The Double-A Group: Bangai-O turns bullet hell on its head

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Bullet-time was a defining gimmick that marked the tip of 1 millennium and the start of the following. 1999’s summer season blockbuster The Matrix blew our minds with bullet dodging earlier than video games popularised it beginning with Max Payne in 2001, which coined its characteristic with that precise time period. However in between these two popular culture titans, spare a thought for Bangai-O, the little massive Japanese title that took its personal distinctive strategy.

That is not to say that Treasure’s shmup has an precise bullet-time mechanic, relatively it is the results of pushing the host {hardware}, first on N64 adopted by a global launch on Dreamcast, to the max. You play as hot-blooded Riki and his quiet sister Mami, collectively pilots of the titular mech Bangai-O, which appears to be like extra diminutive on display screen than you’d anticipate for a mech. Swapping pilots takes only a press of the L set off, with Riki firing off homing missiles whereas Mami’s straight-shooting lasers replicate off surfaces.

Gunning down hordes of enemies and amassing tons of fruit, every of the 44 free-scrolling ranges is pretty quick and self-contained, making Bangai-O instantly extra accessible than the arcade-oriented bullet-hell shooters that punt you again to the beginning when you’re out of lives. It additionally subverts the way you’re meant to navigate bullet-hell, which normally requires coming into a magical stream of dodging all the pieces coming your approach. If something, it encourages you to steer suicidally near incoming threats.

That is the way you take advantage of Bangai-O’s killer occasion trick, the scatterbomb. Firing out missiles or lasers from all instructions is a formidable sight, letting you filter small areas with ease. Nevertheless it actually comes into its personal once you let enemy projectiles come shut. Wait till the final second earlier than you squeeze the R set off and the volley you hearth again cranks proper up. On N64 this might imply as much as 100 missiles, however the Dreamcast model takes this as much as an eye-watering 400. With all these lovely explosions tearing throughout the display screen, it is a shock the {hardware} may even deal with it.

But that is what compels you to play Bangai-O dangerously. The place chugging framerates would normally have a adverse influence the fun of a twitch-based shooter – or any sport for that matter, there is a sure glee right here in reaching the purpose the place you will have a second to bask within the shock and awe of your firepower. If that sounds ridiculously unbalanced towards your foes, then get this – some bosses may scatterbomb you, kicking off an intense rally like a duel between New Yr’s fireworks, all whereas your console’s CPU weeps attempting to maintain up.

It is an unintended type of bullet time then, not one thing you possibly can exploit freely on a whim as we’re accustomed to in different video games, nor would I evaluate it to video games like Vanquish or Doom Everlasting the place time briefly slows down once you’re near demise’s door. Nonetheless, it is when your again is up towards the wall that Bangai-O unleashes its potential, preventing hearth with hearth.

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