must get into the Bangai-O space suit and save the day! From here on in things get all very bizarre, but basically this is an old-skool 2d shooter from.... Treasure! With this in mind, we already know it's going to be a classic - everything they've ever touched has been 2D gold, but the question is just how classic is it? Read on...

Rather that being a top down scrolling shooter in the style of Gunbird 2 and Gigawing, Bangai-O is in fact a side-on game which allows complete freedom of movement. It's rather like the old Genesis game Subterrania in that respect. Your mission is simply to progress through the levels, blowing up as much as possible and defeating the end of level boss. Whilst it might sound simple and basic, in practice there's far more to it. From the outset I must point out that the default control method is awful - it basically requires you to move with the D-Pad and shoot in whatever direction with the analogue stick. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD. It's not good and it hurts your fingers. Just go to the options and select the ''ABXY'' configuration. With this you can now use A to shoot down, B to shoot right, Y to shoot up and X to shoot left. It's far easier and will really help you out.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the gameplay is the bomb system. Rather than the simple destroy everything at the tap of a button found in every 2D shooter under the sun, the system here is far more strategic and ingenius. Sure it can be used for this purpose by simply hitting R, but the real meat of it comes in the form of the counter attack. Say for instance you're fighting a boss and several hundred bullets are heading your way. Hold down R and wait until the very millisecond they're about to hit and your suit will unleash a devastating attack that will send thousands of missiles swooping towards all targets. To fully appreciate this, you really have to play the game, but trust me it's amazing and enhances the game no end.

Given the other notable games of this genre on the Dreamcast suffered from a complete lack of levels, you'd be probably be guessing that this was the case here. Wrong. The game features a quite phenomenal 44 levels. In comparison Gigawing had 5, pretty much all of which were smaller than the ones here. The downside though is that things start to get very tricky by the third level and the more casual of gamer will probably give up there. Don't do this! I must admit at first before I'd discovered the ABXY control method and the intricacies of the bomb system I was disappointed and frustrated at being stuck on this level. Then I actually properly read the manual and haven't put the game down since. Don't make the same mistake I made, I beg you!

The game is also full of truly insane humour. For instance the exchanges between the strange tree lady who gives you advice and instructions and the two siblings is bizarre and often laugh out loud funny. The same call also be said of the boss encounters. As for the artwork? Well let's just say, the word ''surreal'' doesn't even start to describe it. Graphically although the sprites are small, it still looks really cool and the sheer volume of onscreen destruction is stunning. Some will look at the 2D game and just laugh at it, but they're quite frankly idiots and miss the point entirely. Sound wise it's all fine and dandy too, with very cool sound effects and suitably wacky sounding music.

Perhaps the only fault of the game is it's very steep difficulty curve. It very often treads a thin line between being tough and just outright frustrating, but for the vast majority of the time it's on the right side of that line. All in all, this is everything you'd expect from a Treasure game - pure unadulterated gameplay. Just sit back and enjoy one of the very best games on Dreamcast.

GRAPHICS - 8/10 - The diddy nature of everything may put some off, but the level design, special effects and levels of wanton destruction are awe inspiring.

SOUND - 8/10 - Hilarious sound effects and top tunes all round. Great stuff!

GAMEPLAY - 9/10 - Fantastic and very very hard to fault. Adheres to the easy to pick up/hard to master formula and will get you utterly addicted. Amazing, in a word.

LIFESPAN - 9/10 - 44 levels. And you'll play them again and again to beat your high scores. It's a delight to see a 2D shooter with some longevity!

OVERALL - 9/10 - A near perfect title. Maybe a little too hardcore for some, but this is one of the best 2D shooters you'll ever play. Yet another masterpiece from those guys at Treasure.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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