The fact that I like Detana!! Twinbee so much is one of the biggest surprises of my gaming life. I was not a fan of Stinger, the lone game in the series to reach the US. With that game souring me on the series you can’t blame me for writing the games off. Maybe I simply wasn’t prepared for its juggling gameplay coming off of R-Type and Gradius. But it is pretty incredible what a visual makeover can do. The art direction fully adopts an anime aesthetic and it’s a natural fit and together with its tight mechanics Detana!! Twinbee would be a rebirth for the series.
Twinbee and Winbee are trying to relax when their vacation is interrupted by a distress signal from the planet Meru. The evil alien Iva has invaded and taken over the planet, leaving their Queen Melora to ask for their help.
Unlike past games in the series the expanded universe of characters that would appear in future games and all merchandise debut here. Pilots Pastel and Light would star in a number of spinoffs such as a puzzle game, 2d platformer and even an RPG. Their reach wouldn’t stop there as Twinbee would become a multimedia empire with a radio drama, cartoon series, and other assorted merchandise. All of that success was predicated on Detana!! Twinbee’s quality and luckily the game is up to the task.
Detana!! Twinbee is an important turning point for the series. Up until its release in the arcade Twinbee managed to get by on the novelty of its mechanics and goofy charm. But it was very obvious the series played second fiddle to Gradius and Salamander. With this release the mechanics were refined but most importantly the visual overhaul really helped to make Twinbee a legitimately great series. This Turbo Grafx loses a little when it comes to visual flare but is otherwise a great port.
Love it or hate it bell juggling is still the only way to earn weapons. In terms of weapons not much has been added. The standard option of extra speed, a shield, multiple smaller ships, and wide shots are present along with two new bells. The black bell removes all speed power-ups while the purple bell creates a tall shield that surrounds your ship. A charge shot a la R-Type has been added in the form of a large flaming phoenix. This attack is incredibly strong and charges in about two seconds. Lastly bombing ground targets will sometimes reveal Gwinbee; combining with him will create a wide beam that is strong but goes away if you suffer one hit.
Despite its cute exterior the game is no less intense than most shooters on the market. Enemy waves are frequent and you’ll have to separate your time between ground based targets and airborne enemies. All of this while trying to juggle bells for the appropriate power-ups. Although the game is only six levels long each is memorable thanks to a wide assortment of enemies and some pretty clever boss battles. As much as I would have liked another stage or two I can’t really complain as I enjoyed the game so much anyway.
The difficulty curve is nearly perfect in my opinion with a gradual increase in challenge with every level. You will find that juggling bells is a lot harder this time due to the number of enemies on screen. Early on you will notice more power-up clouds than you can handle but that slowly decreases the deeper you progress. It never sinks to the level of hopelessness in Gradius if you die but mounting a comeback is pretty tough. Luckily the game is fairly generous with extra lives allowing you to brute force your way through if necessary.
There is no question that Detana!! Twinbee owes most of its success to its graphics. The world of Twinbee is full of more pastel colors than you can possibly imagine with incredibly detailed architecture. There is a wide variety of settings despite the saccharine overtone making each level a visual delight. The bosses are large well animated sprites that get larger with every level until the final boss which I won’t spoil. As far as accuracy Konami has done a pretty good job bringing the game home. The resolution is lower and as a result the sprites are smaller and some of the arcade’s parallax scrolling has been scaled back or is missing. Some background detail is lost but otherwise the TG-16 version is a faithful port.
The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring a full range of happy tunes to match the cute visuals. This would mark the debut of future Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane and even here her range is apparent. It seems only fair that top class visuals should also be accompanied by an ace score and Konami delivered.
Detana!! Twinbee is a great port of a fantastic game and one of the stronger shooters in the system’s library. While this version was not released internationally (and to an extent the same with the original arcade game) it has since shown up on a variety of platforms such as the Virtual Console, PSN, and Xbox Live Arcade. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it has more than enough action to hold your interest. Buy this game.