A eight-way scrolling shoot 'em up (with puzzle elements) by Treasure for the Nintendo64 and Dreamcast.

The N64 version was the original, and was released only in Japan with a print run of 10 000 units. The Dreamcast version was also release in America and Europe under the name Bangai-o. There are a number of differences between the two versions, the most significant being that in the N64 version, the smartbomb meter is filled by collecting fruit, whereas on the Dreamcast, it fills as you cause explosions.

Since I only have access to the Dreamcast version, that is the version that this writeup will concentrate on. Feel free to add something below regarding the N64 version.

Bangaioh is, to begin with, like a side on Robotron. You control your character using the D-pad, and shoot in eight directions using the ABXY buttons. Pressing in any particular direction activates a thruster, double tap for dash, and if you leave the controls untouched, you'll fall back to the ground. The puzzle elements really aren't that complicated, usually just being a case of shooting, or not shooting the correct destructable blocks, or getting through some exit before a trail of exploding bombs seals your path.

You have two modes of fire, represented by the two characters flying the mobile suit that you control. Riki mode gives you homing missiles, while Mami mode gives you lasers that rebound off the walls (best for confined areas). The L trigger is used to switch between the two modes. Like any good shoot 'em up, Bangaioh has a smartbomb. In fact, the smartbomb is really the key to getting anywhere in the game. Activated using the R trigger, it fires the currently selected weapon in all directions. At its least powerful, forty shots are fired. But the more enemies and enemy bullets in your vicinity, the more shots you fire. Up to 400 of them. Although the screen is often totally filled with bullets and enemies, Bangaioh isn't really a bullet dodging game. Instead, it encourages you to be suicidal. Waiting until there's a hundred enemy shots within inches of your armour, totally surrounded by badguys, then unleashing the mother of all smartbombs, totally obliterating all in its path, resulting in a crescendo of explosions that fill your perception. At the top of the screen, a count of the number of symaltaneous explosions is kept, and at the end of each level, you are told the highest that this count got to, and given a bonus accordingly. Once the dust settles, your reward awaits in the form of fruit (bonus points obviously), and health power-ups. The more explosions you created, the more valuable the fruit that's left behind, and the more health refills you get.

There is an object to Bangaioh, and that is to get to the end of each level, and kill the boss. But like in so many games these days, that's just a structure around which the real game is formed. The one where you have to wait till the enemy bullets are just a little closer, or there's just a few more baddies on the screen, where you know you want those extra explosions.

Everything in Bangaioh is rather tiny. The reasoning behind this is so they could fit as much carnage on screen as possible. There's nothing like seeing 400 guided missiles arcing wildly about the screen, dashing towards their chosen targets, and the massive amounts of destruction that ensues. Anyone who calls these SNES graphics is talking bollocks. There's no way a SNES could handle this amount of sprites.

A small mention has to go to the suitably weird conversations that your treated to at the info stations and upon meeting the bosses. They're full of the usual Treasure humour, and self-referential jokes about 2D shoot 'em ups. No one is quite sure if the stilted broken English is a deliberate parody of the dialogue in these games, or just the result of poor translation; but you get the distinct impression that the creators of this game are a nostalgic bunch.

As an aside, it should be noted that because this game was selling for £10 in the UK for most of 2001, it's one of the games that almost all UK Dreamcast owners have in their collection. And quite rightly, because it continues the Treasure tradition of bringing new ideas to the shoot 'em up genre, and succeeds in creating an amazing experience once the concept snaps into place.

The title translates as "Exploding Invincible Bangaioh" apparently.

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