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Treasure is a studio that has always had a knack for creating interesting arcade-styled experiences. Whether it was Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Sin and Punishment, or a host of others, they thoroughly impressed with these sorts of games, earning the company a dedicated following. One title in particular that is worth singling out is Bangai-O, an arena shmup released for the Dreamcast.

Taking place 200 years into the future, humanity has colonized space. In this time, there is the planet Dan Star that is inhabited by “hot-blooded young men”. Here, Riki Makishi (one such young man) and his sister Mami are in the volunteer police force. While the planet has usually been a peaceful place, recently the Kosmos Gang has moved into the area. They’re a far reaching criminal syndicate that makes most of its money through the sale of Space Fruit. Now it is up the siblings to pilot their police mech and run the gang out of Dan Star.

Players will fly their mech around 44 levels, blasting gang members and blowing up quite a lot of buildings, cannons, and the like. When buildings are destroyed Space Fruit will appear in their place, which can be gathered to increase one’s score. After a short time, Riki and Mami will come across the stage’s boss, do battle, and move on to the next level. The premise of Bangai-O is very simple: blow things up, gather fruit, defeat the boss, lather, rinse, repeat.

Blasting everything in sight is the theme of the game, and as simple as it may sound is actually a ton of fun. Players can fire powerful homing missiles or slightly less powerful, but equally useful reflective missiles depending on whether Riki or Mami is piloting the mech. They can be switched between at any time with the press of a button.

There is a lot to shoot at, so expect to be firing weapons non-stop. The most satisfying element of this is that the mech has a special attack that will launch a massive burst of fire. It’s modified such that the more enemy fire nearby at the time, the more ordinance the mech will launch. If maxed out properly, it will fire 400 missiles or laser beams simultaneously, demolishing all nearby enemies and buildings. People who have a thing for spectacular explosions are sure to get a kick out of that.

Levels are fairly small, enclosed arenas, rather than the game adhering to some sort of scrolling level as is common in shoot ‘em ups. Watching Bangai-O in action, it may surprise some people how tiny everything is. Graphically, the game goes for a much simpler design. However, given just how much is going on at any one time, this works to its advantage. When things heat up there are missiles and explosions everywhere. If Treasure didn’t go this route the game would likely have suffered from horrendous slowdown. Even with the visual style present, there is still a bit of slowdown when unloading massive missile salvos. Thankfully, this manages to add an element of dramatic effect, making it forgivable.

Musically, there’s a lot to enjoy here as well. Treasure has consistently had memorable soundtracks in their games and Bangai-O is no exception with a number of their best composers pitching in. There are a lot of happy, upbeat tunes in the game that give an overall optimistic feel to a lot of what’s going on on-screen.

Exploring Treasure’s entire library can be an adventure in and of itself. They are a company that really enjoys implementing interesting gameplay elements. Bangai-O is probably a bit more on the quirky side as far as their games go, but it could be a great place to start when diving into Treasure’s games.

*Note: There is also an N64 version of the Bangai-O with a number of differences in its gameplay. Unfortunately, it had a very limited release, and is quite rare / expensive today.

- IroIro
August 13, 2019
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: ESP
Genre: Shoot 'em Up
Platform: Dreamcast
Released: 1999

Bangai-O Dreamcast Image 1

Bangai-O Dreamcast Image 2

Bangai-O Dreamcast Image 3

Bangai-O Dreamcast Image 4