like xevious, twinbee is another game that made a bigger blip on my radar than it normally would have thanks to its reappearance as part of the 3D classics series in which classic games are given new 3-D visuals (thanks to the 3DS’s glasses-free 3D capabilities). again, before jumping into the remake i tracked down a version closer to the original, in this case konami classics arcade hits for DS. this version is perfectly serviceable, esp. on a DSi XL or 3DS XL, and although it lets you tweak options to give you more chances and lower the score at which you earn the one 1up, it unfortunately doesn’t give you unlimited continues, or any continues at all for that matter.
the series is apparently quite big in its native japan, but almost entirely unknown here (although apparently its sequel was released in the US as “stinger” on NES). the game is apparently part of a sub-genre of shoot-’em-ups, known as “cute-’em-ups” because they’re shoot-’em-ups with a cute exterior (although in this case that certainly doesn’t mean they compromise on the difficulty level). it looks like later entries in the series are far wackier, whereas in this game the fanciful enemies (such as vegetables, including eggplants and carrots, and cutlery) mostly just look like the typical bug-like aliens you’d see in most shooters.
the game plays very similarly to xevious in that you shoot bullets at flying enemies and drop bombs on enemies on the ground. the cuteness factors into a couple of the central game mechanics, including your character’s (a sentient ship’s) arms. if both are hit then you can’t drop bombs on ground enemies, but once per life an “ambulance” appears to repair them. also, although i didn’t get to try it, apparently the game has co-op play, and you can join hands with the other player to launch a powerful attack, among other team-up attacks.
the game mechanic that perhaps most defines the series is the bell power-up system, in which you shoot bells that are normally yellow, but after a certain number of shots (5, 10, 15, or 20) change color and if collected give a different power up, two of which are mutually exclusive. hardcoregaming101.net summarizes the system well when it says:
- The bell power-up system is a “love it or hate it” issue: those bells are difficult to get and have tendency to fall to the bottom of the screen very quickly. Moreover, the color change pattern can be frustrating: it requires several shots to obtain the desired color, but only a single shot more and you’ll have to restart the loop. As a result, unlike the friendly Gradius bar, you’ll find yourself fighting against the bells almost as much as the enemies.
i fell pretty squarely into the “hate it” camp. although it sounds like it would make the game more interesting, it just makes the game massively more frustrating and raises the difficulty level beyond what is already a decently challenging level. what would have been a tolerably difficult shooter ends up being more annoying than fun, and i found that i was relying on luck to get the by-far-best power-up (the shield). like gradius and other games that rely on a sequence of power-ups, i often felt completely screwed once i lost a ship and had to start from scratch, esp. since the shield is so essential to progressing through the game. it’s hard to fault the game for being a difficult arcade game designed to munch quarters, but although i liked it better than xevious, its cuteness, which was supposedly one of its selling points, wasn’t nearly amped up enough to keep me playing. it may be that i enjoy its sequels more, esp. since i’m a fan of japanese wackiness, but for now i’m happy to set this aside until i revisit the 3DS version (which incidentally appears to be based on the famicom rather than arcade release).
juggle these twinbee links:
– thorough entry at strategywiki.org, including details on game mechanics and a walkthrough that includes sprites of all the enemies and a comparison of the different versions
– comprehensive overview of the series and spin-offs at hardcoregaming101.net
– entry at wikipedia