This begins in the core mechanics of controlling the titular Bangai-O. Surrounding the robot are two circles on the HUD. If there are any enemies within the outer blue circle, which encompasses most of the screen, then your ship's bullets will emit at double power. Meanwhile, if there are any enemies within the inner yellow circle, your stream of bullets triples in both power and size, encouraging you to fly close to danger in order to deal the greatest damage.
But while plainly shooting at enemies is effective up to a point, the vast majority of Bangai-O's levels require you to master counter-attacks in order to survive and triumph.
Holding down the left trigger puts the Bangai-O into charge mode, freezing the mecha in place while a numerical counter races up to 100 beneath it. While charging, your ship is invincible, allowing you to absorb any enemy bullets that strike you. When you release the trigger once the counter reaches 100, you'll unleash a hail of missile fire, the number of bullets you send out rising exponentially depending on how many enemy bullets were absorbed during the charge period.
You can store up to 10 counter-attacks at any one time, the gauge for each refilling as you collect fruit dropped from downed enemies. That's not all there is to counter-attacking. Press the right trigger while charging and you can stack another counter-attack onto the first one, up to four times. Doing so resets the numerical counter, allowing you to absorb yet more enemy bullets, in preparation to launch an ever more impressive firework display of missiles. Timing and positioning are key to successful counter-attacking, and most levels demand complete mastery of this mechanic.
Guns (of which there are seven varieties) aren't the only weapons in the game. Pressing the right trigger while tilting the left stick will perform a dash attack during which time you are invincible, exploding enemies or bullets that fall within your path. At high-level play, it's even possible to cancel out of the dash while still benefiting from the short period of invincibility.
You can store up to three dashes at any one time, these replenishing when you next deal a counter-attack, or three seconds after invincibility ends. Meanwhile, hit the right trigger while stationary and you'll perform a freeze attack, freezing all enemies and bullets within the inner circle on your HUD for a few seconds.
Stages are judged on time and score, with a separate leaderboard for each. The top 10 places on the leaderboards come with replay videos, so you are able to view how the best in the world do it if you're stumped for technique. However, the servers seem overwhelmed at the moment, and downloading and viewing replay videos is currently hit-and-miss, a failing that will hopefully be rectified in coming weeks.
A multiplayer mode allows two players to tackle a series of bespoke levels together, but the few matches we were able to join were plagued by slowdown – and not the good sort, used in this game to add weight and drama to a particularly impressive counter-attack.
As with its predecessors, Bangai-O HD's fussy, slightly convoluted control system soon becomes second nature, subtle audio and visual prompts guiding you toward releasing a counter-attack at the optimum moment. When you have the muscle memory, everything clicks into place, allowing you to view the ingenuity of the stage design with fresh eyes.
Once again, it's here that Treasure's pedigree shines through. In one level, you weave your way through a tight corridor maze overrun by giant ants. In another, you must smash your way into a pile of explosive footballs in order to bat back a battalion of robots.
These moments are wholly idiosyncratic and unique in gaming right now – and for those with the determination to work through them, Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury offers a smorgasbord of treats to delight and infuriate in almost equal measure. The mean, almost contemptuous difficulty curve is something that shouldn't be celebrated, but almost everything else is golden.
8 / 10