Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Twinbee - Historical adventures

When it comes to flagship Konami franchises, the indoctrinated should be able to reel off Gradius, Castlevania, Contra and Parodius without drawing breath.

The birth of which began in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 respectively.

Placing my bollocks on the chopping board, I'm predicting that outside of Japan, many were oblivious to the fact that Twinbee was a brand and not just a selectable char in the Japanese and/or eventual PAL release of Parodius on SNES, known for being a superb conversion of the 1990 Parodius Da! arcade. 

Ignoring silly RPG and puzzle, let's soar through the sky.

To discover the origin of the species, you have to rewind to 1985 with the short and sweet title of Twinbee.

For the casual gamer, his contribution is perhaps far more convoluted than first thought.

Vertically scrolling arcade shmups were synonymous in the 80s and beyond so guess what direction this moved in?

Apart from expected pop gun, grounded enemies could only be destroyed by not singing songs but dropping bombs.

This bombing idea was ‘borrowed’ from Namco’s 1982 antiquity Xevious.

Famicom and MSX owners benefited at home in 1986.

We moved from the arcade to the Famicom/NES in 1987 with Moero! Twinbee or Stinger.

That’s right, Stinger.

As a crazy nibble of trivia, this alternative title was also a 1983 Seibu Denshi arcade shmup.

There’s also Alpha Denshi Korporation (commonly abbreviated as ADK), who despite some questionable quality, more than injected life into the Neo Geo software library.

The company soon shed its skin and became Seibu Kaihatsu.

Even if you don’t know the name, you will know the game as Raiden is a series of some importance.

Unlike the first, Moero! favoured a combination of horizontal and vertical scrolling action.

The Famicom was the only system privileged enough to embrace Twinbee 3 in 1989.

Bells & Whistles aka Detana!! Twinbee applied a more appealing lick of paint as the gang receive a distress signal from Princess Melora because the planet Meru is under attack from the forces of Iva.

While the principle didn't stray, you could charge an energy shot, much like R-Type.

Notably, the PC Engine was host to an excellent port of the 1991 arcade.

Twinbee Yahho! celebrated ten years with a gorgeous looking entry.

It stuck fast with vertical mayhem and featured running commentary from the good guys and pilots of crazy mechanical bosses couldn't resist a spoken taunt.

Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius on SNES and the SA1 Chip helped in providing a word or two.

If you were prepared to import, compilations await from Japan.

Detana!! and Yahho! are found on the PS1 and Saturn as a double hit combo and although the PSP ultimately proved to be a disappointing piece of shit, a UMD housed the ultimate compendium.

Twinbee Portable served five slices of the anthropomorphic spaceship, namely Twinbee, Detana!! Twinbee, Pop 'n Twinbee, Twinbee Yahho! and a remake of Twinbee Da! on Game Boy.

So that’s the sun, it’s time for the SNES to provide the shine.

Pop ‘n Twinbee, Konami 1993

Released not long after Bells & Whistles, nobody should be too blown away that it adopts a sleek and similar look.

Despite that, it wasn't a conversion and I suppose you could accuse it of being a restyle.

Twinbee and Winbee (singularly or co-operatively), must defeat the minions of the buck toothed Dr. Mardock.

Shooting, bombing, punching and launching chibi are all in a hard day’s flight.

Chibi are basically nukes and involve mini bees dishing out destruction.

In 2P, you can even toss your companion about the screen without he/she sustaining any damage.

It never looked like a one hit death would be enforced and sure enough, your life meter must be battered before the loss of life.

After shooting the happy go lucky clouds, bells must be shot and colour brought depends on receiving weapon, pod(s), shield, speed up and more.

I say pods but they’re really options, a la Parodius.

Normal, engulf or surround are formations that can be assigned for these ‘minis’ to obey with whatever choice behaving slightly different for either craft.

While you won’t scream Yahho!, this delivers eye candy of a most vibrant order…

Numerous two tier backgrounds consisting of harbour, waterfall and city simply delight.

Domes effortlessly ripple underwater and during the airship stage, the aforementioned mechanical monster is a mere shadow before emerging through high speed clouds.

Final finesses extend to cog factory and flowing lava.

Such detail is complemented by a fantastic variety of enemy with some of the unconventional who take aim and fire are even good enough to eat.

Fish, octopi, pineapples, crabs, melons, grapes, pandas, jellyfish, hammers, centipedes, mice, playing cards and babies light the blue ‘what the fuck’ paper.

Oh, pigs do fly.

Even though we scroll in no other direction, the grounded can favour isometric movement and reminds not of Zaxxon but Viewpoint on Neo Geo.

Robotic types take precedent as squid, spider, together with Giant Bees and the face of "Howling Mad" Murdock, er Mardock, qualify as end of level threat.

Music is equally impressive as some trippy Star Wars inspired themes fit whatever glove each environment is wearing.

Although some parts can cause slight problems, it won’t take too long to conquer and apart from dangling the usual boring carrot of improving score, any replay is rendered practically pointless.

While it lasts, it's impossible not to appreciate one of the most accomplished SNES shmups around and although flicker can’t be avoided, we don’t endure a slow motion replay throughout.

Pop ‘n Twinbee was released for Game Boy in Europe in 1994.

Okay, that’s cooler than a cucumber because it’s just a cut down version of this, right?

Wrong!

It was originally released in Japan under its previously mentioned original guise back in 1990 and is pretty much a port of the 1985 arcade.

You don't have to be a genius to realise this only happened because they saw cash signs flash before their eyes but nevertheless, how amusingly misleading.

Pop ‘n Twinbee: Rainbow Bell Adventures, Konami 1993

As the Monty Python boys would say:

“And now for something completely different”

Dr. Warmon has stolen the rainbow bells to conquer the world and without their magic power, Princess Melora is disappearing.

You must save the universe from Warmon and his evil ‘bees’ to restore peace and ensure that the Princess isn’t erased from existence.

Just to clear things up, Warmon isn’t an alias of Mardock.

Essentially a platform animal, this dons the cape of Rocket Knight Adventures, sprinkled with Mario World and garnished with a side order of Sonic.

The level design even sings of Taito classic, The Newzealand Story.

Such a radical gameplay shift would only surprise dedicated fans who know of its humble beginning.

Using either Twinbee or Winbee is a given but Gwinbee is now fully playable instead of the usual power up situation.

We have a punch and jump bar that can be charged to achieve a super variety of each.

Chars exploit these bars in slightly different ways but not enough to excite.

The time it takes to charge can be quicker for some but the outcome is weaker, as opposed to another taking longer but kicking more ass.

Aside from each having their own weapon, bombs and homing missiles can also be got.

Fluffy clouds are not shot to ring a bell and just act as platforms due to enemies now leaving the trademark pick up.

As before, bells provide further weaponry, shield and as we walk the walk, spike shoes make it easier to skate on thin ice.

Those who collect 100 mini bells will be rewarded with an extra life.

So fairly standard stuff but the 2P mode is when this comes into its own.

When the other player inevitably goes out of view, the unseen can force the visible back or teleport to his/her position at will.

It could have been a right royal disaster but works well, especially when stages get larger and more complicated.

There are seven worlds, consisting of various areas to each with surroundings boasting the flavour of meadow, toys, torchlit cave, ice and underwater mischief.

You need a key to enter the goal gate located somewhere on each stage.

Secret areas are a bit of a double-edged sword because on one hand they are packed with bells but still carry enemy threat.

For those who get lost, opening your map reveals the goal location.

Just like Rocket Knight, you’ll go nowhere fast unless you regularly boost jump to navigate.

One problem though, it’s just not as fun and soon becomes monotonous.

Although not as unnecessary, cart wheeling in Strider II brought similar boredom and anyway, that was a piece of steaming shit.

This should not to be confused with the actual Capcom sequel to their classic original released for arcades in 1999.

I’m in no doubt they do this shit just to piss me off.

PS1 owners may know that a direct port of the original and the proper sequel featured as a bundle without the need to import in 2000.

Osman was an unofficial sequel to Strider and was the brainchild of many who worked on the original game.  It was released by Mitchell Corporation in 1996 exclusively for insert coin.

So after getting more off track than a stoned sprinter, let’s boost back and wrap things up.

After defeating a boss, that’s how you’ll find a bell.

Well stone me, nobody expected that twist…

When you've successfully procured all seven ding a lings, this adventure is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

While the Japanese core is the same as PAL, there are some curious differences which makes importing seem the more suitable choice.

Stages are tackled in a non linear manner and battery backs your ass up.  There was also dialogue and depending on how the player performed, secret endings should be expected.

Battery back up was replaced with a password system.

Was the pre-stage banter peppered with quirky humour?  The majority of which will never know…

While graphics can occasionally drip the usual Konami class, they're mediocre compared to Pop ‘n Twinbee and the music has taken a considerable nosedive.

The decision for change isn't quite pixel suicide but the traditional shmup affair is sorely missed.

Of course the series has a particular charm but no matter how fast the titular char punches thin air, he will never be able to shake off the incorrect ‘first seen in Parodius’ tag.

For this reason alone, Twinbee was doomed in the UK, hence why the majority of action is only available on import.

I'm sure he remains popular in Japan but there’s more chance of a ‘this gen’ rebirth than Sega imminently announcing a successor to the Dreamcast. 

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