bangai-o spirits

It’s not a controversial thing to say that Treasure was once an amazing developer that knocked out a lot of instant classics. Certified bangers, their entire catalogue. Well, except for Gunstar Super Heroes, Advanced Guardian Heroes, and the thankfully delisted Bangai-O HD on XBox 360, those ones are really bad. But otherwise, yeah, an amazing company that is seemingly stuck doing endless re-releases these days.

Treasure’s output also includes what is undeniably the absolute best game ever released on the Nintendo DS: Bangai-O Spirits. Not only is this the best DS game by a mile, which is impressive given that this was a handheld that also played host to Contact, a surprisingly good port of Ketsui Death Label, and three different Castlevanias, but it’s easily one of my all-time favorite games in general (note to self: should probably rank my favorite games someday instead of casually calling everything my favorite). This was not the Treasure who inflicted Gunstar Super Heroes on the world, this was the Treasure that gifted us Sin and Punishment.

Bangai-O, for those who don’t know, is a series of shooters where you fly around in a mecha firing off an actual, literal, ton of missiles at enemies. The DS game emphasizes the shooting aspect even moreso somehow. There’s no plot, and you’re given a level select right as soon as you turn on the game. Your goal is to go through 160 levels, shooting lots of missiles at lots of enemies. Lots of levels. Lots of very different levels. Levels that can be completed in under five seconds. Levels that can take several minutes. Levels that are puzzles. Levels that are frenetic explosive action. A level that is a tribute to Namco’s Battle City.

You pick a level. You then pick your weapon loadout: two main weapons, and two special weapons. Some levels have specific loadouts you need to clear them. So either you clear a level, or you die and do it again. At no point in time do I ever feel bored or frustrated. The big thing about Bangai-O and its special weapons is that you can charge them up for a big attack, but if you release the attack button the moment an enemy bullet touches you, your attack is bigger and stronger. It’s possible to go from launching 100 small missiles, to causing the DS to temporarily freeze and slowdown as it struggles to render 400 large missiles. Something so satisfying about being so powerful that you bring the system you’re playing on to its knees. That’s Bangai-O Spirits: this addicting shooter that doesn’t get old.

This game kept me sane during a lot of night shifts at the job I was working at the time. I could pull out my DS and go through a few dozen levels while eating a processed chicken sandwich during a lunch break. Stressed out, sweating profusely, having to deal with the worst kind of people who absolutely needed to buy a new TV at 9:45 PM on a Monday. Having to corral a bunch of idiot teens and get them to clean some shelves before closing, which of course they wouldn’t do, and guess who got in trouble for that? Spent a lot of time in those years coping with people being stupid all around me by losing myself in games and weird art. Given the state of my life in 2022, not much has changed from 2007. Not a great time, for sure, but Bangai-O was.

The other thing that kept me sane was Bangai-O’s level editor. You could create or download up to 24 extra levels, which is definitely something I worked on while wishing I was literally anywhere else on Earth. I think my actual copy of the game has 5 or 6 stages I put together, and I can’t imagine any of them are good, given that these were made in a short amount of time while I was feeling the effects of two cans of Monster Energy. I would upload them, but a couple of things. 1) I’m not home until next month, so I don’t have access to my physical copy. 2) the way Bangai-O saved and loaded its level data is novel, weird, and doesn’t always work: levels are saved as sound data, the way old computers used cassette tapes. You hook up a microphone to your PC, hit Play on the save screen, and use some sort of recording software to record the ungodly sound coming out of your game system, where it gets saved as an MP3 file. For the record, this absolutely does not work if you play this on a 3DS, despite also having a working microphone built into it. So I think I will have to try and find a different way to upload levels, if I ever get around to making new ones.

Bangai-O Spirits is this tough but fair game about launching tons of projectiles at enemies who respond with even more projectiles sent your way. Bangai-O Spirits is a game about flexing your creative muscles and making your own STG levels. Bangai-O is a game that feels great to play, everything moves and explodes in satisfying ways. Bangai-O Spirits is the most addicting piece of software you can plug into your Nintendo DS. There’s always that desire to beat your previous high score, or beat your previous clear time, or go back into the level editor and fix this or add that. This is the best game on the DS, and it’s better than your favorite DS game.

ninja jajamaru: the great yokai battle

I’m a big-time sucker for modern takes on old games using a faux-retro style. Pac-Man Championship Edition, Mighty Gunvolt, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, Heiankyo Alien 3671, and so on. Even better when that reimagining is of a game that is simply Okay.

Ninja Jajamaru-kun is a series that you’ve probably played at least one its games. Probably loaded up one of them in MAME, or played the extremely choppy NES port, or the one that’s a blatant rip-off of Mario 3. Played it, then quickly forgot about it until you see that Jajamaru sprite and then you remember the game, but not the game’s title. Or you remember that it’s the game that inspired Ninja Haggleman from the Game Center CX game. That’s Jajamaru’s place in gaming history: it’s there. It’s a fine game, there’s nothing really wrong with it, it just doesn’t stick in anyone’s memory for one reason or another. Which makes me all the more interested in a new entry.

Jajamaru Yokai Battle is both the best Jajamaru game, and also complete and utter dogshit. This game was released by City Connection, a bunch of empty-headed fucks who consider themselves a game company. The ones who release shooters with horrible input lag, charged out the ass for Game Tengoku DLC (you know, the “good” Saturn shooter), released a port of Zombie Nation that, no matter what resolution you set it to, only ever takes up a tiny portion of the screen. Oh, and who could ever forget that time they said, “don’t worry, we are definitely bringing the Switch port of Hoshi wo Miru Hito to the West! We even set up an English website with all the information you’ll ever need, including a release date!” Then when it came for release, not only did the game only remain in Japan, City Connection responded with “uh well, we never said it was actually coming out. I mean, not we claimed anything or created any sort of English resources that would lead you to believe this!” Yeah, City Connection essentially gaslit their customers over Hoshi wo Miru Hito, a legendarily bad Famicom RPG. So this is already a company on thin ice with me.

What’s good about Jajamaru? Well, it has a ton of stuff in it. Lots of playable characters, ranging from different colored Jaja’s with unique attacks and abilities, to the game’s enemies, to the boss and princess from the original game. That’s fun. There are a lot of levels, some of them actually good. You can also pick between the original Jajamaru music, and some actually nice arranged music. I will say that this game uses the original NES graphics, and they still look really nice in their simplicity.

What’s bad about Jajamaru. Playing it. Specifically, playing past the half-way point of the game. Whoever the piece of shit that designed these levels is, didn’t really bother to think them through after a point. Fuck it, throw as many enemies and projectiles on screen as possible! Jajamaru is an old-school single-screen platformer in the vein of Bubble Bobble and the original Mario Brothers, so how about some fucking Touhou bullet patterns to deal with? How about enemies that don’t even have attack patterns so much as “fly at you at the speed of light, endlessly shooting” and you can only hope that you can find an item that alleviates the pressure? How about trying to play this game like the original Jajamaru? For those who haven’t played, it is possible to stun enemies by either breaking the floor (but only specific types of floor) out from under them, or jumping on their heads. I have tried this in the new game multiple times, and wouldn’t you know, it doesn’t even fucking work most of the time. You jump on an enemy, and either you somehow miss, get hit by a suddenly appearing projectile, or my favorite, the game decides that actually you are the one who gets stunned. I need to point out that the Famicom version of the original Jajamaru was developed by Micronics, a developer that couldn’t figure out how to make their games not become extremely choppy if more than half a sprite was on screen at once, and yet they got the whole jumping hitbox thing right. Like congratulations on somehow being worse than a notoriously bad developer that was allegedly just one college student in his garage. At least he was programming in Assembly. This was made in Unity!

Some of these levels, with no real rhyme or reason, have boss battles. If, well, when you lose health during the previous level, you don’t get any kind of courtesy refill, so you better learn the bosses pattern of bullet hell bull shit unless you want to have to redo the entire previous level again. This wouldn’t be so bad, if some of these levels didn’t get pretty fucking long towards the end. Completing the final level took me about an hour. I did not have fun. I still have a headache. A headache that I made worse by trying out the “Hell” mode, where everything is harder. Boy, that was a mistake! If you like having bombs dropped on you from off-screen while fending off fast moving enemies with tons of health that can kill you in 1-2 hits, you might like it. As someone who likes challenge, and not barely tested horse shit masquerading as level design, I do not.

I feel like this piece comes across as overly angry. Admittedly, most of this anger is directed at myself, because this is City Connection, and I should know better by now. Every so often, I will give this company money because I think that maybe this is the time they finally get their shit together and make something that doesn’t make me want to pull my hair out, or find the home address of everyone in the company and punch them square in the balls, like I’m Liam Neeson, but for ball punching and not that weird racist revenge fantasy he had all those years back. A real shame, because I actually found myself having a soft spot for Jajamaru as a character. Guess there’s always MAME.

One more thing: you can find a power up that will temporarily turn you into the Honda City from City Connection. The fun arcade game City Connection, not the terrible company that is now permanently on my shit list. The thing about this, is that the Honda handles like it did in its home game, which does not translate well to Jajamaru’s platforming. So no, they couldn’t even get their own namesake right, either.

ADDENDUM: A couple days later, I’ve found I got a couple of things wrong in here. 1) The internet informs me that Ninja Jajamaru on Famicom was developed by Tose. If that’s the case, I apologize for the error; I simply assumed that a really choppy arcade port on the NES was done by a company notorious for really choppy arcade ports on the NES. 2) The Zombie Nation collection seems to work just fine on my desktop PC, and is only completely fucked on my laptop. This still sucks, mind you, but I will only be kind of mad at City Connection for this one.

9/19/2022

This is another one of those weeks where I’m away from home for business reasons. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where I’m gone for a long fucking time; until October 1st. Doesn’t help that I’m staying somewhere where my allergies have kicked into overdrive, so I’ve spent all weekend drifting in and out of consciousness due to taking Benadryl. Either I sleep a bunch, or I walk around seeing the world as if someone smeared Vaseline on my eyes.

Working a job that requires me to travel a lot has obviously gotten in the way of me doing any sort of work that isn’t my weekly reviews. I spend my time working, then playing games on my laptop. Can’t exactly work on my games or anything if I’m not home at desk with a good PC (specifically, the one that has all of my files on it) and a mouse and a comfortable chair. It sucks not being able to work on things I like, especially since I know a few of you out there are waiting for me to hurry the fuck up and finish them already.

I’ve had this unwritten rule with myself for the last few years: do not make any creations or mods for other games until mine are done. I think, given the lengthy time I’ll be forced to not work on stuff, I’m lifting this rule. Thinking maybe I’ll load up some games with level editors and the like, and put something out there during all this time I won’t be able to spend with Slimegirl and friends. I kind of already did this with those Cladun X2 creations I posted a little while back, but I’m thinking I should do this more often. Also maybe set up a page for all this stuff, like I had before I moved everything around.

That’s pretty much about it. Things haven’t been too eventful otherwise. I mean, I had a birthday, but I didn’t go out or anything because it was 100 degrees and I was too hot to get up out of my chair. Now I’m here until next month, so uh there you go. There’s a review of a game I really did not like coming within a couple days, then I’ll be wracking my brain thinking of what the next big post is going to be.

9/3/2022

Was planning on taking the week off, as my birthday is this weekend, and I just felt like chilling out. I’ve spent this time playing some Castlevania games, playing some Fortnite (still waiting for that Peter Griffin skin), and getting ready for AEW All Out tomorrow. It’s a nice Saturday evening over here.

Then I come back from my kitchen after making myself a nice cool glass of pink lemonade, and I see this:

All I got to say about this is

OH HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kiwi Farms is fucking dead! Well, for now, at least. But I will take small victories where I can get them. The nazi forum that wrote fanfiction about murdering me, and made my friends lives miserable for several years is gone. That owns! I’m fucking thrilled! You know, I’ve had some good birthdays in my life. I’ve even had great ones. This is already going down as one of, if not the best, I’ve ever had!

Fuck it, this is my web site, and I’m going to be petty here.

To all the nazi shitheads and transphobes and various other types of losers with nothing else going on in your lives besides blind hatred of others due to your own inadequacies

To Randi Harper

To Wil Wheaton

To all the game journalists who needed dirt on a rape victim you were actively harassing, and needed dirt on various trans women because Leigh Alexander got mad that they were all getting more death threats than her

To the tenderqueer gamedev with three homes who accused me of using “fake diversity” to sell my games while your immediate social circle defended and used that site

To every self-loathing sociopath who needed to take down a trans woman who said “fuck” too many times

To the dickhead who subtweeted my experiences with that site as “petty drama”

To anyone else I forgot who shared the absolute drivel that place pumped out about me and/or my friends

HA HA HA HA HA GET FUCKED ON, IDIOTS!! YOUR SHITTY LITTLE DOXXING FORUM IS DEAD! SUCK IT DOWN!

Oh, my condolences to everyone who is currently seething and shitting themselves over having to remove a bookmark from their browser. Truly a sad day for bitches who suck ass and know no peace in their lives. A sad day for people who were willing to harass and libel and threaten people literally to death in order to feel a modicum of self-worth that only lasted but a moment. A sad day for you, but a great day for me. A great day because a source of legitimate evil is down for the count, and a great day because I get to rub it in all your faces. Hold on, let me take a sip of this pink lemonade real quick. Ah, life is good.

Anyways, while you’re all freaking the fuck out and being more “triggered” than the blue-haired SJWs you think we all are, I will be playing the HD remaster of the first Soul Reaver that I only just now found out existed. Take it easy, losers.

P.S: Suck it.