Friday, November 11, 2016

Detana!! TwinBee (PCE) Review

Written: November 9th-11th, 2016
Year: 1991, 1992 | Developed and Published by: Konami | [|O|]

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit; and I'm not done talking about cute'em ups yet.  =)

It starts anew!  =)
After enjoying some success on Nintendo's Famicom (TwinBee, TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaō), Famicom Disk System (Moero TwinBee: Cinnamon-hakase o Sukue!, released in NES format for the US as Stinger), and Game Boy (TwinBee Da!!) in Japan, Konami's TwinBee shoot'em up (later rebranded as cute'em up) series would continue with the very game that would become a pivotal and important entry in the late franchise--that game was Detana!! TwinBee (which translates appropriately enough to "Here Comes TwinBee!!") which debuted in arcades on February 1991, with a very limited European release following suit as Bells & Whistles later that year (making it the first game in the series to reach PAL shores not counting the 1986 MSX port of the first TwinBee).  While TwinBee was one of the playable characters you could choose from in Konami's 1990 wacky and over-the-top arcade Gradius spoof Parodius Da! -Shinwa kara Owarai e-, this was the first time in almost six years (after the series' March 1985 debut) that there was a wholly TwinBee-centric arcade game.

Enemies bouncing along
On December 1991 there was a Sharp X68000 port, followed by the February 1992 conversion of Detana!! TwinBee for the PC Engine, which is the first version of the game that I played thanks to the 2009 Nintendo Wii Virtual Console downloadable service in America (made officially available to play outside Japan for the first time) and the version I'll be covering today; on September 1995 it would come alongside the series' arcade swansong commemorating the then tenth anniversary of the first game TwinBee Yahho!: Fushigi no Kuni de Ōabare!! (which translates to "TwinBee Yoo-Hoo! Uproar in Wonderland!!") in Detana TwinBee Yahho! Deluxe Pack for the PlayStation One and Sega Saturn consoles (just five months after TwinBee Yahho!'s original arcade debut), it would see an i-mode mobile phone version on July 2004, and on January 2007 both arcade games (as well as three others) would be made available to play on the PlayStation Portable compilation TwinBee Portable which only remained in Japan.  The game garnered really good reviews, it left a big impact over the years since it was released (the Japanese video game magazine Gamest chose it as 1991's "Best Shooting Game"), and it has long since developed a following.  What was the secret to its success, but more importantly how does the PC Engine port compare to the original arcade incarnation?

Some time after the events of TwinBee, both TwinBee (piloted by Light) and WinBee (piloted by Pastel) receive an SOS signal from the Planet Meru during their relaxation on an island.  In it is a plea from Queen Melora to save her planet from the forces of the evil alien Iva.  At this moment TwinBee and gang venture up into space to vanquish Iva's forces and save Her Majesty's home planet before it's too late.

Look out, crabby's spewing Gradius III bubbles
towards you!  =O
For those unfamiliar with TwinBee essentially it's a very colorful and not-tedious equivalent to Xevious (the 1985 title was Konami's answer to Namco's 1982 coin-op), where you could both shoot at airborne enemies and bomb enemies on the ground level below you in a vertically scrolling environment, but that's where similarities to the aforementioned vertically scrolling shoot'em up end.  Along the way in each stage you would come across clouds, and when you shoot said clouds bells would pop up out of them; normally gold for points, if you shot them enough times they would be a different color which represented a diverse power-up that would aid TwinBee (first player) and/or WinBee (second player).  This inclusion added a sense of variety and enjoyment to the proceedings which was a welcome innovation that would get carried over to its sequels, especially Detana!! TwinBee=)

Spreading shots everywhere
When you begin the game TwinBee and/or WinBee begin at a very slow speed, which can be increased just slightly after touching the blue bell; the silver bell gives you the double shot capability; the chartreuse bell gives you an extra set of hands with three translucent TwinBee-shaped forms; the purple bell gives you some barriers around your anthropomorphic jet; the red bell forms a barrier around you which gradually dematerializes with each hit you take; and the black bell decreases your speed, so avoid that one (or shoot at it some more to revert it back to gold, but don't shoot at the bell too much lest you want it to turn into something that can cost you a life if you touch it).  One hit is all it takes to lose a life, but only from the direct center; if you sustain a bullet from either left or right sides TwinBee and/or WinBee will lose an arm, but if you lose both of them a floating ambulance will come by (if you can get to it without dying) which will restore both arms (the only things that let you drop bombs)--know that it only appears once per life that you use.

Haha, incredulous reactions are hilarious!  XD
After bombing ground level enemies below you they will leave behind some helpful items; fruit for points, stars to wipeout all onscreen enemies and bullets, and a bell icon which enables you to use the spreadshot.  Also once in awhile there'll be a GwinBee icon that'll summon up the green fighter jet GwinBee (for whom Pastel's infant pilot brother Mint--that's not a joke, by the way--does not make an appearance in this game) whom you can latch onto to augment firepower; if you lose a life GwinBee will slowly go upward but if GwinBee gets hit he'll disappear but you'll still be operational.  In Detana!! TwinBee you can charge your shot by holding down the shooting button until the gauge is full before letting go to amass huge firepower which if you look closely is shaped exactly like TwinBee (very clever of Konami to do that); you can also unleash your charge shot before the gauge is even full, but it wouldn't be anywhere near as potent.  =)

Fire or lightning thunder, who will win?
Character and enemy design-wise the TwinBee series was given a brand new makeover with the involvement of Japanese animator Shujiro Hamakawa (known as "Shuzilow.HA") in his debut, who would stick around for the remainder of the series from this iteration onward.  The TwinBee and WinBee jets are well-colored in-game and have got really cute designs to them; with TwinBee having a spherical-shaped yellow visor adorned on a celestial blue body with yellow jets as WinBee has got a heart-shaped blue visor on a pink body with pink jets; you could argue that both of them are palette swaps, but it's the little details that make them special and discernible.  =)  When they take a direct hit at their core they tumble down as they spin as opposed to showing a skull and heart taking their place like in past games (which was disconcerting to look at considering the lighthearted tone); GwinBee displays decent animation despite only flailing his arms in-game after summoning him, and the brief cutscenes shown inbetween stages are designed and animated with a likable charm to them (especially as this game introduces TwinBee and WinBee's respective pilots Light and Pastel who appear in these scenes).

Bunker penguins and crimson-eyed birds
The enemy roster is well-designed, animated, and on the creative side; among the enemies you put up with there are bunker penguins, crimson-eyed birds, origami birds, pink elephants, stretchy enemies that react incredulously upon taking hits, bats, ring-shaped worms, and even sentient cutlery knives to name several.  At the end of each stage is a boss fight you have to fight, some of them being a giant mechanical crab, a powerfully-charged mechanical jellyfish that strikes thunder towards you, and even a gigantic recoiling snake that's imposing in size, and depending on how many hits you dish out at them they will start changing color to let you know if they're close to biting the bullet or not.  The TwinBee-shaped charged shot is so easy to miss the first few times on account that it whizzes by so fast and because of the fire hues and shades, but if you manage to catch it in time (or pause for the PC Engine edition) you will be surprised at what lengths Konami managed to achieve that subtle yet fiery imagery.  =)

Flame on
The original 1991 arcade game Detana!! TwinBee had a really good pastel-toned look and feel to it which essentially defined the look for the TwinBee games to come, but because the PC Engine didn't have as expansive a color library as the coin-op the color palette is more vibrant and a tad less light, and some details got lost or altered in translation due to technical limitations (namely the subtle parallax scrolling, additional backdrops, and limited animation by comparison).  Still, for what Konami managed to convert to this NEC format it looks very good; I like the third stage with its floating islands transpiring up in the heavens, the fifth stage is surreal-looking with the glowing substances in the depths as well as the huge amounts of water inside pink rocky structures, and the first stage begins with the relaxing vista of green plains with communities underneath seguing to a mountainous backdrop with its mining facility.  There is a neat wavy effect near the end, and the final setpieces look good; the ending goes even further on a visual sense depending on the difficulty setting you chose to play it as.

Fan rotating boss
The original arcade edition of Detana!! TwinBee had a vertical aspect ratio that when converted to PC Engine format got stretched to a square ratio to fit the screen.  =<  I know I hate pan-and-scan and would rather a widescreen movie (Academy and CinemaScope) preserve its aspect ratio (that's why there are black letterbox borders, you pan-and-scanholes that lack respect for filmmakers), but stretching it to fit the screen is not exactly a wise move as it winds up making it look distorted and uneven (like the gray minions piloting the second stage ship boss who have one bold eye, and the "1000" after a whole string of similar enemies has been ousted)... at least that's how it looks like by default.  See, Konami included a code that enabled the game to be squished to its original vertical size (except for the title, cutscenes, and ending that are square): all you have to do is press I, II, right, left, right, left, down, down, up, up on the title screen with the third controller (requiring a multitap for the PC Engine console, in the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console edition you can use a third Wiimote or GameCube controller on the third gaming slot).  If you did it right you'll hear a cue, so when you access the options there is now an option to view the game as "HMode" (default) or "VMode"; now you can view Detana!! TwinBee in its proper aspect ratio as you play it on the PC Engine (and frankly, it looks better in "VMode")--a similar feature would resurface (albeit made readily available) on the console-exclusive PC Engine Super CD-ROM² System cute'em Star Parodier.  And in case you're wondering if it makes a huge difference,...
yes, yes it does!

Well, it was only a matter of time before this
game got trippy
The arcade soundtrack was composed by the legendary Michiru Yamane in her first TwinBee venue, previously having composed music for King's Valley II, Motorcross Maniacs, Nemesis, SD Snatcher, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Game Boy foray Fall of the Foot Clan; accompanying her this time are Hidenori Maezawa (Akumajō Dracula/Castlevania, Nintendo 8-bit Salamander/Life Force, Akumajō Densetsu/Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse) and Masae Nakashima (Nintendo 8-bit Tiny Toon Adventures, Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Trouble in Wackyland, Pop'n TwinBee).  When it came to the PC Engine port the music was converted by Mikio Saitou (Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, Tokimeki Memorial) and Seiya Murai (Tokimeki Memorial, Tiny Toon Adventures: ACME All-Stars); the original soundtrack was good, but these two did a good job converting much of the music to this format considering the sound samples.  =)

An armada surging against you
When the title theme kicks into gear it does a good job setting the tone for the game with a triumphant composition leading to a good finish; the intro cue is brief but inviting; the first stage theme is engagingly catchy and upbeat; the third stage's theme is incredibly elevating up in the heavens with the floating islands around you; and the fifth stage's theme is highly surreal and calm, adding to the atmosphere exponentially.  The final stage's theme has an optimistic finality to it, the boss theme is decent, the final boss theme is foreboding, and the ending theme is well worth it after losing countless lives and continues.  =)  The original arcade had soundbytes for when TwinBee and/or WinBee got a specific bell power-up, summoning GwinBee by saying his name, GwinBee's yelp upon taking a hit, and when you lose an arm or a life; but the PC Engine excised much of that for specific sound effects except for the GwinBee soundbytes and loss of arm and life among a couple other things.  Soundwise, the sound effects are okay; the sound effects in the coin-op were more elegantly polished while the PC Engine's sound effects are less so (the sound for when you shoot at a bell sounds tinny compared to the "dings" you heard in the original arcade version, for example).

Sentient knives?  Do, not, want!  D=
Like the arcade game, Detana!! TwinBee for the PC Engine has got four difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Pro.  In the options screen you have the option to set your lives and credits count anywhere from one to five, but there is a way to get more than five of either; to get up to nine credits just press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, II, I with the first controller on the title screen and to get up to ten lives just press up, up, down, down, right, left, right, left, I, II with the second controller.  If you did it right you can augment both counts, but there's a catch: you're only allowed to do that from Easy to Hard, whereas Pro only lets you use as many lives and credits as the options normally let you, so if you wish to beat Pro you're going to have to be really good at it.  As usual when it comes to these types of games it's best to start with the easiest difficulty to get accustomed to the enemy and boss patterns, which will either speed up or increase bullet power with each subsequent difficulty.  Because TwinBee and WinBee only face the top side and you can maneuver in all eight directions you're going to have to be very alert for the enemies and enemy firepower which could come from the sides, ahead of you, diagonally of you, below you, or worryingly, behind you; so sticking to the bottom part of the screen is a no-no unless you want to lose a life quickly.

For the most part the PC Engine port of Detana!! TwinBee is a faithful conversion of the 1991 arcade cute'em up, but there are some differences that were made for one reason or another.
Both title sequences have TwinBee soar and spin upward to the upper reaches of space, bump his head, and tumble downward, but the circumstances are different: in the arcade version TwinBee emerged outside of a building, bumped his head on a moon that gets split in half, culminating in him tumbling down to the roof of the building he came from; in the PC Engine version it immediately starts with TwinBee soaring upward, but this time he bumps his head on the title which gradually descends down as he does while rotating around until he lands on a cloud, after which he starts incessantly firing off from two guns as WinBee and GwinBee are left off to the side.
The first cutscene after the first boss has been defeated is similar but was altered somewhat: in the arcade version Light is posing next to a huge gunslinging TwinBee with a cowboy hat, while in the PC Engine edition Light is posed exactly the same but does a fist bump as a comparatively small guntoting TwinBee fires off from his guns left and right.  My guess as to why this was changed was because while the cutscenes were on a big viewing window in the arcade game the cutscenes in the PC Engine take were viewed on a small square.  Either way, TwinBee sure is trigger happy there, should we be concerned?  ={
After the third stage in the arcade version it cuts to a huddled up TwinBee, WinBee, and GwinBee flying off as the fan rotating boss bites it, but in the PC Engine version the cutscene shows a praying Queen Melora amidst a backdrop of a floating island from the third stage.  I'm not sure why this change was made, as in the arcade she only appeared in the intro and ending sequences.  My best guess is this was done to disguise the fact that the PC Engine was not well-adept at scaling (like the trio jet fighters did) for the most part (the closest Konami manages that in this format are the ring-shaped worms) as in the arcade there were are a few scaling sequences--like TwinBee emerging from the building, GwinBee retreating with a white flag upon taking a hit (in the port he just vanishes), and the individual members of the trio soaring upwards during the credits sequence.
The Detana!! TwinBee arcade game had seven stages while the PC Engine port cut one out in the process; this took place after the fifth stage as you soar through the desert and fight the mechanism guarding the entrance to Iva's towering lair, and after it's defeated we see the trio enter the architecture.  That would explain why there are what look like leftovers of ruins during the final stage's opening moments, because some ruins spread out after the defeat of said boss.  I double checked the PC Engine port's sound test to see if the theme used for this stage was translated over to this format, but it turned out to not be the case--what you see and hear is what you get.

Let's roast some origami birds
I first heard of Detana!! TwinBee back in early 2009 when news popped up that the PC Engine port was made available as an import download in the American Nintendo Wii Virtual Console downloadable service; having been impressed and enthralled with Star Parodier when I downloaded it in the opening months of 2009 that was incentive enough for me to try today's game.  I have a confession to make: when I played it initially I felt I was let down which in retrospect wasn't Detana!! TwinBee's fault, only mine.  =(  A year or two prior I saw a gameplay video on YouTube for the first stage of Pop'n TwinBee played by Shiryu, so I was under the impression that this would be the same game as the Nintendo 16-bit one; boy, was I wrong.  I liked its visuals and soundtrack but the gameplay was slightly different and it simply paled in comparison to Star Parodier which was excellent.  My not-so positive initial impression stemmed from the fact that I expected it to be like a different game which was a grave mistake; a few months later, feeling I was too harsh towards Detana!! TwinBee, I decided to give it another go but as its own thing, and I'm glad I did, because this was my foray to the TwinBee series, for I've since warmed up to it.  =)

Such a pretty environment
This was one of the last games I downloaded on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console before I began my eBayventures and the last PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 game I downloaded--that is, until this July when I downloaded New Adventure Island after Konami released it alongside Bonk's Adventure and R-Type on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console.  In late 2011 I decided to import the PlayStation Portable compilation TwinBee Portable (making it the first PSP game I got from Japan) as I was still curious about Pop'n TwinBee; when it arrived I not only got a chance to play that cute'em up in that format (before getting a physical Super Famicart of it in 2014) but I also had a lot of fun playing the other games that were available to play on it, including the original arcade version of Detana!! TwinBee.  And, having got a chance to play both arcade and PC Engine versions of this cute'em up, it truly put things into perspective for me.

Oh no, TwinBee intoxicated the same alcoholic
beverage that made Dumbo see pink elephants
by mistake  =(
Detana!! TwinBee is a fun and defining chapter in the TwinBee series thanks to the involvement of Shuzilow.HA and the slightly expanded play control.  The lighthearted charm makes this cute'em up endearing, the cutscenes are well-done, and it can be quite difficult later on and in harder difficulty settings.  I liked and appreciated that the boss fights weren't mindless target fodder for each of them had their own distinct strategy; like the ship boss for example which you had to go around before facing it again in which case the process repeated one last time, and the third stage boss that would rotate its head because of the fans so you had to shoot the rotating fans until its visor was in vicinity.  After you defeat Iva the game would start once more after the credits finished albeit in a more challenging difficulty if you thought the first quest didn't provide enough (of note is that while the areas' color palettes were changed for the second quest in the arcade game, in the PC Engine port they're the same as before).

Like-minded barrier jet fighters
While the PC Engine port was good it doesn't hold a candle to its original arcade incarnation, not just in terms of color and sound but also in terms of overall quality.  The arcade version felt a bit more complete and had a good sense of polish; particularly when it came to shooting bells.  If you shot a bell five (extra) times it would change color (until you shoot it again in which case the process starts anew), though for some reason the PC Engine doesn't feel fleshed out in this regard; there's the Turbo setting where if you held down the button the respective action would rapidfire which is appreciated, but sometimes you'd have to be careful where you did it.  The low point of many shoot'em ups and especially cute'em ups is the fact that when you start you're at such a slow speed which depending on the situation might make dodging bullets hard unless you caught hold of a blue bell or two, which is also true after you lose a life in which case you lose your power-ups forcing you back to square one; there are exceptions (Darius Twin, Star Parodier, Axelay, Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%), but often times it's very inconvenient when that happens despite resuming at the spot.  Using up a continue also has you resume from the spot, but slightly sped up with a barrier and spreadshot capability.

The offspring octopi are probably upset that
they don't have as big a contribution to this
series as they do for Parodius  =<
There is plenty of replay value as far as difficulty settings go, not to mention that Detana!! TwinBee is one of those games where the harder the difficulty setting you play the more complete the ending is after you beat (with each subsequent difficulty adding something new to the scenario).  It's funny that the first entry in the TwinBee series that Europe was introduced to (albeit in limited arcade format) was the latest entry that America got (albeit in PC Engine format on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console) more than a decade and a half later; of all the continents that have people who play video games America has had the least exposure to the cute'em series on an official basis (less than even Europe), even though TwinBee would make a hidden cameo appearance in the localized version of Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyūshutsu Emaki, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (which to me is a point against the highly overrated first generation Nintendo 16-bit title on account of its tedious and overly redundant structure, among its numerous faults that its got, but that's for another time).
Of the three TwinBee cute'em ups released in America Detana!! TwinBee is better than TwinBee (first arriving in North America in the 2007 Nintendo DS compilation Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits retitled as RainbowBell) and it is most definitely superior to Stinger (more or less the Salamander/Life Force of the series; again, some other time); while in both Japan and Europe (not in the same numbers as the former) there were plenty of titles in the series to choose from.

Nothing beats shooting at reflective crystals
and adorably googly-eyed spiked bugs
Do I recommend Detana!! TwinBee?  Yes, actually; it might not be perfect but it does the cute'em up brand justice.  =)  It plays good, is very colorful, provides plenty of challenge, has got replay value, and is endearing to boot.  Since this version of the game wasn't released on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console, unless you own a PC Engine console or a modified TurboGrafx-16 that enables you to play PC Engine titles my recommendation is that you import TwinBee Portable (provided you own a PlayStation Portable) and experience it in its original coin-op state (it's the best of both versions, plus its music gallery also includes the Sharp X68000 remix of the soundtrack which sounds really good).  For a half hour's worth of good time it's worth it, though I can understand if there are some who would opine that that you could do better with this cute'em up genre (like Star Parodier and Märchen Adventure Cotton 100%)--some might also add that you could do better in the TwinBee series, which is absolutely true; oh yes, you know where this is going.........  ;)

My Personal PC Engine Detana!! TwinBee Score: 8.0/10
 <( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. In retrospect, I was too generous when I gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan a 6 out of 10 two years ago; it didn't really deserve it (it's really more of a 4 or 4.5 title for me), I knew it then and I know it now (what held me back was the fact that it may have potentially held nostalgic value for some people).  >_>  But you know what it also doesn't deserve?  An 8 out of 10!  Clouded by nostalgia much, NintendoLife?  o_O
 
P.S. 2 I just saw Denis Villeneuve's Arrival in theatres, and I thought it was so good!  =D  Very thought-provoking, really enthralling, smartly engaging, very incredible to look at, brimming with hope and good ideas, Jóhann Jóhannsson's score is emotional, and Amy Adams was phenomenal from the first second to the last.  I loved it, simply put, and between this and fellow Villeneuve film Prisoners (I haven't seen Sicario, though I hear that one was good too) I can honestly find myself watching this film again over the 2013 flick.
 
Happy 25th Anniversary, Detana!! TwinBee!!!  =D
 
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me  comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day, take care!  =)

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