Monday, June 6, 2011

King er, Prin-- uh, DUKE for a day...

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury is a fun, but grueling game from bizarro hardcore developer Treasure. I loved the Dreamcast Bangai-O, lo those many years ago, and this is a fine, though brutal sequel. It lacks much of the wackiness and character of that original game with its dearth of dialogue or cartoon cast, but it has its own advantages with the Xbox 360's graphical power allowing hitherto unseen levels of enemy and projectile mayhem. This game may have the highest levels of onscreen virtual death ever. And that's saying something considering what a Cave game looks like.

Some levels were giving me real trouble. If Bangai-O HD has one weakness (apart from no goofy characters) it is the wildly uneven difficulty level between stages. Unlike the Dreamcast version (or the concurrent N64 one) this Bangai-O is more strategy-oriented and less on-the-fly skill oriented. Each stage is like a puzzle, and usually has very few... maybe even only one... solution to get through. That solution frequently has to do with finding the quickest way to kill the most enemies and beat a timer. That has been my biggest foe throughout the game... the damn clock. Frequently I had the skills to get through a stage only to run up against a shortage in time. And that would almost be fine if it weren't for the fact that there is no real sense of difficulty progression. Some of the hardest, most frustrating levels actually occurred early in the game... again almost always based around the clock. The game doesn't 'teach' you a new technique or a new way to use an old technique with an stage. Nope, the game introduces each new concept with a level that expects you to do it with masterful timing.

You need very specific techniques or a very specific sequence in many of the stages, and it can be hair-pulling to find out what that is particulary considering how broad the number of abilities your mecha has. The Bangai-O robot is supremely powerful and you need it considering how much shit your flying through in the game, but so many of the stages are completely based around one single aspect of the robot so the flexibility doesn't come into play.

Stage 40, which has both a very specific difficult technique needed, AND a severe time limit, was giving me the most trouble. NO videos online at Youtube, and though Bangai-O lets top-ten leaderboard players post replays, other players like me can't look at 'em 'til we finish the level (to force you to figure it out yourself). And Gamefaqs-based player advice was not helpful. So I had to play it over and over and over and over again. My kids were absolutely sick of seeing that screen by the time I got through it. I had the correct strategy I just couldn't pull it off under the time limit. For an occasional break I'd complete a stage PAST stage 40 and then come back to try again. I left the final stage alone mostly.

So when I finally finish 40 and get onto 47, the final stage of the games main 'Fury Mode' I find the boss to be pretty tough. You have to go through a long series of rooms full of enemies before you get to him only to get your ass handed to you in two seconds. Then you have to do the level all over again... and again. It's a lot of work to go through to get to try something against him... and then have it fail. But the game has a room editor. So my kid (the tinkerer) built a stage roughly the size of the final battle room and plunked the boss, Crazy King, into it so I could practice fighting him.

When I'd played the practice room a dozen or more times and worked out how to kill him, I went back to stage 47 and defeated him on the second go. Afterwards I thought I'd look at the top leaderboard replays and see how the really skilled players did it.

Only there really aren't any players above me. Okay, there are TWO.

I'm NUMBER THREE on the leaderboards? Holy crap. I don't think THAT'S going to last long. Interestingly for me, the number one player uses almost the EXACT same technique for defeating Crazy King. He did the rooms before the boss 'better' than I did to get his higher score, but he didn't finish the level much sooner.

Basking in my short-lived moment of nerd glory. Man, I'm so hardcore! Now ALL the chicks'll dig me!

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